by Clare Cushing
In April and May of 2012, I backpacked across Afghanistan. As a woman and a foreigner, I anticipated facing difficulties, but I did not expect what I found there: an astonishingly beautiful landscape of mountains both snowy and green, an unequaled hospitality of bottomless cups of tea and familial introductions, and a variety of individuals, kind, generous, proud, and brave, in a nation too often dismissed for its violence.
I stayed a month in total, flying from Kabul to Pakistan the day before my Afghan visa was due to expire. During my time in Afghanistan, I traveled widely, covering 12 out of the 34 provinces. I did not come to Afghanistan as part of a tour group, an NGO, or the military. I came on my own, and made my way across the country with only a small pack on my back, my passport in hand, and a bit of courage. I did not stay in hotels while I traveled; rather all my nights were spent with local people who were willing to host me, most of which was arranged through the travelers’ website CouchSurfing.org.
I traveled to Afghanistan for numerous reasons, but I left having learned two of the most important lessons of my life: that anger is an empowering emotion for both personal and political change; and, possibly more importantly, how laughter can displace calamity: that you can laugh in the face of terror to overcome the seizure of fear and abhorrence.
Julienne’s story continues here from our Winter 2013 issue:
The five Afghan men and I had been on the road for almost fifteen hours, and the driver kept falling asleep as we waited our …
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