However, as I moved further and further away from my religious roots, my travels took on a more haphazard feel. Ibiza was the party paradise promised. Mykonos and Santorini were fun and romantic and just plain stunning. But they didn’t have the charm of being an important part of my cultural heritage.
Then, a year ago, I decided to try a heritage DNA kit. I wasn’t expecting all that much, but my results surprised me. In addition to Middle Eastern and European roots, I actually have some North African and Asian heritage. And this inspired me to give these regions more of a try.
Not so different
I’ve always been a liberal thinker, but it’s easy to say that when not challenged. When I got these results, I started to wonder if I could see the differences in my face and body. Did I look a little Asian? How about Egyptian? What did I feel about that?
I realised there was a sense of discomfort, but along with that came a thrill. People I had always unknowingly seen as so different to me were suddenly all of the same human race. I recognise that I don’t have the cultural heritage, including the struggles these people have gone through, but at the very least, we share similar DNA.
Instead of continuing making my way through the entirety of Europe, I decided to mix it up a bit.
Travelling to Asia
I know I have some Asian heritage, but Asia is pretty big and I did not have any specifics. This presented a quandary, but also an opportunity. I could choose anywhere I wanted to go.
So, I went with the cheapest option first – Thailand. I went to Phuket and it was more of a culture shock than I could have imagined. Part of this is because of what they try to show to tourists. In a place like Bangla Road, there is little that is authentically Thai. They harass you to go to a live sex show (or a sexy ping pong show, which is crazier than it sounds) and offer what they imagine tourists looking for some sexual liberation want.
What was better in my eyes was the markets, and Phuket Old Town, which were more authentic.
After Phuket, I went to Bali (I know, I’m a cliché), and found an entirely different kind of experience. There is a sense of sexual liberation there too, but it is not a defining factor of the place. The people are pious in their cultural heritage and you get a sense of that from the offerings they leave outside their homes each night.
There are still many places to go, and Egypt is next on my list. Knowing I’m connected to different cultures around the world makes me want to travel outside of Europe, without feeling like I’m entering a whole new world.