Arrival in Beirut, Lebanon 17


Rogers, Arkansas to Cincinnati to Paris to Beirut. It was my first time flying though multiple time zones in years, and so my first experience of jet lag in what seems like forever. It was a necessary evil. After my round-the-world (RTW) trip without leaving the ground, I’ve become quite a proponent of overland travel, for environmental and travel experience reasons, but in this case, flying was made necessary by my time and budget constraints.

I need to be back in the States to go to the TBEX travel bloggers conference (and subsequent family vacation) in British Colombia during the first week of June. Getting to the Middle East by ship would have taken a couple weeks each way, and sadly, have cost four or five times the amount of round trip airfare. So, to the air I took.

map of lebanon cities overland travel middle east

taking any and all Lebanon suggestions now

Although I have severely limited my plan travel in the past three years, there is something energizing about striding through a plane terminal. It’s amazing to think you can wake up in your bed one day in Arkansas and sleep the next night in Beirut. An airport, especially a large, international one, brings a tingling feeling of anticipation to the fore for me. The possibilities are only limited by the names on the departures screen.

The world is mine.

Considering my long-ago regular flying mishaps, these flights came off without a hitch. As is now pretty much par for me, I’d done almost no research about my destination. One part lazy, mixed with one part guidebook avoidance, mixed with one part travel spontaneity. I did know where I wanted to try to stay in Beirut however, though I’d forgotten to make reservations.

I had done the minimal research to see if there was bus transport from the airport to the neighborhood where I wanted to stay (apparently not) and how much a cab would cost (about $25-30). My plane touched down on time, went through immigration quickly, though they did search my passport fully for an Israel stamp, picked up my backpack and passed though yet another nothing-checked-at-customs counter.

When I emerged, I grabbed some local money out of an ATM machine and went into the tourist office at the airport to ask if they had a local map (no map – how the hell doesn’t a tourist office have a local map?) and about transport into town. The very nice woman behind the counter told me to catch one of the mini-vans with red license plates to town and tell them the district I wanted to get dropped off at. She said it would only cost a few dollars – score one for asking.

I walked outside into a sunny, 80 degree day, flagged down a battered and beaten up mini-van, told him where I needed to go and asked him how much. “One U.S. dollar.” Hopped inside with a couple locals and let the scenery wash over me.

The area from the airport into town was typical for a Middle Eastern city. Lots of concrete. A bit disheveled. Chaotic. Awash in humanity. Other than the high frequency of luxury automobiles (more about that in future posts), it could have been Cairo or Amman.

The driver stopped frequently to drop off and pick up passengers along the way. At one point, he pulled over, got out, walked over to a roadside stand and bought a bag of carrots, jumped back into the van and lit up a cigarette.

At which point, I smiled to myself and thought, “I’m back where I should be. In the odd and crazy world that I love.”


About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

17 thoughts on “Arrival in Beirut, Lebanon

  • Amanda

    Awesome! Sounds like the beginning to a great adventure. I can’t wait to read about your perceptions of the Middle East.

  • Marsha

    Love that airport feelin’. Here’s to a wonderful adventure and collecting some great stories.

  • Earl

    I’m certainly looking forward to your future posts on Lebanon. Perhaps you’ll have better success than I did in trying to make sense of this complex country! And as I’m sure you’ve discovered, all of those luxury vehicles are an interesting part of the equation. They were the first thing I noticed as well as it seemed so out of place when compared to neighboring Jordan or Syria.

  • Aimee @GoBedRock

    Can’t wait to hear more about your Middle Eastern adventure Michael!

    And there’s no place like an airport. The anticipation of something new, and the unmistakable feeling that you’re on the MOVE! Things are happening and you’re about to have an experience that can never be erased. EXCITING!

    Have a great time 🙂

    http://www.facebook.com/GoBedRock

  • Pete

    I am extremely envious right now. I am reading the book ‘O’ Jerusalem’ right now and learning about the history of Lebanon and Israel and am fascinated. I can’t wait to hear all about your upcoming adventures. Safe travels!

  • Andrea

    I think that for some destinations it’s probably best to avoid the guidebooks. You want to form your own opinion and everywhere in the Middle East, to me, would be a research-free zone unless you plan to live there.

  • Giulia

    Welcome back to the place you love 🙂 The last lines made me smile! Oh, I understand so well…

  • Anita

    I love this post. Especially your last line. How seeing something so arbitrary as your mini-van driver jumping out to buy carrots can remind you how you are exactly where you belong: in a world of discovery and of travel.

  • Rebecca

    Looking forward to reading more about Lebanon – how long are you planning to be there? I’ve heard Beirut is amazing, often not what people would expect.

  • Linda

    I love that last line too. Makes me excited for you and sad for me! Always love to read your stuff, but am especially looking forward this. I am old enough to remember when they forecast that Lebanon would be to the Middle East what the South of France is to Europe, and it was on its way until civil wars and proximity to Israel put an end to it all. So I’m interested to know if people still dream about that.

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