I’m a lucky guy. I work for a tech company that gives us an extra month of vacation every five years so we can take a “sabbatical”. As you can imagine this means that everyone spends their first five years counting down to this magical month. Plans are made, discussed, debated and refined down to the smallest detail.
My plan was to go to New Zealand. It had been a dream of mine for many years to go and rent a camper for 4 weeks and drive around the North and South Island. I had even planned and additional 2 weeks in Australia to see Sydney and maybe Ayers rock?
As I said, this plan was pretty much researched and decided upon since I joined the company back in 2010. In the meantime, I developed a passion for travel to places that were more off the established tourist track. By this I do not mean places that are hard to travel in, rather places that have not been taken over by the tourist horde.
So In early 2015 I heard of the opportunity to take a 2 week trip curated by Nate, a photographer I had been following for a while(http://www.yomadic.com/) . He had previously done a similar trip through the Balkans and I was very excited at the idea of joining a trip through Iran!
When you mention Iran, many things come to mind. For many people I encountered the first thing that came to mind was: “DANGER”!! Our media likes to keep a simple message, Iran is evil. A lot of people expressed concerns about my safety and joked about me not coming back. I must admit, I made a joke or two as well.
On the other hand, I thought of the wonders of the great Persian empire, of Persepolis and the grandeur of its past. I thought of the people of Iran and their legendary hospitality. I have learned some time back to separate my feelings towards a country’s government from my feelings towards a country’s people.
At this point it’s pretty clear that I changed my 5 year plan on a dime. Gone were all thoughts of New Zealand and I focused on Iran instead. I contacted Nate, sent him my information and a very reasonable fee and I had booked myself on a 12 day trip from Tehran to Shiraz in Iran! It all sounds easy now that I’ve done it but it was one of the most impulsive decisions I have ever made.
I booked the remaining flights, did my visa paperwork a couple of months later and proceeded to go into procrastination mode. You know that feeling when you know you have something to do but you have months to do it? Well I’m an expert at wasting every precious minute up to the very end. For example, my new backpack arrived 2 days before I was supposed to leave., I finished packing at 1 am, when my flight was at 11 am.
By some sort of miracle, I always manage to get to the airport in Dublin with time to spare. I checked in my brand new bag and went through all the usual procedures to get on the plane and to Istanbul. The plane was delayed due to weather in Istanbul and by the time we landed we were 2 hours late. It was raining cats and dogs and my luggage was nowhere to be seen. After an hour of waiting, a baggage handler appears with my backpack, dripping water; apparently it had been forgotten on the tarmac. Did I mention my backpack is not waterproof?
With a sigh I get into a taxi and give him the address for my hotel. I hope it’s easy to find as I have had mixed luck with taxis in Istanbul in the past. Of course, all my hopes are dashed when he leaves me stranded in a cul-de-sac with a soaked backpack, a torrent of water flowing down the street and just the hotel name to guide me.
Long story short, I find the hotel and find my room, I then spread out all my clothes around the room to get them to dry out and go get some dinner and then sleep. I had booked a shuttle in the morning to the airport so I could get to my flight on time.
The next morning the rain has stopped and I thought I had everything nicely planned to get me to my flight. I get on the shuttle( which was late) and am happily on my way to the airport when I see we cross over to Asia. I ask the driver and of course, the staff at my hotel had gotten me on a shuttle to the wrong airport! Luckily the shuttle driver was able to flag down a taxi for me and I got to the airport in the nick of time. I had to skip the security queues but I made it!
Nate and the rest of the expedition were waiting at the gate and I felt I had achieved something! All of this of course in what was supposed to be the “easy” part of the trip!
And that is how I ended up on a flight headed to Tehran. Please come with me on the trip of a lifetime through the wonder that is modern day Iran!