When I first thought about writing this story, I envisioned it’d be the kind with the happy ending. You know the one I’m talking about: where the guy and girl end up together happily ever after. But, life happens.
Picture it: Austin, 2013.
I was six months out of a four-year relationship and heartbroken that he’d moved on so quickly and I was floundering. I’d moved into my friends’ house; then moved out of their house into another friends’ house. I spent most of my days at work or going to grad school; trying to build my blog; and planning my escape from work.
My first relationship after the “big one” was with a guy I’d known for several years and I was feeling happy again; excited about a future with him. Until one day, he texted me (yes, texted) that he ran into a girl he used to hook up with and decided he wanted to be with her instead. That whole, “sorry, I didn’t mean for this to happen; you’re a great person and I still want to be friends” bullshit that you know is never going to work.
I’ve been a bit quiet about my trip to Pakistan because I’ve been busy working on this! I wanted to give you all a visual of the trip. This 7-minute video covers almost every single stop I took during my few weeks in Pakistan–all the adventure, fun, peace, and culture.
I hope you’ll stick through until the end, which is my personal favorite part. Enjoy! And let me know if you’re ready to book a flight there after.
I took this trip with my friend’s (Ghayyur) company, Travelore Adventures, and all videos are either mine or Ghayyur’s. If you’re interested in visiting Pakistan, I recommend reaching out to him as he helped me design exactly the trip I wanted to take in Pakistan.
Now that 2016 has come to an end, a lot of people are reflecting on the year and making resolutions for the new year. My main resolution/wish for every year is to continue leading a life of adventure, in whatever way I can. Some years are more adventurous than others, but I always manage to sneak in a few trips!
While 2016 will go down in the books as “the worst year ever” for a lot of people, it will go down as a pretty good one for me. I had some pretty awesome travels; got to spend some good quality time with friends and family; worked out some personal things; got a promotion at work; and have some good ideas for what I want out of life in 2017.
But since this is a travel blog, let’s focus on the travel! (And I know I haven’t written about some of these trips yet–I failed pretty miserably at blogging in 2016.)
We packed into the van at 2am and found our “beds” for the 8-hour drive to Shogran from Islamabad. Because there were only five of us, I figured this would be a pretty cushy ride and I might actually get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was bad enough that one of the two seats I had to sprawl out on wouldn’t actually tilt up, which didn’t allow for a sturdy base to sleep against, but the roads were so bumpy that actually staying on the “bed” was difficult. At some point in the night, I pushed the 16 one-liter bottles of water against my seat row and put my pillow on that to give myself at least a bit of extra room; then I put my foot against the engine hump in front of me to keep myself from falling off the seats as we bounced around.
Quickly though, the night sky lifted and the sun was coming up and I realized there was no slumber for me. Two hours of sleep on my second night in Pakistan was about all I was going to get to enjoy. I sat up and watched out the window as the sun rose and turned everything pink for a while. I felt like I was finally getting to see some of what Pakistan was really like.
After 20+ hours of travel, most everything about landing in Islamabad, Pakistan is a blur–the gathering of my things, deplaning, how did I even get into the terminal? It’s 4am local time and my only feelings are anxiety about finally visiting Pakistan, and discomfort–I want a shower; it’s hot; I’ve been wearing the same clothes for longer than I like; my legs are swollen; and I’m dying of thirst.
I approach the short foreigners’ and diplomat line, wondering how long it’ll take me to get through as a first-time visitor to the country, and pull out my phone to text my friend that I’ve arrived. He said, “I know. I’m watching you. You’re wearing a red sweater.” Apparently there are cameras recording and displaying our images to the entire arrivals area, and I can’t decide how I feel about that.
Getting a tourism visa for Pakistan was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I was really discouraged after the first visa application was rejected. I spent weeks getting together documentation, filling out paperwork, and more. I spent $192 on the visa application, plus the cost of return mailing in express envelopes. And on top of that, I spent a lot of time, anxious about the status. Did I want to go through all of that again?
I gave myself a couple of days to be sad about it, wrote a blog post about it, and decided to try again.
Take a minute to go to Google and do an image search for Pakistan. I’ll wait. What did you find? A couple maps, a couple flags, sure.. but then what did you find?
New York Times
New York Times
All death. All destruction. All terror. All horror.
When my tourist visa was rejected, I heard a resounding sigh of relief from all my friends and family. They were all thrilled that I wasn’t going because that meant, instead, I’d be safe and sound in my own home country.