Girl Versus World

Saturday, July 07, 2018
I just got back from the vacation of a lifetime. Thanks to my generous mother, I was able to visit Israel and Jordan, and the trip was as incredible as it sounds. Being a writer, I found it impossible not to do “writer” type things while I was there. I people-watched and took notes on their mannerisms. I spoke to as many people as possible to draw inspiration from their lives. I took an obscene number of pictures to use as backdrops and settings. And, of course, I casually mentioned that I was a writer to anyone who seemed interested.

But the most important thing I took away as a writer was something I didn’t expect. Jordan and Israel were like different worlds to me. Amidst wealth, there was poverty. Among beauty, desolation. Next to freedom was oppression. And where there was camaraderie and understanding – intolerance. I witnessed these juxtapositions in both countries and struggled with them, even as I admired places like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the ruins of Masada, the devotions at The Western Wall, and the magnificence of Petra.

I ate in a Bedouin tent. I rode a camel in Wadi Rum. I saw the birthplace of Jesus Christ. I braved my fear and took a cable car up a cliff. I floated in the Dead Sea. These memories are ones I’ll cherish all my life. But I can’t forget the stark contrast of these countries to my own. I know that my writing will be influenced by these differences. They made me so grateful to be an American, but also made me ashamed of my ignorance. Perhaps ignorance isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s a willingness to ignore those things which are uncomfortable. Either way, the realization lies deep within me and struggles for a voice.

It’s easy for anyone – not only writers – to stay within their comfort zone. If anyone told me last year that I’d spend two weeks in the Middle East, I might have scoffed at the notion. When the opportunity presented itself, however, I couldn’t pass it up. I’m so very, very grateful I didn’t.

I hope these experiences will positively influence my writing. I hope they will help me make an impression on others of the many worlds that exist outside our own. I hope I do them justice.

I encourage you, dear writers, to do the same.

Bethany Masone Harar is an author, teacher, and blogger, who does her best to turn reluctant readers into voracious, book-reading nerds. Check out her blog here and her website here.


Margo Dill said...

Well said, Beth. It is amazing how being exposed to other cultures can help you in so many ways, including with fiction

Renee Roberson said...

I have no doubt these experiences will positively influence your writing! How lucky to have been able to take the trip of a lifetime. I too believe in the power of exploring different places and cultures although I haven't been able to do as much o fit as I like . . . yet :-)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Beth--Travel definitely transforms people, especially if the destination is vastly different than the person's home.

I'm glad you had such a wonderful trip.

Mary Horner said...

Food for thought, writers should examine their lives by stepping out of their comfort zones every chance they get. Thanks for the reminder.

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