“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness” – Mark Twain
In 2009 I left Canada to teach at an international school in Pakistan. Before leaving I went for a medical check-up. Everything was fine, but my doctor did his best to convince me not to go because he felt that it would be too dangerous.
I appreciate his concern for my welfare, but I wish I could go back to tell him about my time in Pakistan now.
I wish I could tell him that Pakistan has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. I wish I could tell him that the Pakistani people are among the friendliest and most hospitable I have ever met. I wish I could tell him that Pakistan is the only country I have ever traveled to where I have sat down in a restaurant and a complete stranger has paid for my meal. In fact, this happened to me there on three separate occasions. I wish I could tell him that when I got my car stuck in the snow friendly strangers appeared and pushed me out.
It never fails to amaze me how much travelling can shatter stereotypes. All of us have a mental map of the world and things that we expect. But that map changes radically when we see other parts of the world first hand.
The photos above are from Murree in Northern Pakistan. The photos below are from the Astore valley even further north. Whenever I tell people about these places in Pakistan, I get met with comments such as “It snows there?!!” or “I thought it was a desert…”
If geography can surprise us this much, surely we have an even greater need for our stereotypes about people and cultures to be challenged. In my experience, Pakistan is a country of incredible natural beauty and warm, friendly and hospitable people. I hope that many others will be able to see this side of the country too.