Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 23rd, 2013

Is Beirut among The World’s Best Cities?

Somehow Beirut was selected ahead of Paris (ranked 20) among the best cities, and was also ranked 5th for the location of the most beautiful women.

I don’t know how the voters are selected and how much they know about their selections.

How long did the voter stayed in a city?

How many parts of the city the visitor toured?

Has the visitor talked and investigated with the people?

How many countries and cities did the voters see?

So many qualifying questions that need to be taken into consideration in order for the results to be credible as valid and satisfactory. posted this Oct. 19, 2013:

Can We Get Over Beirut Being Among The World’s Best Cities?

I’ve debated whether to publish it or not. And I figured, screw it.

I am a proud Lebanese. And it’s because I like my country that I can’t sit aside and pretend that fake accolades mean more than they are, that void accomplishments are fuller than they actually are.

Beirut isn’t a bad city, sure.

It’s perhaps the best city that we have been given, a remodeled city that our centralization policies have designed  everything only in and around it.

But, forgive the bluntness: there’s no freaking way in hell Beirut can find itself on a world’s best cities list.

Unless the person doing that list was high on drugs or some Bekaa hashish.


Beirut recently found itself to be on a list of the world’s top 25 cities, courtesy of CN Traveler.

Those same people, for those who remember, voted Byblos as the #1 city in the region, with Beirut coming in second.

Take that Dubai! We celebrated back then. That little triumph our cities had, although meaningless in itself, meant a lot to us.

Beirut is given the following description as per the CN Traveler website:

The capital of Lebanon has “much to offer the adventurous traveler.” Find “exotic cuisine and cocktails” at the “most exclusive clubs in the world” in what one reader calls “the Paris of the Middle East.” This city offers a “tapestry of sects, religions, and lifestyles that provide a feast for the mind of the intellectual.”

Visiting Lebanon is for the “adventurous,” it seems. I didn’t know my country was such a wild ride. Point me to the next safari. Why don’t you?

Perhaps Beirut is a great city for a visitor who came here to experience our unparalleled joie de vivre with someone who decided to show them Gemayzeh, Skybar and White, then spend a weekend in Farayya, pretending that’s still Beirut,.. and wallow the day at some beach that has more plastic than in the bodies of the women strutting their heels in its sands.

Yes, that sounds great indeed.

I don’t know what criteria were employed to rank the cities of that list.

But the mark of the greatness of a city isn’t by how well and how great it treats a tourist coming to it for a week.

It’s by how great it is for someone who lives there and calls that city home.

When I think of Beirut today, I think of unparalleled urbanization. I think of concrete masses upon concrete masses.

I think of cultural demise that manifests in monument demolitions and old houses getting ripped off their foundations.

I think of so little monuments that need to be seen in the city.

I think of no public transportation.

I think of no electricity, no water, of traffic, no public spaces and parks, no green spaces and zones…

When I think of Beirut today, I’m being told I should think of Skybar and Dubai-esque malls because that’s what my city has to offer lately.

I’m not sure how that qualifies as greatness honestly. Or I could just be the rare Lebanese who doesn’t like pubs and night clubs and all their derivatives.

Don’t let some silly list fool you into believing the city we call home doesn’t need massive plans, massive reforms, massive work, massive restructuring. Because what Beirut is today, a city living off the ghost of its luxurious past, is only great in the eyes of its beholders.

And that’s not really great.

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What “Life Lessons” have you Learned From Traveling The World?

Seven years later, Matthew Kepnes is still leading a nomadic life around the world. Gone the previous plan of spending just a year to see the world.

Matthew Kepnes posted this Sept. 23, 2013:

18 Life Lessons Learned From Traveling The World

I never thought I would still be nomadic. My original round-the-world trip was only supposed to last one year before I went back home, found a “real” job, settled down, and by now, be married, have a house, 2.5 children, and complain about my retirement fund to my friends.

Yet life took a decidedly different turn and here I am, seven years later, writing this from an overnight train to Copenhagen with the same desire to explore the world and no sign of stopping soon.



After so many years on the road, there are a few life lessons I’ve learned from travel that I never would have learned otherwise and I wanted to share with you today.

1. It’s not that hard.

Every day, people get up, go out the door to travel the world, and survive and thrive. Kids as young as 18 make their way around the world without any problems.

All that worrying and fear I had before my trip was for naught – traveling is a lot easier than people make it out to be. You’re not the first person to do it and there is a well-worn trail that makes it easy for first times to find their way. If an 18 year can do it, so can you.

2. You learn a lot of life skills.

People who travel are better adjusted, less socially anxious and traveling around the world has taught me to how to be more social, be adept and more flexible,

And, most importantly, understand non-verbal communication a lot better. It has made me more independent, more open, and, overall, just a better person. There’s no reason to be scared that you might not have “it” in you. You’d be surprised how often you’ll surprise yourself.

3. You are never alone.

It may seem scary just throwing yourself out there and talking to strangers, but we are all strangers in a strange land. At the end of the day, everyone is very friendly.

It took me a while to get used to just saying “hello” to strangers, but now it seems like second nature. Everyone is just like you – they are alone in a strange place and are looking for others to be with.

People travel to meet other people and that means you. Don’t be afraid to approach other travelers and locals. You’ll find that when you travel alone, you’ll never really be alone.

4. You meet some of your closest friends traveling.

Whether it was in a restaurant in Vietnam, on a boat in Thailand, or walking into a hostel in Spain, when I least expected (or wanted) to meet people was when I met the best and developed the longest lasting relationships.

And even though you may not see them for years, you still end up at their wedding, Christmas dinner, or family celebration. Distance and time cannot break the bond you formed.

5. Relationships come and go on the road.

I’ve met lots of people on the road, including members of the opposite sex I’ve found attractive. But the nature of travel doesn’t always lend itself to long-term romantic relationships.

It’s hard to make something last when everyone moves in different directions and holidays end. If you get too attached too often, you’ll have nothing but heartache as people come and go.

But I’ve realized you need to simply enjoy your time together and live in the moment. Dwelling on the future will only keep you from making that leap.

6. But chase the ones you like.

Yet once in a while, you’ll find someone you really connect with. Meaningful romance on the road does happen.

And when you have nowhere to be and no place to go other than where you want, sometimes there is no reason not to follow. Don’t force yourself to say another good-bye if you don’t have to.

Pursue it even if the distance seems too vast and the circumstances not right, because you never know where it could lead or how long it might last because, once in a while you meet the one and when you do, you should do everything you can to stay with them.

7. It’s good to try new things.

I used to be a very rigid person, but traveling has helped me loosen up and expand my worldview. I’ve pushed myself to the limit, eaten new food, taken cooking classes, learned magic tricks, new languages, tried to conquer my fear of heights, and challenged my established views. Travel is all about breaking out of your comfort zone and enjoying all the world has to offer.

8. Be adventurous.

Doing the canyon swing was tough. So was jumping off the boat in the Galapagos. As was eating the maggots in Thailand and caterpillars in Africa.

And I got my butt kicked in Thai boxing. And, while I won’t do most of those ever again, I don’t regret trying new things. Scare yourself once in a while. It makes life less dull.

9. There is no such thing as a mistake.

No matter what happens on the road, it’s never a mistake. As was once said, “your choices are half chance, and so are everybody else’s.”

When you go with the flow and let the road just unfold ahead of you, there’s no reason to have regrets or think you made a mistake. You make the best decisions you can and, in the end, the journey is the adventure.

10. Don’t be cheap.

When you travel on a budget and need to make your money stretch, it’s easy to be cheap. But why live like a pauper at home while you save so you can skip the food in Italy, the wine in France, or a sushi meal in Japan?

While it is good to be frugal, it’s also important to splurge and not miss out on doing once-in-a-lifetime things. Who knows when you will get another chance to dive in Fiji?! Take every opportunity.

11. That being said, don’t be wasteful.

But remember you aren’t made of money, so don’t always feel like you need to party with your new friends every night or do every activity in a new place. Sometimes it’s OK just to sit around and relax or cook your own meal. Be frugal, but not cheap.

12. Drop the guidebook.

Don’t be so glued to a book. You can travel fine without it, especially with so many good alternatives on the Internet these days.

You’ll buy it and hardly use it anyway. Just ask people for tips and information. That will be your best source of information, especially for those off-the-beaten track destinations and hole-in-the-wall restaurants that no one’s ever heard of but serve the best food you can imagine.

13. It’s never too late to change.

Even if you aren’t the traveler or person you want to be in your head, it’s never too late to change. Travel is all about change.

The more you say “tomorrow,” the less likely it is that tomorrow will ever come. Traveling has shown me aspects of my personality I wish I didn’t have and also shown me I’m really lazy.

I’ve always lived by the phrase “Carpe Diem”, but sometimes I don’t really do it. It’s never too late though and realizing that has made being more pro-active a lot easier.

14. Relax.

Life is amazing. There’s no reason to worry. The universe unfolds as it should. Relax and just go with it.

You can’t change the future – it hasn’t happened yet. Just make the best decisions you can today and enjoy the moment. Don’t get caught up trying to see all the “must sees.” There’s nothing wrong with spending a day playing games, reading a book, or lounging by the pool.

15. Learn more languages (seriously).

There’re some great benefits to not knowing the local language – like miming out “chicken” to let the lady know you want eggs for breakfast – but learning languages is very helpful when you travel, and works out great when you meet other travelers.

There’s also nothing like surprising people by speaking their language. Moreover, knowing basic phrases will endear you to locals who will appreciate the fact you went the extra mile. You’ll find people will be much more helpful, even if you struggle to say hello.

16. Wear more sunscreen.

Seriously. Science has proven it helps, and with all that beach time you do when you travel, you could always use a little more. Being tan is great. Having skin cancer is not. SPF up.

17. People are good.

All over the world, I have encountered amazing people who have not only changed my life but have gone out of their way to help me.

It’s taught me that the old saying is true – you can always depend on the kindness of strangers. My friend Greg taught me long ago not to be guarded against strangers. That experience when I first started traveling changed everything and when you travel with an open heart, unexpected goodness will happen.

99.9999% of the people in the world aren’t murders, rapists, or thieves. There’s no reason to assume someone is one. Sometimes people are just trying to be friendly.

18. There’s no such thing as must-see.

This is your trip. No one else’s. Everyone’s journey is their own. Do what you want, when you want, and for how long you want.

Don’t let anyone tell you aren’t a real traveler for skipping the Louvre, avoiding some little town in Peru, or deciding to party in Thailand. This your journey. You owe no one an explanation.

I’ve learned more about the world and myself in the last seven years of travel than I had in the previous 25 years of my life.

No matter what happens in the future, I know that travel has taught me life lessons I never would have learned had I stayed in my cubicle job.

Find a way to travel as often has you can to all the destinations you dream about.  They will change your life. TC mark




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