It was my first trip to the Middle East and I was super anxious. I was traveling to Egypt and wanted so badly to find someone who could help me navigate through Cairo. Two days before I flew out, my reservation was confirmed. I felt better about the trip, but now I had new fears. Who was this person? What would my experience be like, would he be open-minded or a muslim extremist? I felt very vulnerable but was willing to face my fears.
My host had offered to pick me up from the airport but when I landed in Cairo there was no sign of him. I waited and waited for almost an hour but still no sign. I tried to use the pay phone to contact him but couldn't figure out how it worked. Finally I came upon a random local who offered to let me borrow his cell phone. My host was stuck in traffic (and now, after having experienced the hours and hours and hours of delay in Cairo traffic, I understand why!).
In the end, my first experience was literally magical. I spent twice the amount of time I had originally planned to spend in Cairo and shared so many amazing, truly open-hearted moments with my host. I even had the chance to meet his mother and sister visiting from Kuwait and his cousin visiting from France. We're still in touch today and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. It is one of the greatest most heart-centered moments of my life.
There's nothing more real or enriching than meeting and staying with locals when you travel.