Afghanistan: Should You Go And How To Get There?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Afghanistan Travel

A recent article on GoMad Nomad tries to show travelers how to get to Afghanistan, which, in recent years, has been more difficult and slightly frightening. At the top of the article, there is a disclaimer noting that, although the author has survived a trip to this country, it does not mean that one should choose to take the journey. It is dangerous and there is a general warning for travelers from the United States and Britain. The article provokes more than just budgeting and a Lonely Planet history check. It may easily dissuade even the most curious of folks.

The author outlines the paperwork needed and what borders to consider in the process of crossing. It almost reads as a surreal story of espionage filled with seasoned traveler jargon such as “double-entry visa” and confusing time restrictions.

I remember my grade 12 geography class and the slideshow put on by the teacher. During his undergraduate studies, he had the opportunity to travel to Afghanistan to do glacial readings. Along this un-trodden path, he described the warmth of the people, the diversity of the land and the abundance of leafy, green bushes, the names of which he never disclosed. I remember that feeling of knowing that travel was something I wanted to be a part of.

Afghanistan was not necessarily at the top of my list, but its proximity to India was alluring. Perhaps these were the thoughts of many who took the Hippie Trail in the ’60s and ’70s. This route was the bohemian revamp of the pricier Grand Tour of Europe (the popularized educational right-of-passage taken by the affluent beginning in the late-1600s).

The route of the hippies was overland, usually beginning in London or Amsterdam and continuing through to India or Nepal. The point was to be away from home for as long as possible, to stretch one’s dollars by experiencing the bare necessities and the kindness of strangers. To this day, travelers have made it to India via plane, but a relative few have ventured there via land. It makes me wonder if travel to certain areas of the globe has changed for our generation or if it is a general shift, like the migration pattern of seasonal birds?

When looking at the waves of travel in the past, there are patterns. Post-popularized The Motorcycle Diaries meant that Latin America would see foreign leather jackets and scruffy beards more than usual. Now, some people have an affinity with the American South, wanting to see Louisiana, Texas and Georgia to better understand the politics and culture that has been at the forefront of international news.

Places will experience a dip in popularity due to expense or curiosity and there will be those that are continual classics (such as Paris, New York, London, etc . . .). In between, we communicate with one another on where to go and how to do it. It would be interesting if one could track the migration patterns of humans like we do with whales and birds. Perhaps we could predict what place will be the next big destination in order to plan to go there or, as with this article on Afghanistan, divert around it.

With the internet, it almost feels like anything is possible.

That being said, the author does not hold back the beauty one experiences in the country. Again, he writes about the hospitality, the sublime landscape and the general elation of experiencing something bigger than one’s self.

I once was a proponent of traveling, no matter what the means or how one’s style is. Even all-inclusive resorts seemed to me a good break for those that work incessantly. I am beginning to doubt this and reformulate my idea of ethical and moral travel.

To travel just to do the same thing you are doing at home doesn’t add to the expansion of one’s mind or manner. If one is not willing to push his or her comfort zone and go in with an open (but conscious) mind, have a staycation. Don’t risk your safety or life trying to be adventurous. Just know yourself and what you are comfortable doing. However, for me, when doing further reading on Afghanistan (Lonely Planet has released an extensive book), I feel humbled by it and inspired about the seeming perseverance of the people. And yes, kind of scratching at my itchy feet.

TheExpeditioner

About the Author

britweaverToronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisurely cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog TheBubblesAreDead.wordpress.com.

  • Stephen Lioy

    Hey Brit, as the author of that piece I’ll point out here that nowhere do I say it is NOT safe, only that my visit is no guarantee of future safety.

    In fact: “With a good mix of determination and luck, though, visiting this ancient but war-plagued state is very possible and can be relatively safe.”

    My main concern is that tourists heading that way should do their own research and ask their own questions about security before crossing the border, and to keep a back up plan in mind in case that situation changes.

    For example, after a recent Taliban attack on a Red Cross mission people attempting to cross the border from Tajiksitan have been turned back by border security. The embassy in Kyrgyzstan is still issuing visas but is advising people that they probably wont be allowed to enter the country at the moment. The situation is very fluid, and anyone attempting to make the trip should be aware of that.

    I will admit that I didn’t write much on the hospitality or experience of traveling, but this was meant as an informative piece full of information that I’d have been happy to have when we were in Khorog scrambling to pull the trip together. If you’d like to hear a little bit more about what the culture or landscapes were like, check out this article which the folks at WildJunket were kind enough to publish: http://wildjunketmagazine.com/behind-the-veil-afghanistan/

    If Central Asia is an area that interests you, I encourage you to head down to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan and ask around in the border towns about the current situation. Any of the traders from the area or travelers who have just passed through should be able to give you some idea of what to expect.

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