In July 2016, I took a commercial airline that happened to fly over Afghanistan en route to London from Delhi.
I remember sitting comfortably only moments before, almost asleep in my seat, when suddenly a voice came over the PA system informing us we would likely be experiencing turbulence. We were about to fly over mountainous terrain near Kabul, Afghanistan.
Wait… what? Did they just say Afghanistan…? I shrieked to myself. Now wide-awake, I felt my heart begin to pound in my chest, louder than an African drum. I proceeded to tighten my seatbelt and adjust the clasp in record time.
I’ll give the airline credit – we were gliding effortlessly over the mountains at a very high altitude (38,000 feet, to be exact), yet I distinctly remember being frozen with fear the moment I learned where we were.
Like many people around the world, I had bought into the sensationalism created by the mass media, especially when it came to places or countries in the Middle East with a perceived stigma such as Afghanistan.
Yet just as quickly as fear arrived, a feeling of curiosity unexpectedly replaced it. I found myself reaching over and opening the window shade beside me.
As I did this, I saw cloud formations lining the mountainous landscape that seemed to stretch on forever. Instead of being overwhelmed with thoughts about the potential threats that lingered below, I found myself wondering about the Afghani people who lived there.
The everyday men, women, and children who resided in and around Kabul, as well as the far-flung stretches of this war-torn country.
Every single day they undoubtedly lived in a state of perpetual fear, yet every day they also had a choice to live in the hope of possibility – the hope that one day soon things would get better.
I slowly closed the window shade, panged with the realization of my innate privilege that so many others lacked. I reflected on the fact that I was seated on an airplane flying over this region (unlike those who were on the ground, living daily among the terror and warfare).
I was grateful to be able to catch a small glimpse of Afghanistan’s rugged beauty. Although the moment was short lived, I was in awe, it was truly breathtaking.
I have since learned about the warmth of the everyday Afghani people. Their hospitality is said to be just as beautiful as the country’s rugged landscapes, and one day I hope to be able to experience this firsthand.
The more we wander out and explore our magical world (or life itself), the more we’re likely to be faced with uncertain moments. (In fact, it’s guaranteed that we certainly will.)
And while I’m not advocating that we intentionally send ourselves to war-torn countries or places of perceived imminent danger, it’s important for us to realize that wherever we are in the world, life is truly operating like a mirror.
Life will continually reflect back to us (and show us) whatever we are choosing to see.
Our job is to be aware during these moments of hesitation and to consciously choose to consider the possibilities that lay before us, instead of succumbing to our fears each and every time.
By doing so, we ensure that we are open and available to experience the truly magical countries, cultures, and people of our remarkable world.