The World Awaits

One month shy of my 26th birthday I have left New York to backpack through Western Europe, Turkey, and India for the next two to three months.  I intend to end up in Pakistan where I’m not sure yet how long I will stay.

What made me take this seemingly abrupt and dramatic step?  I resigned from Pepsi, sold most of my belongings, and moved out of my beautiful apartment on City Island.  I have no job for when and if I return to the US, and I am eating into my paltry savings. I believe the key driver of my decision was the mere fact that I can.  I can take off to travel the world because I have very little to tie me down or to hold me back.  I can afford to leave my job because it’s still very early in my career.  I can rely on my savings to hold up because I need very little to survive right now.  I can traverse through Europe because I carry an American passport, which means I don’t need a visa for any of the European countries I plan to visit.  I can, therefore, I am.

For the first time in my life I have taken a major step without knowing what the next step will be. Where will I end up after my trip? What will I do? This is not like school where each year is a step towards the next and the next until high school ends and soon comes graduation from college. Then you join the work force, get married, have kids, rinse, then repeat. This time for your own kids. But I find myself running astray, off this beaten path, and as scary as it is, it’s also thrilling.

My timing, however, could have been better, at least in regards to current world affairs.  This is a very tumultuous time. The American-led “War on Terror” rages on.  Al-Qaeda persists as a dangerous enemy, ever-evolving new, deadly tactics to fight back.  Just recently, there was an attempted dual car bomb attack in London, followed by an attack at Glasgow Airport.  Many of the apprehended suspects are Pakistani men (or of Pakistani origin) between the ages of 17 and 35.  In Pakistan, radical Muslim clerics have declared jihad on President Musharraf and his government due to the recent skirmish at the Red Mosque in Islamabad.  All this has grave implications for me.  As a 25-year-old Muslim male of Pakistani origin, I can’t help but feel like a prime suspect for counterterrorist operations around the world, especially in London, my first destination.  To exacerbate matters, I am traveling on a one-way ticket.  I expect the immigration officers at Heathrow Airport in London will wonder how – if ever – I intend to return home to the US.  It gives them more reason to suspect my intentions.  On the other hand, I am just as much a target of any potential terror attacks as any non-Muslim.  Terrorists kill indiscriminately, and a part of me does fear that I could find myself at the wrong place at the worst time.  I feel like I’m caught between the two sides, smack-dab in the middle of the crossfire.

The fear, however, has not succeeded in quelling my excitement.  I am looking forward to seeing the world (or a bit of it, at least).  My current planned itinerary is as follows:

London, England – July 13 to July 17
Paris, France – July 18 to July 20
Brugge, Belgium – July 21 to July 22
Geneva, Switzerland – July 25 to July 27
Barcelona, Spain – July 29 to August 2
Madrid, Spain – August 3 to August 5
Granada, Spain – August 6 to August 8
Malaga, Spain – August 9 to August 11
Venice, Italy – August 12 to August 15
Cinque Terre, Italy – August 16 to August 18
Florence, Italy – August 19 to August 22
Rome, Italy – August 23 to August 24
Athens, Greece – August 25 to August 27
Sofia, Bulgaria – August 28 to August 31
Istanbul, Turkey – September 1 to September 7
Ephesus, Turkey – September 8 to September 10
Ankara, Turkey – September 11 to September 13
Hyderabad, India – September 15 to September 25
Karachi, Pakistan – September 26 —

The world awaits, and I intend to embrace it.  To see it for what it is and wrap my mind around it.  To partake in its variety, its technology, its rhythm.   To ultimately make it a part of me. 

15 thoughts on “The World Awaits”

  1. If you’re worried they’ll think you’re a terrorist, have an ice cream cone in your hands at all times. Terrorists don’t eat ice cream.


  2. Khalid –

    I so enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to following your travels. I’m sure this trip will turn out to be life shaping and changing – and you’re so right to embrace it all while you have the opportunity.

    Enjoy and safe travels!



  3. hey khalid, what a schedule! great to know you are having brilliant adventures travelling in europe— really, really great. send a postcard my way if you get a chance 🙂 address is always up to date on facebook. stay safe! can’t wait to hear more about your travels.


  4. This is so great and exciting…I feel like we can live this experience along with you…BUT, for a guy who doesn’t know what the next step is, your scheduled is pretty detailed and planned out. There maybe parts of your DNA that are hard to let go as you traverse.

    Keep up the dialog…it’s great and you’re very eloquent…



  5. dont worry abt ur immigration…all ur nightmares will come tru when u come back to ny…courtesy of urs truly =)…as i demonstrated to u that i have access to anywhere at the customs wont be a problem…i was on a “mini tour of the world” as well…but my nightmare did come tru…cuz when i was departing thailand…i almost missed my flight…the customs officers thought my passport was fake…so u can only imagine what was going thru my mind…they took out all kind of insturments to check if my passport was fake or not…but allah ka shukar(thank god if u will) everything worked out fine…oh and 1 more thing…when u land in pakistan..the custom officer will call u “SIR” cuz of ur american passport…lol that jus made my day when he did that to me…he was rude as hell to every1 else…but when it was my turn..he didnt ask a single word..stamped my passport and said…”ok thank you sir”…lol aite bro..enjoy ur trip be safe…i;ll prolly recieve u when u return


  6. I’m green with envy – but look forward to checking in on your travel adventures. Keep us posted! (And not sure if you heard…Nicole broke her ankle and is out 6 weeks!). JH


  7. Hey Khalid,
    That itinerary sounds amazing. I’m gonna barely miss you in Athens. I’m leaving there on 8/21. Have a great time.


  8. As usual I find your writing to be shallow and pedantic.
    Just kidding, really I am just jealous of your freedom and opportunity for adventure and frolic. I also miss complaining to you about my daily foibles. The other day my car got towed in front of Fordam road. After yelling at the parking jerks who saw me parking there but of course ‘failed’ to have the courtesy to warn me…I hopped into a gypsy cab to the tow pound and low and behold while on the bruckner I saw my car in the back of the tow truck and basically followed it the rest of the way. and of course, being so timely, i had to wait for them to complete the paperwork before i could get it back. how insulting. all in all, another $300 down the drain. indeed i will fight it.
    how did i just make your blog all about me? well that’s what i do best my friend. seriously, enjoy, have the time of your life, be safe. i will enjoy hearing about your travels as i study and slave away the rest of the summer.


  9. Kalid, Don’t buy a sim card in France. You get to purchase an expensive O2. I would get until you can get a phone from Vodafone. I don’t believe there is one in Switzerland, but certainly in Spain and the remainder you can buy them

    Your experiences are very interesting. I enjoy them a lot. The other thing that is nice but highly tourist trap is going to Moulin Rouge and the other cabarets. It is about 150 euro for bottle of champagne.

    During my time in Europe, I learnt that baguettes and fresh squeezed orange juice goes a long way. Keep up the good work

    Carlos & Vivian


  10. Salaam Alaikum,

    It sure sounds like your having a great time, and I know your taking a lots of pictures. See if you can e-mail some to me. Paris, aah I’ve always wanted to visit, maybe someday I’ll just dump my wife and kids and go on this tour myself. Just kidding. Did you have an oppertunity to check out the Louvre in Paris? That is if you like art.

    Anyway enjoy your self, and don’t forget your SALAAT. looking forward to more of your postings.

    Allah Hafiz.


  11. Khalid!! love the blog, love the stories….keep ’em coming, as you are very well aware how much I enjoy your insights on things past/seen/done! Since I haven’t received any postcards yet, this is what I want you to do: save the money and have a latte or espresso instead, altho that may end up costing you more, it will be worth it, i presume! have a great time! and may you never have to sleep on any benches, aameen! =)


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