April Life Update. Posted in May. Because that’s just how April rolled.
Yo, Hi, Heya, Hello Internet Peeps. I started this blog almost 4 years ago when I first started traveling. That’s right almost 4 years ago. It’ll be 4 years next month actually. And when I look back at those years, I realize just how much has happened. It feels like nothing compared to what has happened this past month.
Warning - this is gonna be a long one. And it’s gonna be a sad one. But it’s one I need to share.
Let’s start from the beginning. I started the month in Israel for the 2nd time. Visiting Christina, one of my best friends that I was so lucky to meet while traveling. She’s been in Jerusalem for the past few months and I had the chance to come and see her. I spent 3 weeks in Israel, from March to April and from Israel I was flying to Oman to meet two girls I have mutual friends with, for a week long road trip. I was meeting up with Christina and Rachel, both of which know my friends in Bali. (I love how the internet and Instagram bring us all together!)
Upon arrival to the airport in Israel I was shuffled into what seemed like the world’s longest line. It was about 04:30 in the morning and I was wishing that water had caffeine in it. When I got to the front of the line they asked me for my passport and they wanted to know where I was going. I told them I was going to Oman and handed over my passport. It was from that moment on wards that everything went completely downhill.
She started to ask me what I was doing in Israel. I let her know that I was traveling. That I’d come for the Purim holiday and stayed afterwards to see more of the country. I told her that I went to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Nazareth. She asked me what I do for a living. I showed her my Instagram and blog and told her that I work online doing both of those things. She asked me if I was traveling with friends. I told her, no I travel solo but yes I made friends while I was here. Finally she said that everything was OK and she started to let me go to the ticketing desk.
Then she saw my bag.
I travel with a small carry on duffel bag and backpack. That’s it. She immediately pulled my passport back out of my hand and informed me that I needed to wait there while she got her supervisor. Along comes her supervisor who asks me all the same questions the first girl asked me. She did one better though and made me write down the names of all of my friends who live in the middle east. She couldn’t understand why I’ve been to Egypt, London, Iceland, Switzerland and Israel all in the same year. I reminded her that I am a travel blogger… so traveling is literally my job and it takes me all around the world.
Then she asks me to write down the religions of all of my friends who I’ve listed. When I refused to do this she left (with my passport) to get her supervisor. He proceeded to ask me the same questions I’d been asked by the first two people. They asked me if I take money from the friends I meet while traveling. I responded with “Why the hell would I be taking money from my friends” to which they said, “I don’t know, would you be providing ‘services’ for them that they would then pay you for?” This comment really upset me which then got the attention of even more staff.
After an hour of questioning I finally ask them, “Is there a problem? I literally want to LEAVE your country. I can’t understand what the problem is.” To that the 2nd woman responded, “I just don’t feel like you are telling me the truth.” When she said that I once again got upset responding, “Are you literally calling me a liar? I’ve showed you my pictures, I’ve shown you my blog and how I make money and I’ve given you the names of my friends here. What the hell would I be lying about?” And to that the man responded that this is standard security procedures. To hell it is.
Finally they escorted me to the front of the ticket counter where they retrieved my ticket for me. They then escorted me to a special security screening where I got questioned again. They made me go through two x-ray machines and take all my clothes off. They took away my shoes and informed me that I wasn’t allowed to fly with them. They attempted to take away my laptop and I told them that if my laptop doesn’t get on the airplane with me, then I will stay. I won’t be going anywhere without my laptop.
They kept telling me to sit down and relax . I could tell I was making them uncomfortable by standing right on top of them while they search my entire bag and everything through the x-ray separately.
After 3 hours they finally let me go to my gate. 3 hours of harassment, embarrassment and downright disrespect and they just let me walk to my plane (without shoes I might add) and leave the country.
GOODBYE ISRAEL and good riddance.
(Like I said on my Instagram post - I know this happens to a lot of people in a lot of countries. I want to open a dialogue about it. I want people to talk about it. Because this is NOT OK. We should not treat other humans like this. No one deserves this treatment and if we keep silent about it, we are just letting people get away with this. Please share your story in the comments of this post. Let’s keep the discussion going and make a change. I know I’m not alone in this so tell me what happened to you too.)
And now, HELLO AMMAN.
From Israel I was flying to Amman to meet up with Christina where we were catching a connecting plane to Doha and then on wards to Oman. When I arrived in Amman I met up with Christina and our flight to Doha got delayed. This delay was going to cause us to miss our onward flight to Oman. We called Qatar but they were unable to get us out of Doha until the next day. We landed in Doha and got our hotel information and new flights.
The next morning we were up and on our way to the airport for Oman. Finally!
We landed in Oman and found ourselves at the Chedi in Muscat. Easily the most amazing hotel that I have ever stayed at. If you’ve seen my Instagram you’ve noticed the pictures and stories and yes it’s incredible.
(I’m gonna write all about Oman - this is just a brief update so I am skipping over what we did. I will post that at a later date)
The number one thing we all wanted to do while we were in Oman was go to the desert for sunrise. It was a lot harder and more expensive than we thought it was going to be but we finally organized a desert sunrise trip and were getting picked up at 5 am.
While Rachel and I were in the car I got a text from my mom telling me to call her right away. That’s unusual for my family. My mom would never send me a text like that without telling me what it was in regards to.
Whatsapp and Messenger weren’t working. I tried calling her several times and it wouldn’t work. She kept insisting that I get a hold of her. I started to panic. Rachel was trying to calm me down, telling me it was probably nothing. We stopped the car and I got out. I tried her on Whatsapp one more time.
When I got her on the phone and she said “Justyn I don’t know how to tell you this.”
Since that moment I can’t stop thinking about that phone call. I can’t stop thinking about the way her voice was shaking when she said it. Every night I think about that morning in the desert and that call from my mom.
My sister had had a baby 2 weeks earlier, a preemie baby born at 25 weeks. My first thought was oh no, the baby died.
But then she said, “It’s Lauren.”
Followed by, “I think it’s time for you to come home now.”
Everything after we hung up became a blur. Rachel held me while I screamed and cried. She got me back in the car and our poor driver didn’t know what to do. But he knew something was very very wrong.
Once back at the hotel Christina mobilized and got me a flight home while Rachel packed all my things. Next thing I knew we were racing to the car to head for Muscat even though the flight I had booked wasn’t for 12 hours.
I spent that entire day crying in a Starbucks.
My sister spent that entire day in the hospital before passing away.
On April 12th, my sister passed away.
26 hours later I was home. And 4 hours after that I was in the NICU holding my nephew for the first time.
Since being back in the U.S. we’ve been in Dallas, flown to Utah for the funeral and returned to Dallas to be near her baby and help get her things in order.
Life has finally calmed down enough to allow me time to work and blog again. But nothing feels real. Nothing feels right.
These April showers better bring us some damn May flowers.
In the meantime I’m gonna keep hoping I wake up from this bad dream.