Utopia: Reliving fond memories

I was 16 when I first traveled. It was exciting! My best friend and I crossed the border into Tijuana Mexico and spent the day volunteering at an orphanage run by nuns. That day –which is a story within itself- sparked an insatiable curiosity for the world. A curiosity of the world I carry with me till this today.

Traveling is more than just site seeing or trying exotic cuisine. What gives each and every trip meaning are the epic stories we create and the people we interact with. No matter what we set out to attain in our travels, make an intention to explore something new about yourself and absorb the small blessings of each and every path.  Be reasonable. Every adventure has its trails. Whether it was my camera being stolen in Paraguay or my passport being taken in Peru, I made a conscious effort to turn challenges into opportunities. Tread lightly as you travel, not as an expert, but as a student ready to learn and dance to the heartbeat of a moving world.

I still have vivid memories of the city of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him). Each morning I woke up to a rising sun and canopy of rose and violet colored clouds, lit by an opening sky. I would rush amid a crowd of millions eager to bow their heads for a conversation with the Exalted. Not an inch of space remained unoccupied and yet it felt like Utopia. Everyone was welcomed with smiles, prayers, and a deep desire to cleanse regrets, sorrows, and the self. It is inevitable, even in paradise on earth, to step out of utopia because at the end of the day we are human; It is something to be celebrated. This would mark the beginning of my Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage) to Medina and Mecca which is a reminder that we are loved even while making mistakes. What gives us our humanity is the ability to distinguish an act of love for the sake of God, and an act of love for ourselves.

After arriving in Mecca, we set out to climb “Jabl Noor” or the Mountain of light, which is estimated to be 2,000 feet high and complete with 1,000 stairs to reach the top. I was wowed! This was where the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) received revelation. As we began the climb towards the top I held my mother’s hand. Almost 20 minutes later we stopped. There was no way my 72-year-old father could continue even with a handy cane gifted to him. Both my parents took a deep breath, a sip of water, and said Bismillah (in the name of God) and carried on towards the mountain of light. In that moment, I felt a profound sense of inspiration. These were my parents. The same ones who left a war-torn country as refugees, raised their children amid other wars, and loved God fiercely. I began to play songs of praise of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and with every step and stop for air, we sung to the glorious feeling of being a servant on this earth. Almost three hours later we made it and I will forever remember that day because never have I seen my mother and father so happy as if they were young children again. We looked at the city of Mecca together and the Kabah at a distance, all in awe of this thing called life.