Confession of an Irresponsible Traveler
I like to think of myself as a good person and responsible traveler but here’s a confession: I’m not.
Sure, I’ve chastised litterbugs and those molesting animals in national parks and even gave my food to a homeless man but my irresponsible tourism blunder happened during my 2006 trip to Kabul. For those who know, I missed my flight to Kabul and ended up spending the night in Dubai before meeting up with the rest of the group the next day.
The taxi driver who picked me up from the Dubai Airport was named Shazad and probably thought he scored the jackpot by picking up an American. I realize I wasn’t the first American he’d come in contact with as his English was nearly perfect (better than my Farsi) and Western contractors have been crawling throughout Dubai. But I had to wonder how often he picked up solo women travelers from the airport. We engaged in innocent chatter and he replied, “I think Afghanistan is very dangerous,” upon telling him my final destination.
Not sure how the conversation segued to living and working in the United States but Shazad told me about his cousin who was living the American dream so he pleaded his case as to why I should help him come to the U.S. to find his dream. Unlike my 2003 trip to Cuba when I was propositioned twice on the streets of Havana, no marriage proposal was involved but Shazad straight out asked me for my mailing address and phone number so he could get a working visa.
Having no clue how close we were to the hotel (Hilton Dubai Creek – loved it!) and afraid to say “no,” I gave him AN address, phone and name. While the name was real – not mine – the address and telephone number were fictitious.
I didn’t know what to do. I had spent the past two nights sleeping on airplanes, was disorientated and in a country I had curious yet negative stereotypical thoughts about. If I said no, would he have taken the extra long way to the hotel? Or worse, would he have harmed me since he knew which hotel I was staying in? He gave me his phone number, too, and for an odd reason, I still have it.
It’s been more than three years since our chance encounter and guilt still lingers. I wonder if he tried to contact me or provide “my” fictitious information to the U.S. Embassy in hopes of gaining a visa for an opportunity to live the American dream. And if he did, how disappointed did he feel that the information was false? Did he feel cheated and wronged by an American? Have I contributed to the international hatred of the United States by not delivering on a promise?
Forgive me World, for I have sinned and vow to be a more responsible traveler.