Travel isn’t always pretty!

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on you heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind”. Anthony Bourdain

Since I’ve met Erwin, we have travelled together to 22 countries in the last 23 months. Since, I always hear and read sweet comments from friends, acquaintances or followers stating the obvious: “Oh, you are so lucky, we wish we can do that”….

And I am! I am very grateful for the life and the love that I was given.

Before I met my husband, I travelled frequently too. I started relatively late (I was 24 years old the first time and I went to Marmaris -Turkey), my personal achievable travel target was to visit at least 3 new countries per year. I secretly wished I can do that non stop, full-time but I have always had a job to come back to and a limited budget that I could not surpass…till I hadn’t anymore and I finally got the chance to do what I like best: love, write and travel.

Before tasting the joys of travelling, I spent my money on books. My soul always needed to go somewhere else; to a different story, realm, persona, era, country…to a different reality, to one which is always beautiful, loving and hopeful.

Travel became my books, then my sensei, best friend, educator, transformer. At the end of the day, it turn out to be my addiction, joy, love and the closest thing I have got to magic. After all, it was that kind of magic that brought me the love of my life, turned me into a storyteller, and straightened my faith in the Almighty: while everyone else was going to churches, temples, synagogues, mosques to connect with God, I prefered marveling at his Love and Light by travelling to his majestic creations.


Except sometimes when I travelled, the journey was no longer just beautiful and magical. A few times, I have had to fall down from this ivory tower called cruises, 4/5 stars hotels, nice restaurants, private tours and excursions and face some harsh realities we often forget while travelling: the human suffering. I still remember a few of those as if they happened yesterday…well some did happen almost yesterday!

1- Mexico

“The huge gap between rich and poor, globally and within nations; is not only morally wrong; it is also a source of practical problems” Dalai Lama

I went to Mexico in 2009 to visit Lesley my best friend who lives in Puebla. We did Mexico City, Puebla, Acapulco and Cuernavaca. Cancun was cancelled because of a hurricane. Yet that didn’t take away the charm of Mexico: it was such a beautiful and different place to be in. I remember being inspired with a solution to depression. I was confident that people suffering from depression should definitely move to Mexico; those colorful cheerful houses would cure anyone!

Having said that, I was told to be very careful all around Mexico: you can be robbed, kidnapped, killed… I felt that through compounds, sometimes armed and guarded. I felt that as well because we couldn’t go around without a personal driver. I felt that through stories the mouth couldn’t tell fast enough. But I really didn’t get that feeling walking around the cities. I was torn; was the feeling of insecurity real? Does the big gap of wealth between the Mexicans themselves make the poor class thieves and criminal?

I was uncomfortable. I felt the wall-that big wall between the US and Mexico that everyone was criticizing Trump about- I felt it strongly between the Mexicans themselves, between their two social classes. It was not just a gap, it was a big fat wall!

2- Freetown/Sierra Leone

“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! – I have as much soul as you, – and full as much heart! Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

I travelled to Sierra Leone in 2010 for work and I stayed there for a month. I have had the chance to be amazed by the raw beauty of this country and saddened by the extreme poverty of the Sierra Leoneans. As soon as you get out of the airport, you are “attacked” by children begging you for money. And it is not just at the airport, it is everywhere: when you go to the supermarket, when you walk down the street.

It was one of the first most heartbreaking realities I have had to witness while travelling. Add to that, the many victims of the cruel civil war – which happened between  1991 and 2002 – laying on the streets, amputated, begging for money too.

Personally, it has always been the suffering of children which scars and pains me. It brings home all the injustice of the world. It not only hurts, it breaks my heart and makes me feel extremely helpless!

3- France/Paris

“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child”. Anthony Horowitz.

You all know by know that Paris is one of my ultimate favorite cities. I have been there so many times and would still want to come back as much as I can, as soon as I can. Except the last time I was there,  Paris was not the same for me: I have always encountered homeless people sleeping on the sidewalks but what brought me to my knees the last time was a family of immigrants which included a mother and her two children preparing to go to bed on the sidewalk while it was 5 celsius outside.

Children in these extreme poor conditions break my heart. They are hopeless, homeless hungry, cold and just left out on to sleep on the streets, and maybe even die! I understand that France doesn’t have enough money to take care of her own homeless people, but I can’t help but wonder: what about those helpless children? What will happen to them? Are there any solutions?

4-Paramaribo/Suriname

There are far too many silent sufferers.  Not because they don’t yearn to reach out, but because they’ve tried and found no one who cares.”
Richelle E. Goodrich, Smile Anyway


A month ago, Erwin and I travelled to Suriname. As soon as we arrived to our hotel, we decided to take a walk in the beautiful colonial Paramaribo. On our way back, an old lady approached us on her bike and started talking Dutch to Erwin. Although I didn’t understand a word she was saying,  I could see in her eyes a brutal despair I have never seen anywhere else. I knew she was asking for money just by reading her eyes. Tears were falling down my eyes the whole way back to the hotel.

It was not her poverty which broke me down, but her intense despair.

5-Istanbul/Turkey

“It seems it doesn’t pay to be good anymore, when people are short-changing you for evil.”
Anthony Liccione


We were walking down some street in Istanbul, when a guy in front of us dropped his wallet and continued walking. I was heading to pick up the wallet and run after this stranger who dropped it, when Erwin pulled me back and asked to me to STOP. I did, but I was in total shock that my sweet husband doesn’t want to be the good Samaritan! Erwin immediately explained to me that these are “tourist traps tricks”: they drop a wallet, you pick it up, run to them to give it back, they check the wallet,”find”some money missing, money they accuse you of stealing and which you need to pay now or they would take you to the police

***Damn it***I always want to see the good in people, but how can I after hearing scam stories like these!

6Valparaiso/Chile

“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest” Nelson Mandela


I finally was able to visit my beloved Chile last March. I knew my mom and aunt missed it everyday, yet I didn’t understand why until I was there. Now I miss Chile.

Chile’s economy is the best in South America for a relatively small country. You immediately notice how prestigious and modern is Santiago de Chile. Although I have heard and read statement such a “Santiago shows a strong division between the rich and the poor”, I haven’t really noticed it there.

Where I have actually encountered it was in Valparaiso: the contrast between the area near the bus station for instance and the extraordinary hills of Valparaiso is striking: you have poverty and dodgy areas -an unconcealed reality- on one street while right on top of it you can find these colourful -cheerful-bohemian-carefree- hills.

That’s a division I have noticed in the one hour I have been there. The dreamy Valparaiso which took my breath away versus the reality of the struggle of it’s people was obvious. I can only hope they are as cheerful and happy as their city is.

 

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Ivan Jose says:

    Nice compilation. How about a visit to the Philippines?

    Like

    1. jessaubel says:

      Thank you Ivan 😀 Philippines is definitely on our to do list! 😀 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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