Stephen Gollan : Sana’a, Yemen
“...there were explosions going off around us, bullets flying right past me, people dying, yet our agent (Fuad)’s primary concern was our well being.”
My first out east trip was in high school. We went on an EF tour to Greece & Turkey. I loved it! After graduating I’d worked a bit, made some money, and bought my ticket to Thailand. I thought I’d only be going for two months, but I ended up staying for six. That’s when I knew travelling was all I wanted to do.
Having more of an interest in exotic countries, I built a fascination for the unknown. I wanted to travel as they did back in the day, and feel the experience of unique culture that hadn’t changed much. Due to politics and war, countries I visited, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, seemed to retain that. There’s something romantic about these places, seeing them first hand is one of the most incredible things you can do.
One of my recent trips was to Yemen. I’d went with Chelsea, and my cousin. We started out in coalition territory, which was filled with check stops ran by Saudi and Emirati officials. We saw a lot of what seemed to be American soldiers guarding oilfields, and even ISIS roaming around freely. We then crossed into Houthi territory, and everything changed. It was free from foreign influences. It was just the Yemeni people.
After exploring Sanaa, we were arrested by Houthi officials. They thought we were spies. We were locked in a run down hotel, detained, interrogated, and threatened. They beat me, yet didn’t touch Chelsea. They seemed to have a deeper respect for women. After 8 days of being detained, I proved my innocence, and was released.
They immediately apologized, and ordered us tea. They felt horrible, and informed us that they were just doing their jobs. They then formally welcomed us to Yemen, and assigned us an agent to take care of us for the remainder of our stay. During all of this, we were amidst a war. Saudi Arabia was bombing Sanaa, and there were explosions going off around us, bullets flying right past me, people dying, yet our agent (Fuad)’s primary concern was our well being.
This trip didn’t phase me. I’ll still travel. I’ve been to roughly a hundred countries now. I love it, and I love the fact that I can connect with people of every culture.
(Stephen Gollan : Edmonton, Alberta)