Back in January, someone asked me: Do you have any plans to go back into the field?
And my honest answer was: Yes, actually I do. Or more accurately, I have a won’t-go-away, ache-in-my-belly desire for it. What I need is a plan.
Well. Soon after writing that post I started to see the dots that connected up to a plan to go back into the field. More specifically – a plan that would see me start out on the path towards this particular New Year’s Desire:
To go back to Afghanistan – and work with Afghan writers/storytellers to co-craft stories that explore the relationship between Afghans and internationals working there.
Today, I’m in Abu Dhabi, enroute to Islamabad. And then, next week, onto Afghanistan.
This will be my first trip back to Afghanistan (and Pakistan) since I left more than four years ago.
I’ve cobbled this trip together and am funding it myself. It’s a beautiful metaphor for everything that has changed in my life since I last passed through the U.A.E on my way into Afghanistan.
Back then I worked for the UN. I earned pretty decent money, did work that I loved and could tell people what I did in less than 10 words (I’m a human rights officer for the UN) and be pretty confident that:
- They’d understand what I was talking about (even if they weren’t completely sure what I did); and
- They’d be impressed
When I traveled I always knew which airline I’d be traveling on (UNHAS), where I was going and what I was supposed to do when I got there.
These days I work for myself, earn just enough to pay my bills and it takes me a lot more than 10 words to explain what I’m doing on this trip. I’m arranging all my own flights, accommodation, transport and guides, paying all my own bills and making it all up as I go.
So what am I doing? I’m teaching a bit of yoga. Doing a bit of research for future book ideas. Making my first real attempt at radio documentary. Visiting a couple of Afghan women’s organisations that I’ve worked with over the past couple of years. Giving a book talk. Visiting friends.
It’s a patchwork of most of the things I’m passionate about at the moment. In my new website header I’ve changed the tagline so that instead of saying ‘Zen Peacekeeper. Change-maker’ it now says ‘Zen Peacekeeper’ and then the bottom line rotates. It says: Change-maker. Yoga-guide. Courage-cultivator. Action-accelerator. Story-teller.
And on this trip I plan to wear all of those hats. Starting with the courage cultivator. Because I’m scared.
There are so many things about this trip that are totally new to me. Traveling independently in Afghanistan is new to me. Making radio stories is new to me.
I’m pushing myself well beyond my comfort zone with this trip and – as a result – my inner critic is screaming her head off. But I’m following my own good advice and keeping my inner critic out of the driving seat.
So I’m getting on my flight to Islamabad tonight, not because I’m not scared about this trip. But because despite feeling scared I still feel confident that this is the right path for me.
I’m following that New Years Desire, and this – so far – is where it has led me.