Here's an excerpt from the book:
My Pipe Dream
My daughter and I were walking through Walmart when she glanced at the rows of pink and red pajama’s nearby and remarked, “Every time I see something about Valentines, I think of that girl!”
“What girl?” I asked.
“You know, THE GIRL.”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The girl that died before our trip!”
“Ooohhh, THAT girl. But why does Valentines day reminds you of her?”
“Remember, when we would walk where she was hit and we’d see all those red stuffed bears and pink hearts?”
“Okay, now I understand.”
It was hard to believe that three years had flown by. Almost Three years ago when a 12-year-old girl, the same age as my daughter, was hit and killed by a car down our street.
As a parent too, I was devastated by the news.
Safety, fear, and death had been uppermost in my mind that day as I was continuously reminded by well meaning family and friends that I was about to take my daughter on a dangerous trip. It was very understandable that people would be concerned for our safety. Now when I think about it, I would have felt the same way. But fear has a way of dissolving once you surround yourself with knowledge.
In this situation, I surrounded myself with hours of research, talking to other backpackers, and mapping out our destinations. The more I delved into the actual planning stages, the more excited I became.
As I researched, asking myself over and over if I could do this, I remembered my former job. Years ago when I was in the Navy, I was a tour guide for the Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Like all tour guides, we weren’t born with the knowledge. We had to learn our stuff in order to teach others about the area. Sure, if I were to pay extra for a travel guide, I could rely on someone more knowledgeable about the area, not to mention, there’s a safety factor in traveling with a group. But other people were backpacking this trip solo, and saying it was possible. The forums were full of world travelers all willing to share their success. The more I read, the more I learned and the more courageous I felt.
It completely made affordable sense to do my own tours into each country. I could teach myself everything I needed to know. The more I learned about hostels, the more I liked the idea of being around other backpackers, sharing our experiences, and learning from one another.
Earlier, I had broke the news to my husband about this crazy dream of mine to backpack the Middle East. And on top of that, I wanted to bring our home schooled 12-year-old daughter with me.
As a supplement to her home school geography lessons, we had been reading a book that month called, Material World: A Global Family Portrait. It was a fascinating book that gave us a glimpse into families from around the world, sharing their demographics, and worldly possessions. As we studied each continent, we’d sit for over an hour discussing these countries and how their lives were so different from our life here in America. The book caused such wanderlust in us both, that it resurrected my lifelong dream of traveling to Egypt, Israel, and Jordan.
I explained to my husband that this was a trip of a lifetime and that the more I researched, the more I knew I could do this. And to my shock, my husband said he believed me. In fact, I wasn’t sure if he was just humoring me, thinking it was just a pipe dream. So I literally ran with the plans before he could change his mind. I sent off for my birth certificate that I hadn’t seen since my enlistment into the Navy.
Now my plans were becoming more official. Each step I took, I glanced at my husband, waiting to see if he’d change his mind.
In fact, my own daughter only half believed me. While I discussed the trip, she’d get this little smile and make comments that it wasn’t “real” yet.
I learned many months later that my family was very worried about us going, and here I was taking my young daughter alone, two females, on a backpacking trip through the Middle East. A Muslim country, where all you hear on the news lately is stuff about the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and abductions of tourists.
What I didn’t tell my family is that I had earlier read about the suicide bombs that had happened in downtown Cairo or that several years earlier, over 62 Egyptians and tourists were butchered by machetes at Luxor.
So, when I think about it, I can’t blame them for being worried. At the time, I was too caught up to think about what others may be feeling, but as I look back now, I can honestly understand their concerns. In fact, as I write about my experience, I sometimes marvel that I actually did this. It was a leap of faith, and unless a person is actively involved in researching and being reassured by experienced backpackers, the trip can appear to be very dangerous to our loved ones. I wouldn’t even advise this trip unless a person did their homework first.
I will say that there were pivotal events that happened before our trip that reaffirmed, or I should say, made me determined that I wouldn’t allow fear to change my mind. The first incident happened when my daughter and I were scheduled to go on a field trip to tour helicopters at Ft. Hood. Right before our field trip, a gunman shot and killed 13 people on base. As we sadly watched the news develop on TV, I pondered over what had just happened. What if my daughter and I had been there at the wrong time? Of all places, you would think that we’d be safest on a military base. Never would we have been issued a word of caution from well-meaning family and friends before driving to Ft. Hood.
The other event that made me think about our safety, versus taking chances in life, was that devastating report about the young girl in our neighborhood being hit by a car. Each day that my daughter and I would do our daily walk, we’d pass by the spot where she had died. Someone had placed her photo on a pole beside the sidewalk, and it was surrounded by flowers, stuffed animals, and personal letters. My heart broke as we’d walked by, and I’d think about her parents. I also knew deep in my heart that this type of tragedy could have happened to my own daughter, whether we were in our neighborhood walking or traveling abroad.
That incident also reminded me about a book I had read, about a woman who had bicycled around the world with her husband. She was writing a book about their amazing experiences, but she never finished. As soon as they arrived home, she was hit and killed by a car. Her husband finished writing her book, Miles from Nowhere. Many times I wondered how many people told them they were crazy for riding their bikes through all those countries, and the potential danger they faced. But never did anyone caution them about the dangers that can happen on their own street at home.
The trip started to become more real for me when my daughter and I stood in line at the post office applying for our passports.
I’ll never forget the morning I logged onto my computer. My heart was racing and I was online looking up plane tickets. It wasn’t quite six in the morning yet and I was about to buy the deal of the century. For a mere $640 apiece, I was going to get two round trip tickets on Continental airlines from Houston to Cairo. I clicked SEND, and the tickets were purchased through Orbitz.com. A few moments later, I stood at my daughter’s beside.
“Pam, I just bought our plane tickets. We’re going to Egypt!”
My husband, who was already up and drinking his coffee congratulated us.
I had called his bluff.
It was no longer a pipe dream and I was excited, and scared.