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The Warsaw Voice » Travel » March 29, 2012
TRAVEL
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Around the World in a Land Rover or how to go traveling while running a firm effectively (4): Open Arms and Hearts
March 29, 2012   
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Turkey welcomed us with open arms... The people were generous and kind, an amazing testimony to the hospitality of the East. On our way, we passed historic sites dating back to ancient times (Toroga, Ephesus, the Temple of Artemis...), sites important to Catholics (the tomb of St. John) and wonders of nature (Pamukkale, Cappadocia...). The Silk Road lay open before us.

We went to the Iranian and Syrian embassies in Istanbul to arrange our visas. It was tricky. Trying to get an Iranian visa is onerous and costs a lot of money. Sometimes it is very difficult, if not impossible. We met a lot of travelers who had been denied entry to the Islamic Republic. Syrian visas, in turn, are only granted to those who present a letter of recommendation from the French embassy. The problem is, after a ministerial decision in 2007, France refuses to give out such documents. In the end, a young French consul agreed to give us five letters with stamps of the French Republic on them in which she stated she could not issue a letter for us as required by Syria! But she added: “You never know, a misunderstanding could lead to an approval...” And that was what happened. After two days of arranging formalities and negotiating at the Syrian embassy, we finally got the green light.

The kindness and friendliness of the Iranian people was a striking contrast to the country’s image on the international stage. Many people would walk up to us to start a conversation, invite us to dinner or supper and some even offered us beds for the night. People were intrigued by a family who came to explore their country. A country marginalized by other nations. We talked about everything except politics. We could never be sure who we were talking to. It was only in the pious city of Qom, the birthplace of Khomeini, that mullahs gave us looks that contradicted the kindness and friendliness that emanated from other people.

In Tehran, our hosts were Yadollah and Mahvash. Yadollah is an engineer, consultant and a superb jewelry-maker and Mahvash is a well-known Iranian theater and movie actress. They helped us discover the city and Persian culture. Yadollah inspired me and showed me how to combine a career with a passion.

Ubiquitous dictatorship

Iran and Syria were an opportunity for us to learn something firsthand about dictatorship and a clampdown on freedom of speech. We weren’t the only ones to avoid certain topics in talking to strangers. The people we met were very careful in expressing their opinion. Government propaganda was everywhere. The whole of Syria was plastered with gigantic photographs of Bashar al-Assad, depicted in all possible poses. The huge billboards adorned Syrian cities, villages and even the desert.

Iran has a lot of reverence for victims of the Iran-Iraq war, whose photographs are prominently exhibited in the streets. Portraits of Khomeini are popular in Iranian cities as well. We also noticed that the American embassy has not really changed since 1979. Anti-American slogans and pictures are always there on the wall around it.

We left Iran just days before the presidential election of 2009 and the massive demonstrations against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Now that the Iranian government is dragging the country into a dead-end street, jeopardizing its international relations and provoking an armed confrontation, and Bashar al-Assad is slaughtering his own nation and getting away with it, our thoughts go out to everybody we met back there. To all the people we bumped into in Syria and Iran and who welcomed us, invited us into their homes, gave us help and never asked for anything in return... Like the man in Homs who to show us the way gave up his time selflessly and took a tour of the entire city with us...

The trip has been a great source of inspiration for decisions I make at the Akcja Job company on a daily basis. People have always been a priority for us and that is the chief asset of the company. As a result of my encounters with those oppressed nations, human rights and women’s rights have become the focus of our social involvement.

Meet me at: www.5dm.fr - www.akcjajob.pl - www.nelsonlamartine.com
Igor Jeliński

Igor Jeliński, 41, businessman and traveler. After 15 years of working in senior posts for large multinational corporations, he swapped his career for a journey around the world with his family. Before departing, he set up two firms with two partners, Akcja Job and NelsonLamartine, which proved highly successful during the two years he was away traveling. While pursuing his dream and visiting the most distant and most beautiful corners of the world, he was able to manage his business effectively.

You can find out how he did it from his monthly accounts of his journey, entitled “Around the World in a Land Rover,” in the Voice.

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