Two Years in Dahab
May 05, 2007
It's bizarre to look back 5 years ago. I can no longer even imagine having to get up and go into an office tomorrow.
Once upon a time, I was working 16-hours a day, killing myself. Now I'm living on the beach, working 2-hours a day. One day I got so comfortable in the hammock that it was too difficult to get up. That was the most difficult thing that I did all day.
This life seems very normal to me, but as I write this I'm forced to remember that most people don't work only two hours a day - let alone on a beach. I have to wonder why more people don't do this?
I actually don't love Egypt, or the Egyptians. It's just a very easy life here. Hotels and food are very cheap. And unlike most countries in the world, there are no problems staying permanently. Every six-months, you're just required to head over to the immigration office and pay $7 for another 6-month visa.
But, I'm not actually living in Dahab all of the time. I move back and forth between Europe, Cairo and Dahab. I go to Europe for work on occasion. It's definitely surreal traveling back and forth between a Bedouin hotel in Egypt, and fashion shows in Europe. And of course, when I get tired of the beach, I head down to Cairo for a taste of the big city.
Time passes. I celebrate one birthday in Dahab with lobster, fish, cake, vodka, and the very last of the imported gin. It was a relatively quiet night, but nice with a crowd of friends. It was a hell of a lot better than my previous birthday in Kenya drinking with a brutal and corrupt policeman.
Another year comes and goes, and I have another birthday in Dahab. This one gets a bit more crazy. A friend, Kjeld, makes a device he labeled the "rum slut" as a birthday present for me. It's like a massive beer bong, except it's made for rum punch (1 bottle of rumo, 1 box of OJ, 1 box of Pineapple Juice, dash of grenadine). The rum slut is solidly built of surplus dive gear, with a regulator as the mouthpiece. Hitting the purge button on the regulator releases a torrent of rum punch into your mouth. It was an epic night, and we drank at least a dozen bottles of rum.
I'm living a very easy life, but I definitely miss having adventures.
On one trip to Cairo I meet a woman named Amanda. I have to confess that I can be overly judgmental sometimes. This attractive brunette walks into our shitty little $2 a night guesthouse with her hair, makeup and nails done. My first thought is that she needs to go back to the touristy beach resort where she belongs. But then she sits down and starts telling stories. I traveled to edge of the war zone in Uganda; she traveled right through it. I walked through the little desert in southwest of Ethiopia; she took a camel through the big desert in the southeast Ethiopia. She's been to Afghanistan, and insanely enough, she's in Cairo trying to get a tourist visa for Iraq.
Amanda has been shot at - I think I'm jealous. Am I craving adventure that much?
But my favorite story of hers was of her trip from Ethiopia to Sudan. We took the same road. I took it during the day. She took it at night, and their truck was robbed. She starts flattering and begging them.
"Sudan is the most beautiful country in the world, with the friendliest people."
"I'm dreamed of seeing Sudan since I was a little girl."
"And now I won't be able to see your beautiful country, because I don't have any money."
"Can I please have some of my money back?"
Amazingly they gave her most of her money back. I guess, through a combination and flattery and begging, a beautiful woman can get away with almost anything. She did get her tourist visa for Iraq, made it in and out safely, hanging out in the red zone with bombs going off everywhere.
I have to reflect on my life. I understand the wish to travel to the most dangerous places. When your life is in danger, you feel most alive. Amanda has been to Iraq. Stewart has been to Iraq. I'll admit I'm tempted to go myself. But in the end, I decide that this isn't what I want to do with my life.
I decide that I don't like the cold, so I decide to skip traveling through Russia. Central Asia seems less exciting than Africa, so I don't have a real passion for traveling there. I've decided that I'm not going to Iraq or Afghanistan. So, what do I do?
I'm stuck in Egypt relaxing, working, and trying to figure out what to do with my life. The Jews, my people got trapped in the Sinai for 40 years - I start wondering if I can escape quicker than they did.
I start thinking of new ideas. I'm certainly not going to head back to San Francisco and sit behind a desk again - that much is clear. I need to find something as interesting as traveling to the world's most dangerous places; but not quite as dangerous.
I start thinking more seriously about a whim that I had 10 years earlier. I was at Burning Man, having the time of my life, and I tell my friends that it's a shame that Burning Man is only a one-week of the year - we should live this way year-round.
Well, why not?
I set some goals for the project, most importantly these three:
1) Unlike Burning man, or any of the regional "burns", Floatingman will be a full-time community rather than an annual event.
2) Floatingman must be somewhere that "excites the imagination".
3) Floatingman needs to be near, on, or under water. After more than a decade of visiting the playa, we believe the burningman community should start experimenting in a new element.
And I start working on it, and start gathering a group of people who are interested in the idea. After a few impractical plans, we find an island in Nicaragua that looks about perfect to meet our needs.
And so, I'm dumping all of my old travel plans. I'm taking quick trip up through a bit of the Middle East, before flying home to San Francisco for a visit. Then, for new and different adventures, I'm moving down to Nicaragua to try to buy an island. (http://www.floatingman.org)
Oh, and the Danish company that I worked for eventually had some financial problems - they stopped paying us. So, Georg, Anando, Dave (an old co-worker from Sapient) and I started our own company.
On to new adventures!
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
ist there some information on Amanda on the Internet?
She doesn't have a website, but search for "Amanda Lindhout Press TV" for her latest updates from Iraq. She's now a journalist there.
Carmel - Feb 03, 2008
It's always a treat to get your updates. I can't wait for the Beirut story.
What work do you do, that is so geographically flexible?
I write software. But more and more jobs (as I told Cheryl) can now be done over the internet.
Cheryl - Feb 03, 2008
"This life seems very normal to me, but as I write this I'm forced to remember that most people don't work only two hours a day - let alone on a beach. I have to wonder why more people don't do this?"
I think more people don't do this because without a fairly elite level of education or a certain cultural upbringing, most people don't have skills that can be employed from any internet-accessible location. You can't clean houses, nanny children, mow lawns, pick cherries... on a beach abroad.
I think even I often forget what a privilege it is to be able to live as you have been. You're an icon of hope to people stuck behind desks precisely because it's not so easy to get out. It's expensive, difficult and dangerous, to give up a steady job that feeds one's family and pays the debt of education that got you behind that desk in the first place.
That said... I'm glad that you have the privilege of showing me what I'm missing. I don't think I'd want the life you have, but I sure do want to know what it's like.
The internet makes it easy for me to do my job. But more and more jobs are possible over the internet - I'm now meeting people who score tests, or proof-read papers making more than enough to live on. And the old standbys for making money on the road have always been teaching English or bartending - these still apply.
As for leaving behind a good job, it comes down to a matter of "security". I wonder how much of their lives people aren't living because of fear of what might someday happen? Have you read "The Prophet" by Khalil Gibran? He touches on these subjects and writes about it much better than I will.
lemaire - Feb 04, 2008
I can read you but I am too lazy (because I don't speak English enough) but it is to hope I can give you some inspiration when you will write. I am that froggy, crazy French guy who spent a long time in China In Dali and who is locked as wheels in France because of a bad desease. And again I miss you during this long time I could not read you. Take care of you and mind the step:
Philippe ou Lao Fei (I don't remember if i gave you the translation of this chinese name given by a very clever and "intuitive" person.
Amanda Lindhout - Feb 29, 2008
Hahaha.... you're gonna make me famous Mr. Katz! That was a funny story, but I'm pretty sure my nails weren't done in Cairo, were they???? :) Things are bangin' in Baghdad, you should come for a visit. Your site is great. Keep writing about me, and I'll keep reading!
Lorinda Stewart - Mar 01, 2008
Hi Adam, I've seem some of the pics in Egypt and heard and laughed at some of the stories. Amanda is one of the bravest, loving, and most enlightened persons that I know. She embraces life, love,tears laughter and our family of fellow human beings around the world as we all should. What a beautiful world we would live in. Amanda has a particularly special place in my heart, as I am honored to be her Mom. Lorinda, from Canada