Since the first day, when I took a flight of freedom from the country of my origin, which if you don’t know is Pakistan; I have traveled to a lot of countries. A fair part of these trips were purely recreational, exploratory and for gauging the world, whereas the rest of trips were complimented by work. I have always tried to take up jobs, which did not mean prolonged territorial commitments, which are normally called home to office commutes. So I successfully discovered the already well discovered world for myself, while earning my bread.
That above-mentioned flight of freedom dates back more than two decades. Let me just clear here that I do not call it a flight of freedom, because I did not like my native country or because I was under any oppression. I call it a flight of freedom, because being a teenager, my only dream was to be independent and to do things that I was not allowed to do being younger than 18.
Anyway, I made full use of the chances provided by life and by-the-day, my list of “I have been to” destinations kept growing bigger and bigger. I will not waste your time by listing all the names of the places that I have been to and I would not also say that I have traveled from the east to the west, because it is so cliché. But I would only say that I have been to nearly all the destinations, which people want to do at least once in their lifetimes. I mean ‘The Destinations’.
I might not be able to show you all my travels in images, because first of all I did a fair part of traveling before the digital age, or better say before the current level of development of the digital age, because I would not want it to sound as if I traveled during the HIPPY years and secondly the limited amount of photos that I did take from time to time, using those 36 shot or 24 shot film rolls, are lost or misplaced or simply saying not in my possession anymore, because of my permanently geographically shifting lifestyle.
If you do remember, in those not so distant days gone by, things like photos, could only be kept in hard copies or as we used to call it in print and there was nothing known as digital storage of images. So my paper images did not withstand the variations of my life. Therefore I can only tell you that not very long ago Shanghai used to be a city without a towering skyline and that Dubai was more of a desert in real sense and that Sheikh Zayed Rd did not have all those skyscrapers lined-up on both sides of the road. Germans, especially West Germans frequented Bangkok for sex tourism, channel tunnel was still in the making, Heathrow Airport only had terminals 1, 3 and 4, the Oresund bridge did not exit and Finland was not even a part of the European Union.
Back then US citizens had no idea about carrying some ID with them at all times, the police in US cities was more of a helper rather than a force and California was still an attractive state. The Coney Island in Brooklyn was not Russian and Domino’s Pizza was only a US phenomenon. I mentioned all of this just to give you an idea of why the paper has not lived through and I cannot exhibit any images.
It would be lot easier for me to tell you about where I have not been rather than where I have been. I have not been to the most southern uninhibited continent of Antarctica and you can understand why, I haven’t been to the main destination in the partially uninhibited continent, but it is on my bucket list.
Coming back to the completely, densely and properly populated continents, I have been lucky enough to have traveled to all of them. In my home continent, Asia, I have been to many countries, except for the nearest one.
I live in Lahore, of course if flying into Lahore, whenever I go to Pakistan, because my closest relatives live there, can be called living there. Those who can see the map can visually be ascertained that India is just 30 minutes away from this city, but I have not been able to go to India. Once again, it has nothing to do with my political orientation, or nationalistic fervor, or hard feelings towards the Indians. The reasons are beyond my control or as we call it in judicial terms, force-majeure circumstances.
I have not been to Israel, which you believe it or not, is also Asia, although the Israeli football clubs play in UEFA tournaments. Once again the reasons are not personal. And since I am a common man, I cannot do anything to change this, however strongly I might want to do that.
Then there are these small Island nations especially in the Pacific Ocean, which are in Asia, but are so distant that until now they had been a bit unapproachable for me. So even after coming across fried crickets and grass hoppers, coal fried bananas, boiled and skinned snake meat, 7 day working weeks, beer selling Muslim countries and a lot more, I am still far from visiting all of the countries in my home continent.
Africa is another interesting continent, but since the times of my freedom, a lot of places in Africa have been in some kind of turmoil, which makes traveling to those countries impossible; countries like Somalia. Although Africa is very fragmented, but still I have been to around 50% of the African territory (please don’t fry me if I am off by a few percentage points). I was lucky enough to see Sudan, before it started splitting up socially and eventually territorially. I saw the Red Sea resorts in Egypt, before the influx of Russian tourists and the development of Hurghada. I made it to places as south as Ghana and as Saharan as Chad, but this continent is too diverse and I hope that I could see all of it before the bucket closes in.
As far as the Americas are concerned, I have been to the larger countries, but it is once again the fragmented parts, which need to be seen. There are a few Islands in the northern part of America, which I need to see, whereas in the South American continent a lot of mainland is still awaiting me.
This brings us to the seat of ROMANOSITY or in human terms the seat of the Roman civilization, the continent of Europe. This was the continent where I started my use of freedom, after fleeing the dictatorship of my home: my family. Being a teenager, with the curious heart of a child, I traveled to different European countries, in times when all of them, except for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg (BENELUX) used to issue separate visas.
In those days, being a citizen of Pakistan and not being able to travel to the USSR, I always thought that I would never be able to see all of Europe. But then the leadership of USSR took my situation into account and decided to ease my travel conditions by dissolving the Soviet Union.
I wasted very little time in traveling to and through the European part of Russia and totally territorially lying in Europe states of Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the three Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
In the end of 2007, I once realized that there were only two countries in Europe, which I had not been to and those countries were Finland and Iceland. My wife and I made plans and as soon as March 2008, I was already in Helsinki. Although to tell you the truth the 5 days passed in Finland back than were nothing more than a filler, just to be able to say that “I have been to Finland”. Because just being in one city did not much quench the thirst of my curiosity.
I was already planning to make my way to Iceland, as soon as possible, to be able to strikeout at least one whole continent out of my itinerary. But since I live in the same real world as all of you and my world is as much subject to the laws of physics as any other world, my plans of visiting Iceland were shattered because of the mistakes of some so-called experts, gurus or Masters of economy. They made their personally lucrative mistakes in a country far away from me, but their actions, which made them billion-dollar bonuses, just flushed my ticket to Iceland down the drain. For the brainiest ones, I am talking about the economic meltdown of 2008.
Then in 2013, after vacationing for more than two years my wife and I decided to get back into serious bread earning once again and for the purpose we decided to move to Finland. I will not elaborate the reasons behind the decision, but among other reasons, one was my desire of being closer to Iceland.
After moving to Finland in Spring last year I had plans of going to Iceland the same summer. But unfortunately due to processing of our applications for residence, it was not possible for me to travel to Iceland before the end of August 2013.
In the beginning of this year, there was nothing which would hinder my trip to Iceland. I had plans of going there in July or beginning of August this year, because going to Iceland in May or early June is not much fun and after the end of August the chances are that you will miss the lush green grass, which is greener than anywhere else in the world. You will not see the horses grazing in the wilderness and a major part of Iceland will be inhospitable weather wise.
But it is just about the beginning of August and I see no way of making it to Iceland for the next more than a month. This means that I would not be going to Iceland this year as well, unless my wife agrees to spend the New Year holidays in Iceland, which she will not. I am so close, but still so far from Iceland.
The next time when I will write about the blonde island, I want to show you pictures taken by me and pictures taken of me in the geyser fields of Iceland. So for the given purpose, I would hereby like to appeal to the blondest girls in the world, the greenest grass on the globe, the highest geysers on the continent, the most volatile volcanoes, the most democratic society, the signature Brennivin, the Icelandic and to Iceland as a whole: “Please stop eluding me!”