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Word Travels - Behind the Scenes in Jordan by Robin Esrock
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Behind the Scenes in Jordan
by Robin Esrock / Published February 12 2008
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Robin talks about mercenaries, superheroes, press trips and travel buzz.
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Float in the Dead SeaSo we arrive in Jordan and on the plane are a bunch of US mercenaries flying to Baghdad.  Seriously.  Big stocky guys with shifty eyes and army haircuts, I overhear the name "Blackwater" and less than a week later there's a scandal involving the dubious US private army Blackwater killing innocent Iraqis.   This is the kind of Gonzo that follows me that is not fit for a travel show.    The flight was a red-eye killer, but we arrived on the one night that Amman's club scene would be firing so after dropping off the bags it was off to the party.   As you can see in the show, what we found was not what most people think about when they hear Middle East.  

Isn't Petra just something else?   It's always great to arrive at a hyped destination and see the hype is worth it.    I had fun galloping on the horse, considering I don't know how to gallop, and finding those 2000 year old stairs carved into a cliff, leading to ancient hermit meditation caves, well, that was just pure travel buzz.   Even with the tourism board's schedule, even with a TV crew, sometimes you just have to walk a few steps to the left to find unexpected adventure.

Wadi RumThe name of this episode is Press Trip Cinderellas, and because there's so much to show and do, we don't go into press trips in too much detail.   Basically, and as a fellow travel writer recently reminded me, travel writers are amongst the worst paid writers anywhere.   Simply put, we cannot afford to travel on our own dime, too often anyway.  So Tourism Boards and companies offer free trips in the hope that we'll write something positive, which of course, we usually do, because most travel writing is positive.   There's various opinions whether this constitutes an act of literary bribery, but given what travel writers earn, it's a reality of the job.   Both Julia and I pride ourselves in remaining independent, writing as we see it, and every profession has a behind-the-scenes etiquette and unspoken rules that, if revealed, might be misunderstood by those outside it.  Travel writing is no different, but rest assured, if something sucks, we'd say so.  In the meantime, we relished the chance to stay in nice hotels and eat in nice restaurants before heading back to reality - hostels and cheap street noodles.   If I lived in luxury, would I appreciate it?

It is possible, in case you were wondering, to take notes while floating on the Dead Sea.   We were at this sparkling Movenpick Resort, and right across the lifeless sea was Israel.   That's where the line "All I see, feel and hope for, is peace" comes from.   As for Wadi Rum, well, sleeping under the stars in a Bedouin campsite, after feasting on that outrageous desert-cooked meal, was unforgettable.   And my favourite "holy crap I look like a superhero moment" - standing on that rock in the desert, letting my desert robes blow in the strong wind.  Sometimes we plan shots, sometimes, like in this moment, Julia and I do our thing, and the camera just happens to find us. 

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