Random Inspirations

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Reflections on a Holiday in Lebanon

on January 9, 2014

Remember when you were in elementary school, and you missed class to go on an “educational trip?” And then, when you came back, your teacher asked you to write all about it, just to make sure you’d learned something?

Back in the day, this felt wrong to me. My elementary school brain was like, “What? I just got back from vacation and have all this catch-up work, and now the teacher is giving me even more work?”

But now I realize it’s a helpful exercise, and that’s why I looove blogging about my reflections after I return from various trips. Call me a nerd, but I actually get excited to do it. After my vacay, I’m excited to get back to work!

My holiday in Lebanon was extremely restful…perhaps too restful (check out my recent blog post about dreams if you don’t believe me:) I enjoyed the gracious hospitality of my in-laws, who not only let us stay in their private downstairs guest suite, they also threw two parties to celebrate our wedding and Antonio’s birthday. And just to make our stay even better, Antonio’s mom cooks the most phenomenal Lebanese food I’ve ever tasted!

Holiday pic

Because of the gut-wrenching Middle East situation and the perceived danger of visiting, Lebanon is not considered a tourist destination. That’s a shame because it is a truly unique and amazing place. The night scene is full of super-fun bar/lounge/club areas, like Jounieh and Uruguay Street, and the late-night dining is second to none. The night life is especially vibrant during the holiday season, when twenty- and thirtysomethings who work in other countries return “home” to celebrate.

Dancing the night at Club Mad, part of Lebanon's night scene.

Dancing the night away at Club Mad, part of Lebanon’s night scene.

There are also plenty of nature activities: gorgeous, paradise-like beaches, awe-inspiring caves, hiking trails, and acres of forests. The snow-capped mountains are so breathtaking that they hardly look real, especially at sunset. And there’s even Faraya, the fun ski resort community where we spent New Year’s Eve at our friends’ chalet. I know what you’re thinking…skiing? In the Middle East? Not exactly what I’d pictured, either.

The people I met in Lebanon were friendly, and most were able to speak three languages, English, Arabic, and French. The food is fresh, and so packed with super-nutrients that I fought off the yucky cold I’d picked up in three days flat! The Lebanese cook with healthy olive oil and lemon, and definitely get their recommended dietary allowance of fruits and vegetables. My personal favorite exotic fruit was “ashta,” a sweet and succulent delicacy that I practically inhaled.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

Ashta, my Lebanese fruit obsession.

By the end of my holiday getaway, I’d immersed myself in this intriguing culture, and I’d even picked up some Arabic. My brain was swimming with words, and, strangely, I’d think of random Arabic phrases either at night after a few drinks or the next day when I woke up. Interesting how the brain works.

During my stay in Lebanon, I was desperately trying to complete Mercy’s Fall, my Amish fiction novella, but I was completely uninspired. I was fed up with myself until I realized that I couldn’t possibly think or write about the Amish when I was in this fascinating, relatively new (to me) foreign land. So, I focused on drinking in the unusual experiences and journaling, and two totally new story ideas came to me: the dream YA novel from my previous entry and a YA novel about a Lebanese-American girl discovering herself in her family’s ancient homeland. And on the flight home, my imagination was so ignited that I returned to Mercy’s Fall and finished writing it in two days!

The trip back to California was a long one (thirty hours to be exact, through Moscow, where it was dark until 10 AM), but now that I’m back, I’m feeling rested. The getaway was just what I needed. It broadened my horizons, and also made me thankful for the fast internet we have in the U.S. 🙂

Are you more inspired after you return from a particularly stimulating vacation? What kind of inspiration do you find in other countries, or even new cities in your own homeland? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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