For the most part, I'm a planner. But for some reason, my wanderlust and impulsivity kicks into overdrive when it comes to planning a trip. For my vacation this year, I knew one thing and one thing only: I wanted a grand adventure. As I was browsing options on G Adventure's website, I pondered over South America, Morocco, Greece...and then I saw Petra. And it was just a done deal. I forced myself to think about it a little more ("Be responsible!" "Do more research!" "Shouldn't you be traveling with friends??"), but six days later I couldn't resist and I booked the entire trip...alone! What started as an impulsive decision finished as one of the grandest adventures I had ever experienced. Determined to make the most of my photographic experience, I decided to ditch my Nikon kit lens in favor of just my Nikon 50mm f/1.8 for portraits & close ups and my new Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 for landscapes & architecture. Thanks to some pestering, Rob also managed to snag me an Ona Bowery camera bag at their sample sale for 50% off! which served me incredibly well throughout the entire trip!
For those of you looking to travel to Jordan, I couldn't recommend it highly enough. Jordan is an amazing country filled with hospitable people, the most delicious falafel you have ever tasted and landscapes that will repeatedly leave you speechless. Thanks to my excellent trip to South East Asia with G Adventures, I decided to do the Highlights of Jordan Trip since it would take me around the entire country.
Amman, Jerash, The Dead Sea & Mt. Nebo: We started in Amman, then took a day trip to the Jerash ruins and the Dead Sea where we bobbed in the water and coated ourselves in mud! We visited Mt. Nebo, the mountain where Moses was shown the promised land, and got our first real taste of the vast landscapes Jordan has to offer.
Petra: After this began the best 48 hours of the entire trip. Petra is probably most well-known in modern culture for scenes from Indiana Jones and Transformers. It was a hidden city established by the Nabataeans and was unknown to the Western world until the 1800s. While most people assume Petra is simply The Treasury, the site contains miles and miles of other tombs, monuments, and hikes. What's incredible is that from the surroundings, the entire city is virtually hidden. Our tour guide Zuhair forced us to get to Petra at 6AM, but wisely so because we had the entire Treasury to ourselves! Unfortunately due to the turmoil in its bordering countries, Jordan's tourism has plummeted. On one hand, it was shocking to see how empty certain sites were of the usual swarms of tourists, but on the other hand we felt like we got a private & intimate view of the country to ourselves. We were in Petra for an exhausting 12 hours, doing two major hikes to see the Treasury from the top of a mountain and to see The Monastery. In total, we finished 15 miles, 35,000 steps and roughly 115 floors! It was all worth it in the end, but "dead" would probably have been an understatement for both how we looked and felt. The entire day was stunning both from a landscape perspective and architecture perspective: the vibrant reds of the sandstone, the complex water transportation, the incredible buildings carved from top to bottom.
Wadi Rum: The next day, we traveled to Wadi Rum, a desert valley that was unbelievably vast and expansive. We hopped in the back of two pick up trucks for some sandduning and took in the landscapes. We eventually pulled over to watch the sun set over the mountains which was a perfect moment to just take it all in. There are so many moments when you travel where everything just seems surreal and you just can't believe how fortunate you truly are to experience that moment. At night we stayed at a Bedouin camp where I happily taught the non-Americans on our trip how to make banana boats (slice open a banana, stuff it with marshmallows and chocolate, wrap it in foil, and set it next to the campfire until it all melts!). We shared stories ranging from incredible travel sites to hilarious misadventures in foreign countries. In a once-in-a-lifetime moment, a few of us pulled out our beds to sleep under the stars. The most incredible moment was when we realized that the thick white stripe across the sky was in fact the Milky Way - visible as clear as a paint stroke! We fell asleep for just a few short hours before we woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise on camelback. Interestingly enough, we actually watched the sun rise twice in one morning - once between two mountain peaks, and then again from a different angle above one of the mountains.
Aqaba: Winding down our trip, we made our way to Aqaba, a coastal town. There was a thriving night life and we had the chance to take out a private boat to snorkel in the Red Sea. At one point our captain pointed out the four countries surrounding us: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt! It's one thing to see these countries on a map and another to see it pointed out right in front of you. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my water proof camera case with me so I didn't get many underwater action shots, but there are some things I'll always keep tucked away in my memory. On our way back to Amman we stopped one last time to see another view of The Dead Sea and to witness the depletion of the water source as well.
Sad for the end of the trip, we prolonged our goodbye dinner in Amman late into the night. In retrospect, I've realized that one of the best parts of traveling solo is that you're not traveling solo at all. You have the opportunity to meet new people, form new relationships, and hopefully find new friends to travel with in the future. I'm so fortunate that my trip was made up of an incredible group of people! Many thanks to Zuhair, our fantastic "CEO" (Chief Experience Officer) for giving us an incredible taste of Jordan. Hopefully one day I'll be fortunate enough to return!
Travel Tips & Tricks:
- Clothing: There was no expectation to be fully covered, but it is recommended to cover shoulders, cleavage and knees. For the most part I wore T-Shirts, maxi skirts, and cute patterned lounge pants. I was surprised that even despite the June heat, the maxi skirts and lounge pants offered enough of a breeze to keep me relatively cool. For shoes, I wore sandals / flip flops most of the time, but brought running shoes for Petra & Wadi Rum. Petra has hundreds of steps & climbing, so I probably could have used shoes with better traction.
- Safety: As of June 2015, there were absolutely zero moments during my trip where I was remotely worried about my safety. All the panic from Western media definitely had my family concerned when I told them I was visiting, but there were no realistic threats to be concerned about. In comparison to my time in Europe and South East Asia, I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of pickpocketing as well. As for women traveling alone, there was a decent amount of men leering & calling out from cars, but I can't say that it was much more than what I've experienced in New York City or West Philly.
- Food: Absolutely delicious! If you find yourself in Amman, I highly recommend Hashem Restaurant or Jafra Cafe. The falafel and hummus is unlike anything you can taste in the United States. Additionally, because many Muslims do not drink, you can find an abundance of smoothies and shakes everywhere you go (perfect for my alcohol allergy!). The lemon & mint smoothies quickly became a favorite.