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Prologue: Concerning Iraq

To many western ears, "Iraq" paints pictures of kidnappings, death and war. With the few stories that are widely spread, and the many that are not, it is of no surprise that the image remains grim. However, when listening to travelers and locals in the country, the stories told to me are quite different. Most travelers speak about incedible hospitality, natural beauty and relative safety. There are areas to avoid, dresscodes to follow and manners to maintain. The occasional checkpoints at roads might feel intimidating but as long as everthing checks out, there is often curiosity, smiles and selfies. Stay informed, tread lightly and pack a smile, and the experience, from what I have learned, is most likely to be very safe and very special.

Iraqi Traveler's Café is a tremendous resource to get in touch with locals and travelers alike or just to hear about their stories and tips. Bike touring enthusiasts on site found on Warm Showers keeps helping me with bike-related topics such as safe and scenic routes. Even people from my own country who have given Iraq a chance have shown no regret of doing so. Their stories have had nothing to do with the advice available from authorities. It appears as though the officials drafting these advices are not on site and possibly have not even spoken to the common folk that are.

That is why I accepted the offer of a guided tour in federal Iraq. Yes, an offer, and so no, I did not specifically choose Iraq as starting point for the journey. Upon realising that I will be in the very cradle of civilization, with no upcoming commitments, the plan began to emerge in my head; an opportunity to do my dream that did not need to be sought, but was already found. Thus, Iraq became the start my long road home.

From the rivers of Euphrates and Tigris, through the mountains of Kurdistan, corner to corner in the vast land of Türkiye and into Europe, always looking to the north. The lived adventure will not only be one of pathways and locations. It will also be one of obstacles and persistency in minds; of strength and weakness in bodies; of doubts and courage of hearts; and of curious souls, searching and sharing between themselves, and beyond. Whilst there is clarity in the quest in form of where from, where to and how to, much will be revealed, figured out, muddled through and discovered along the way. That is the real journey.


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