Words Sakina M.
Art Fatema A.
As I blow out the candle on my 18th birthday, I reflect back on my life so far. Who am I? What have I accomplished? Have I truly lived?
My life so far has been a film reel of views from rental car windows. In 18 years, I have travelled to over 65 countries. Over half of those countries, I hardly recollect.
Moscow – a bunch of cobblestone steps, too much walking, and colourful domes in the background.
France – My father asking a woman where the hotel is in French.
In an attempt to change that, I take screenshots in my mind as I drive by new worlds, urging my brain to keep this image secure.
Israel – the tan yellow mountains against a lavender sky.
North Pakistan – a speck of pink, a woman working in a field, against a seemingly never-ending ocean of green.
Iceland – glaciers floating against the black volcanic sand.
Colombia – rainforests, plantains, and banana leaves.
These screenshots, despite being real and stunning, are just that – screenshots.
My first recollection of truly travelling is in North Pakistan, 2016. The country I thought I knew. My second home. While on a trail, a native young girl motioned her hand to beckon me. I looked behind me, sure she wasn’t indicating to me. She beckoned me again, anxious, as male tourists were coming in the distance. She disappeared behind her small home of logs. Curiously, I followed her. Instantly, I was surrounded by women of all ages. They smiled, and in my broken Urdu, I asked them about their family and lives. With bright eyes, the women and children inquired about the purpose of the metal wires on my teeth. Upon asking my age, they questioned why I was not yet married at 16 years old.
This is the truth of travel. It is to come face to face with what is different from you and to learn rather than to judge.
I hope I can truly travel. I encourage you all to break the rental car windows. Step over the crushed barrier, and immerse yourself, speak, learn, and trade your home and culture for someone else’s.