The Permanent Traveller.
‘Life is a journey’. How many times have I heard this during my young years? What I’ve come to believe and understand is that life is made not of one single journey but a series of journeys. Often we are searching for things from one point to the next. So here is a selection of my adventures to date that have brought me to this point as I write to you.
My journey into adulthood led me to search for security and success. What defined security more than working in a Bank? By 21 years old, in my new position as their youngest financial adviser, I felt I had made it. I was good at what I did and I had financial security. By 23, I was headhunted to work as part of the Bank’s future wealth strategy. It was from the thirtieth floor, through the tinted glass and the mist outside, that I watched over my City. Ferry taxis pulled workers across the water, dressed in the same colours as the greying winter skies. Days ticked by into scheduled hour time slots and meetings. The banking landscape shifted quickly in my glass tower. The people I had worked with for years; working overtime, studying, staying late, working conscientiously to better their lives, were made redundant in a matter of months. Their hopes and their ambitions left tattered in the shiny City that had taken the best of their time, then left them out to dry on the banks. My journey no longer felt successful and I felt disenchanted. I booked a one-way plane ticket to a place often termed the ‘travellers paradise’. I became a traveller in every sense of the word; jobless, home-less, with a backpack of belongings and my new husband by my side, we travelled East to search for what else the world could offer.
Gasoline from the scooter soaked into my sandals as it pulled us up hills and brick red soil roads cut through the rainforest, free falling down to the sea. A secluded cove with wooden shacks scattered by the tree line, and more up to the top of the rocks looking out over the calm open sea, promised us an escape. A green river ran down the back of the cove, home to monitor lizards the size of komodo dragons that lurked in the waters. We chose a hut perched on the rocks and slept with the door ajar to allow the fresh sea breeze to blow through it. Electricity was cut off every evening at dusk. The days and nights rolled into one another and passed in a heady mix of exploration and relaxation.
When the monsoon rains poured down from the sky, fist-sized raindrops hammered down onto the tin roof and reminded me of the magnitude of what lay beyond the clouds. The monsoon caused mudslides which blocked off the only road to the cove leaving us trapped in a small corner of the world. One night, the sea was eerily quiet and I could hear movements in the shadows. I couldn’t sleep, so I sat outside watching and waiting for the sun to rise. The night took forever to pass until finally the sun edged up. The sky was awash with gold and it brought respite from the darkness. ‘Alhamdulillah for the sunrise,’ I had remembered my Uncle saying in passing to me once. The phrase echoed in my mind and never seemed so poignant as it did in that moment.
In the daylight, travellers passed me by, searching for something none of us could name. I felt the same. The longer we were all there, the more likely it was that we would fall into escapism and intoxication; searching for a paradise we had been promised from the islands so far from home. Due to the malaria risk, we stayed coastal. Our trip around the islands was coming to an end but we weren’t ready for our travels to finish. So with my father visiting his family in Palestine, we flew to meet them.
Our next journey took us to my grandmother’s old farm house of four rooms filled with nothing but love and generosity. The simplicity and warmth was unlike anywhere we had ever experienced. The path that Jesus (AS) walked in Jericho was well trodden on the tourist trail. In Jerusalem, staring up at the Dome of the Rock, the story of Prophet Muhammed’s (SAW) night journey up to the heavens inscribed there, made his journey come alive. Being in the land of the Prophets journeys made me think about mine.
I began to learn about Islam. I felt compelled to learn more about it because of the strength it gave to those I had stayed with in Palestine. I read leaflets that introduced the scientific revelations of the Quran, the position and respect it gave to women and mothers. I became attracted to its moral code of forgiveness, kindness and compassion. I had studied Capitalism, Communism and other societal structures but they hadn’t provided the answers, nor could they. I asked why none of them worked, ‘No man-made proposition will suit us. We have a guide for how to live our lives already.’ I began to read the Quran. A year later I was learning my prayers and practicing Islam. A couple of years later, I decided to cover and had already begun to embark on a halal career. My journey was taking on a new path, one where a contentment I hadn’t experienced before was filling in the voids.
My journey is ongoing. I’m growing and I’m changing all the time. There are struggles but I adjust. I still feel like I am a traveller, trying to find my place, but this time I have a guide book and the end goal really is paradise.
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