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Cultivate Awareness – 3 Americans Arrested for “Illegally” Crossing into Iran.

August 10, 2009

By now you have probably already heard about the three Americans arrested for “illegally” crossing into Iran. Supposedly they went on a hike to see a waterfall in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq and ended up wandering into Iranian territory. They are now in Iranian custody, accused of being spies.

Look, I love to travel, it’s part of my nomadic nature. And one of the big parts of traveling effectively is awareness – awareness of surroundings so your things don’t get stolen, so you can find your way back to the hostel, so you don’t end up crossing into a region that is a hotbed right now. And when you’ve traveled as much as I have, you end up meeting all kinds of travelers on the road. So it makes me wonder what type of traveler these three were – the ones that exist in an ignorance is bliss stupor until time runs out or the ones that take chances and get caught. Maybe they did just get disoriented and end up in IRAN! I don’t know. I think what is really headscratching for me is the fact that these were “experienced” travelers, not tourists (and there is a big difference).

Call me coldhearted, but it is hard for me to have much sympathy for these three. A friend and fellow traveler asked me the other day what I thought of this situation and I told him that one of my big pet peeves is stupidity. This was stupid. Not the traveling in Kurdistan. That area seems to be relatively safe and I’m sure it’s lovely this time of year. What’s stupid is traveling in an area like Kurdistan, near the Iranian border, and not being aware of your surroundings. This isn’t stumbling across the border into Canada, or making a foray into France from Spain. This isn’t even my friend in Jordan, jumping across the border into Saudi Arabia, and back. This is Iran, these are Americans, and there is already tension from the elections and the ongoing tumultuous relationship between the two countries.

The situation reminds me of a story I heard while living in Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt about two honeymooners who decided to take a little boat trip – to SAUDI ARABIA! Dahab sits across the Gulf of Aqaba from Saudi (about 12 kilometers away), and these two decided to rent a boat and head over to check it out. They did this on a whim (maybe too much sun, maybe too much booze, maybe too many “oohh honey, I love you, let’s go to Saudi”s), and found someone willing to take them. Long story, short – the boat pulls up on Saudi soil, the two (I believe they were British) jump off, and immediately are descended upon by Saudi military, at which point the boat promptly speeds away back to Egypt. Because this was a whim, they had no passports or identification. The two were taken into custody and immediately deported back to their home country for entering Saudi Arabia illegally. This story falls under the category of ignorance is bliss until the time runs out.

I also met a guy in Dahab who was intent on going to Iraq (this was a couple of years into the Iraq war), for no other reason than he was so close and wanted to say he had been there. You meet these risk takers when you travel, often fueled by booze or a need to show how big their cajones are. I don’t know whether or not he made it, but it shows you a little of the attitude you sometimes meet on the road.

So it baffles me that these three just wandered into Iran. Maybe the whiskey bottle that was found near their campsite made the trails a little fuzzy (trust me, booze and traveling can go hand and hand and crazy things happen when the thrill of the road hits). If it was me, I’d be damn sure I knew where I was going if I was that close to a border like Iran, and I’d warn any traveler I met to do the same thing if they were making the same hike these three made (especially with the recent unrest in that country following the election). It is just a little hard to believe that they went for a nice day hike to a waterfall, turned left, and ended up in Iran (although I would like to think they weren’t spies – a bit of a stretch on the part of the Iranian Government if you ask me, but then again, this border has been said to be an active transit point for insurgents, covert ops, and spy missions – another reason to BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS).

Ultimately, these three are the only ones who know what happened. But whatever it was – ignorance, a thirst for adventure and risk taking, or just plain stupidity – it was distinctly lacking in the type of awareness that keeps you from spending time in an Iranian prison.

I hope they get home safely and that their treatment in Iran is fair. And I hope they learn a valuable lesson about that aforementioned awareness.

Awareness, that little concept that prevents you from missing your exit on the freeway, from walking through a sliding glass door, and that should keep you from wandering into Iran. Awareness – the lifeblood of enlightenment. Cultivate it and use it liberally.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 5, 2009 7:00 pm

    Thank you, sir.

  2. September 13, 2009 6:54 pm

    I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks,

    A definite great read…

    -Bill-Bartmann

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