A Q&A about my recent trip to Jordan has been featured on Pink Pangea, an online community for women who love to travel.
You can read the whole article here: Travel Jordan: The Real Deal with Jo Brown
But to wet your appetite, here’s a snippet of that interview…
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where do you live? What made you decide to go to Jordan?
I don’t want to be one of those people who sits at their desks and stares grumpily out of the window as the glorious British weather treats us to yet another deluge of rain… while dreaming of hiking in the Nepalese Himalayas or island hopping in Thailand, or sharing Shisha with newly made friends in Jordan. I want to say that I have no regrets, that I am following in the footsteps of all the other brave women before me who have rejected boring jobs and instead jetted off in pursuit of dreams. Yes, people may say I’m an escapist, but traveling makes me happy.
When I’m not abroad, I’m one of those people behind a desk – I work in digital marketing. It’s not something I’ve always planned to do, but it’s something that I enjoy doing to raise funds for fun trips! I live in Reading, UK – it’s really near London, Oxford and Windsor – you’d probably want to visit those first!
I’ve always wanted to visit the Middle East – especially since studying Theology at University – to see the place brought to life rather than just reading about the history or culture in books. So when the opportunity arose, I jumped at the chance. One of my dear friends was leading a trip to Jordan with the charity Bridges for Communities, a British charity that focuses on bridging the gap between different communities, cultures and faiths, predominantly between the West and the Middle East. The trip would be an exploratory experience of seeing the amazing sites in Jordan, learning about Jordanian culture, participating in volunteer work, and making many lifelong friendships. And it didn’t disappoint!
How long did you go for? How did you spend your time?
The trip was 4 weeks in total, including 5 days in Jerusalem and Bethlehem – a completely memorable experience in itself. Time was predominantly spent in and around Amman, so I got to know the city pretty well.
There were 6 of us on the ‘Yalla’ (meaning ‘let’s go’ in Arabic) trip with Bridges. During the first week of our trip we participated in an annual event called the ‘East West Summer Forum’ which is run by the Bridges partner charity ‘East West Initiatives’. Around 35 attendees from America, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Jordan all joined together for 5 days of fun, travel and little sleep! We packed a lot in – floated in the Dead Sea, visited Jesus’ baptism site, Mount Nebo, Jerash, a night in Wadi Rum, snorkelling in the Red Sea and of course Petra. We also listened to talks about the Israel-Palestine conflict and Jordan. It was short but incredibly informative – I came away with friendships, knowledge and many great photos.
For the time before and after the Forum we stayed with different Jordanian ‘host’ families. This was a great way to learn about their culture, to eat fantastic home-cooked food and to become fully immersed in the Jordanian way of life. Somewhat unusually, I stayed with 3 Christian families – 2 in the small Christian town of Fuheis just outside of Amman. One family I stayed with for almost 2 weeks. I truly felt like I was a member of the family by the time I left.
I have never experienced hospitality like I did in Jordan. People went out of their way to make sure I was taken care of – even picking my friends and I up in Amman in the early hours of the morning. On a few nights the whole extended family were invited to enjoy traditional meals together – the shisha and whiskey flowed, the Arabic music was cranked up – they really know how to entertain!
When you tell most people that you’re going to Jordan they immediately say “why would you go there?!”, or “come back alive!”. I realized that so many people had a completely misinformed view of Jordan. It’s true that Jordan is surrounded on all sides by war and conflict, and you do see reminders of it. However, it’s a misunderstood nation. It’s one of the friendliest, safest and most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The people are some of the kindest I’ve ever met. Yes it is a predominantly Muslim country, but I met and stayed with many Jordanian Christians who aren’t oppressed in any way. It’s a free country where the West is beginning to have a lot of influence. It’s all about the ‘selfie’ among youth!
What were your most memorable experiences? What were the biggest disappointments?
Every day was memorable. Every day something incredible happened – whether it be a simple joke that we laughed at for hours, or an evening spent sharing shisha with our newly made friends from the Forum, or an afternoon spent relaxing in a cool cafe on Rainbow Street – there are so many happy moments. And I honestly can’t think of any disappointments.
To find out more about my most memorable experience, read the whole Q&A with me on Pink Pangea