In the two weeks I’ve been in Egypt, the things that have struck me the most are:
- The country hasn’t been hostile, dangerous or nearly as overwhelming as I expected it to be based on media reports. I can’t believe I was scared about travelling here.
- The landscapes have been vast and beautiful. So much that I almost cried tears of joy on the morning I woke up in the desert during a camping trip.
I’m going to save my Egypt travel safety thoughts for the end of my trip, but for now I want to share how these expansive landscapes have made put some perspective on life.
On multiple occasions I’ve had the privilege of standing in beautiful panoramas of deserts, golden mountains near the oasis, canyons and huge temples/pyramids.
Being completely by these landscapes have been both humbling and enlightening.
Humbling because of the sheer size, both vertically and horizontally. Enlightening because it’s become a reminder about keeping the big picture in mind, which something I’ve often neglected to do in the past.
The present vs. the future
In facing life decisions or challenges, many times I’ve been so caught up in the moment or the emotions of the situation, I couldn’t see past that obstacle. As a result, I was anxious, afraid and confused. But inevitably, this “oh-my-gosh-this-is-the-end-of-the-world” event passes and becomes just a small part of the journey.
Here are some personal examples of what I mean:
- In grade 6, I didn’t know my multiplication tables and felt terrible from being scolded by my mom and teachers. In hindsight, not knowing how to multiply back then was pretty inconsequential (and later, I still finished a degree in Mathematics with Honours at one of the most reputable Mathematics universities in the world.)
- 8 years ago in university, I felt ashamed when I virtually failed a mid-term exam in one of my Optimizations class. Later, it turned out everyone else in the class did poorly too and the teacher made the final exam count instead. I ended up getting a 96 in that class.
- 1.5 years ago when I parted ways with a long-term partner, I didn’t know how I’d be able to function. But being single gave me the opportunity to invest more energy in myself and in opportunities that maybe not have happened in the same way, like travelling around the world alone.
- A year ago, I didn’t know how I’d fare without having a steady income from a job. It seemed like going against what was expected of me. Today, it turns out happiness and freedom doesn’t cost as much as I thought it did and there hasn’t been a day this past year I wished I was somewhere else.
During my hikes through these desert landscapes, we always come across beautifully shaped rocks or patterns. Usually they’re a few floors high and tower over us. As we walk away, it gets smaller and smaller relative to the entire landscape until eventually it’s just a dot.
Many worries and anxieties I’ve faced, have always become smaller, fading into the big picture as time passes.
My one year travel anniversary is coming up.
This milestone has been on the back of my mind for weeks. I’ve been pondering what I should do afterwards, in particular about how/if/what I’ll do for work and how I can use the experience I’ve gained this year travelling to help me in the future.
For sure, there is uncertainty about what the next year will bring.
But unlike other times in the past when I’ve wrestled with anxiety and worry, I feel much calmer and happier.
I have faith that things will work out. I believe when I look back 5 or 10 years from now, it’ll similar to how I look back to not knowing my multiplication tables in grade 6, that it’s only one of the small milestones in the grand scheme.
As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said in his famous Standford commencement speech: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Here are five of the vast landscapes I’ve had the good fortune to see in Egypt so far. In each photo I’ve included at least one person or building as a size reference, to help you imagine the actual dimensions of the landscape.
Egypt Desert Landscapes
An approximate map of the landscapes:
- A. Great Pyramids of Giza
- B. Western Desert and Bahariya Oasis
- C. Luxor, Temple of Hatshepsut
- D. Coloured Canyon
>> What’s the most beautiful landscape you’ve ever seen? If you’ve been to Egypt, were you stunned by the landscapes like I was?
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