To hear the news media tell it, Iran is a no-go zone, an extremist pariah nation whose imminent explosion is all that separates us from World War III. This is nothing new, of course. The Western narrative about Iran has been the same for my entire life (and, I imagine, long before then).
Certainly, I heard the same sorts of lies and innuendo before I took my own trip to the historical land of Persia with SURFIRAN in 2017. Below, I’ll tell you five truths I learned during that unforgettable sojourn, which all speak to one greater reality: The best time to visit Iran is as soon as you can book your tour.
1. Iranians Don’t Want War
Iranians are some of the most peaceful people in the world, as evidenced by the extremely low crime rates in Iran. When it came to the specific topic of conflict with the United States, every Iranian I spoke with during my trip was emphatic: They don’t want war. In fact, while many Iranians I met said they had a problem with the policies of the US government (justifiably so), I didn’t meet a single person who wished ill will upon the American people. I was often treated like a celebrity when people found out where I was from. Iranians were so glad I had come to see their country for myself!
2. And Neither Do Americans
The US media is pushing hard for a war with Iran, but the vast majority of American people are against this. In fact, one of the things that propelled President Trump’s surprise 2016 victory was the (false) assumption people had that he was less hawkish than Hillary Clinton. If you’re considering a trip to Iran this year but are afraid to book it because you expect a war, don’t. Average Americans are sick of our never-ending wars in the Middle East. Moreover, our representatives in Congress are currently drafting legislation that will prevent Trump from declaring war on his own.
3. Travel Changes People, People Change the World
I had visited almost 100 countries by the time I came to Iran, but the beauty of the land and the kindness of Iranians still changed me. The posts I wrote about Iran on my blog, Leave Your Daily Hell, have reached hundreds of thousands of people, most from Western countries whose citizens are rather ignorant about the reality of life in Iran. Traveling to Iran is actually one of the best ways you can help to ensure a peaceful future, because it is only by challenging our own misconceptions and changing our own hearts that we can move other people (and society) to evolve.
4. SURFIRAN Takes Safety Seriously
Both my guide and the team at the SURFIRAN office in Tehran were always concerned about safety during my trip, even for seemingly trivial matters such as interacting with camels and drinking enough water in the Mesr Desert. If, God forbid, the situation on the ground in Iran became tense when you were there, SURFIRAN would make sure that you and everyone in your group was 100% safe. Furthermore, SURFIRAN will always communicate the latest safety information to you, before, during and after your trip to Iran.
5. Iran Has Always Been Welcoming—and it Always Will Be
One of my favorite memories of my trip to Iran was a dinner I enjoyed in the home of a family just outside the city of Shiraz. We sat on a carpet Iranian style, shared some of my favorite Iranian foods, including Fesenjan and Ghormeh Sabzi, and also had the opportunity to ask all the family members about their lives. We even got to watch their wedding video, and the brave members of the group (not me) got up and danced with them! This is the real Iran: People whose hearts are full of joy, in spite of being constantly misrepresented and maligned.
Whether in 2020 or anytime in this new decade, the best time to visit Iran is as soon as you can go! Media narratives (and US presidents, hopefully) will change, but Iran (and Persia before it) has stood for literally thousands of years. Iran isn’t going anywhere, and neither is the kindness and graciousness of the Iranian people.