Sin City* to Holy City

http://shahabudeenjalil.com/2011/03/dari-amsterdam-ke-mekah-1/

I prefer to travel by land — car, van, SUV, bus, taxi, train, tram, cycle, subway, beca, 4×4, auto bajaj, animal, feet, etc. — even for long distances. When bodies of water have to be crossed, I prefer going by water than by air. Going by air is faster and sometimes cheaper but I only travel by air when there is no viable alternative (for example when I have to go to Europe and I don’t have the desire nor the time to cross the Taklamakan Desert on camels).

I have been to eight long land-only trips in my whole life — defined as trips with at least 2000km land distance. This is my most ambitious plan as yet, since the whole trip covers more than 6000km of land distance and the route passes through 18 countries. An added challenge is to complete the whole thing in 25 days. We already bought the inbound and outbound tickets so we must complete the trip from Amsterdam to Jeddah in 25 days by hook (bullet train) or by crook (camels).

In a long trip like this, we can’t help but just pass through some places and not stay for long. While it’s a great fantasy of mine to spend my life on the road like a permanent hobo, I have a family and businesses to take care of, and bills to be paid. I would like to spend more time on this trip but I know I will get traveler’s fatigue after three weeks on the constant go. After all, I’m not a hardcore traveler.

However, it will not be touch-and-go all the way. We plan to stay at a few places that I’ve always wanted to visit (Bosnia, Turkey, Lebanon). We are going to work our contacts at these transit points to arrange for ground assistance. Given our tight schedule, the longest we can spend in one country is 3 days.

It is fortunate to get like-minded fellow travelers for this trip. We have decided early on that our purpose is not to visit the tourist traps you can see on Wikitravel or the Travel Channel, but rather to mingle and live with the locals. Of course, a museum visit or two will not hurt, but we won’t spend our time just sightseeing. There’s no such thing as a must-see place. The best thing to see in a foreign country is the people.

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* Sin City is a sobriquet given to the city of Amsterdam by many travel writers. I am using it for dramatic effect; by no means I am making any moral judgments towards the residents of the city.

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