solo travel

the unexpectedly therapeutic ritual of archiving

I’ve been thinking about archiving a lot recently. I’ve been thinking about how important it is to archive and how little regard we have for it as a culture. Some of the world’s greatest museums exist because someone thought of archiving the present in the past. Entire cultures are able to feel pride and shame because archives exist.

I’ve also been thinking about how archives make us feel. They give us access to the past in ways that no other human invention ever will. Archives hold the power of time travel.

I’m always excited when I come across a project based on archival research. The idea that someone pieced together a story based on bits of recorded history is so satisfying to me.

I somehow unknowingly always knew this. That’s why I’ve been doing my own form of archiving for as long as I can remember. I keep scraps of paper from trips, including air tickets, hotel card keys, museum passes, matchboxes, maps, notes, directions, even the smallest bits of recorded memory.

I recently went through my collection. I dug through postcards, art, stickers, photographs, tickets, maps, cards, and all sorts of travel related and non-travel related memorabilia from my life. I found the pieces to so many great stories that I never got the chance to tell. It was so therapeutic for me, to travel back in time and see all that I’ve experienced over the last few years. I smiled to myself, knowing that so far, I’ve had a relatively full life. No matter what twists or turns life throws at me, I am satisfied knowing that when I was able to, I chased my dreams and desires fiercely, and got to collect all these stories on the way.

That’s why, I’ve decided to put together a set of short stories, made up of mainly those scraps and some images. This way, you can go back in time with me, and meet the people and see the things I’ve seen. Below is my first story from my time in New York City in November 2016.

“The Opening”

NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 2016. I’m a really sentimental person so when I travel I usually keep every little scrap and paper I come across on my travels. On this particular trip I was on a layover in New York City before heading to South America. I took the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan, started the day in Chinatown and made my way to Washington Square park. That’s where I met Rahim, a Moroccan immigrant who almost beat the world chess champion and won the title himself. If you google him you’ll find an article about him on the New York Times. Anyway, Rahim asked me if I had some time to spare and I said yes so we spent almost three hours at the park playing chess. He taught me a strategy called “The Opening”. The Opening is basically a set of rules to follow in chess that make sure you win the game. I used “The Opening” against a few players that day and won. He wrote them down for me on a paper (pictured here) and even though I’ve forgotten how to play I’ve kept it. Rahim used to be a mathematician in Morocco but left that life behind him after moving to New York. Now he’s a full time chess teacher and hopes to break the chess world record again. I’ve kept all the bits of paper from that day with me, and although I wasn’t as skilled at taking photos back then as I am now, I am glad I have these photos to go along with my scraps.

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Also, here are also some photos from my archive that I took around Dubai from 2017 - 2018. I wanted to share them cos they’re so cute to me. I wanted to share these alongside the story cos I couldn’t just share one thing at a time.



update: nicaragua photojournal "hidden in plain view" is out

lake apoyo, nicaragua

lake apoyo, nicaragua

After being back for a few weeks, and working night and day, my first whack at visual storytelling is finally out. I put together a photo journal titled "Hidden in Plain View", a visual piece on the negative effects of tourism on local life in Nicaragua. Here's an excerpt from my work: 

"Many view travel as an experience that is positive for all those involved - the traveler and the local. Travel is linked to ideas of cross-cultural exchange and prosperity for the local community. Through my own travel experiences and my interactions with locals across cultures, I've realized that this is a misconception. Below I share stories from the everyday life of this introverted nation in hopes of shedding light on the often obvious, yet unspoken, effects of tourism on local life." 

In this piece, I take the audience on a journey through Nicaragua telling stories I've heard and witnessed that reflect the ways in which tourism can cause chaos in the lives of communities. This is a topic that is close to my heart since I've been on a mission to always be mindful of communities that I come across. Travel shouldn't be the consumption of communities, but the celebration of them. 

On another note, I am proud of this piece as it's my first time to put photography before writing. I've always had a thing for visual storytelling, and it has been a while since I put visuals before words, and I am grateful to have ventured into this. I am currently doing a photography course in hopes of upping my photojournalism game and hopefully, one day become a visual researcher of sorts. 

Please do check it out, you can view it here

update: photojournalism and travel

Taken in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Taken in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

I'm back from Nicaragua and there's already so much on my plate. But oh what an amazing experience it's been. What I love about going so far from home is how different I am when I am back. I learn so much, see so much, know so much. Although, this time, I'm really different. I am currently working on a photo journal that's slightly different from what I usually write about. Most of the time my work is cheerful and positive - this time the photographs I took, and how I felt, wasn't so cheerful. And I guess in a way, that's just part of the journey - every destination is unique and how you feel about it is unique. 

Hopefully, I'll be done working on the photo journal and this month's issue of follow the halo soon. This month we're talking about diaspora, a topic I feel hits way too close to home. 

Until then. 

Darah  

update: i'm in nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua

Travel and writing have always been therapeutic to me. Since I can remember I've travelled (with my adventure-loving parents) and written about it in Winnie-the-Pooh notebooks and teenage journals. Now I am older, an adult (whatever that means), and I chase adventure - often alone. I enjoy the solitude of travel. It gives me time to reflect and reconnect with myself. It gives me the space to figure out what I truly love and what matters to me. 

But this time, this trip, being alone is difficult. I feel agitated not to share this beautiful country with loved ones. Sometimes independence can be stressful and doing it alone can be difficult, even though I've done it many times before. The beginning of this trip was smooth, but for some reason, I can't seem to enjoy the solitude. I feel disconnected from myself in a way I haven't experienced on a trip before. Not to mention that being female, Arab and Muslim poses its own set of difficulties on a trip like this (if you're interested I wrote about it here). 

In any case, I won't be hiding the fact that travel can be difficult. I am heading out to a yoga class now (on the terrace of my hotel overlooking the Pacific ocean) and hopefully, the mindfulness will put my feelings at ease. I look forward to sharing more of this trip, this beautiful culture, and my truth on here. 

Darah