Lebanon: A Beautiful Mess.
By: Krystel Riachi, Copywriter/Travel Blogger at Notes of a Traveler, & Unsettled Bali 2016 alum
If I had to describe my country in two words, it would be “beautiful mess”. Lebanon’s most distinct peculiarity is the “organized chaos” the country rises from. Without it, it would seem impossible for us to function.
As they say, it all goes back to childhood, and ours wasn’t easy. Lebanon’s share of unrest and turbulence since its Independence, stemming from a deeply-rooted position in regional geopolitics and a corrupt political system, was enough to change a people’s genetic behavior. With an unbounded and unconditional “joie de vivre” that refuses to be tamed, Lebanese learned how to master the talent of adaptability and survival, which became deeply embedded in their sangre (blood). Times of crisis or not, security or not, they keep going, doing what they do best: live.
It might be the lack of a structured system and long-enough stability, or the uncertainty of tomorrow; Lebanese have definitely learned to embrace the unexpected. Partying like there’s no tomorrow, not knowing what tomorrow holds. Rising from the ashes, turning setbacks into opportunities to live more, create more, and celebrate more.
It seems like, to be able to cope with their country’s unstructured and unexpected nature, Lebanese had to become unstructured and unexpected themselves, traits that have distinguished them worldwide. From articulating trilingual sentences that mix Arabic, English, and French (Hi, kifak? Ca va?), to mastering the talent of hazardous driving, finding the way to break the rules even when they are barely any, cursing the lost identity of a multiconfessional country while toasting at night with friends across 18 different religious communities, catching up with the neighbor from one balcony to another while waiting on that power outage… This is the beauty of a country of opposites, which could be no other than Lebanon. As we Lebanese often say: “Only in Lebanon”.
Going back to the Phoenician days of trade and conquering the seas, Lebanese have always been curious explorers and passionate travelers. Imbued with a culture of unsettlement, they learned to rely on themselves wherever they went, quickly earning fame for their entrepreneurial spirit, their adaptability, and risk-taking persona. It’s not hard to understand why the Lebanese diaspora is one of the most successful in the startup and entrepreneurial scene.
As someone who has been self-employed for the last 7 years, I can say that I have strongly picked up my ancestors’ genetic “unsettled” behavior. Living and working on my own terms have probably done nothing but confirm the urge I have for an unstructured and unorganized life. The best convenience my freelance job offered me was the possibility to work from anywhere, and this was enough to win over any countering disadvantage. There was no specific place and time for work, and nothing could beat that. My freelance lifestyle took me to beautiful places, and one of them was Unsettled’s very first retreat in Bali. Since that experience in 2016, “Unsettled” became a set of values – deciphered during a month of free living and co-working – engraved in my heart and later, on my skin.
Today, even if I’m not traveling, I live unsettled in my own country. My passion for a vagabond life pushed me to launch my own travel blog, “Notes of a Traveler”, back in 2015. When I realized I was spending more time in Lebanon than I wanted, I found an opportunity to travel inside my own country. That’s how “Notes of a Traveler” became a platform for rural tourism in Lebanon, unveiling the country’s gems through its guesthouses, villages, and hikes; allowing me to forever remain a tourist at home, one unsettled day at a time.
Besides a travel bug and uplifting memories, what one takes back from an Unsettled experience is a lifetime belonging to a global community. After I left Bali and as an alum of Unsettled’s first retreat, I saw myself becoming an ambassador of the brand or concept, sharing my experience with an increasing community of interested Lebanese who soon became alumni and friends. Today, Unsettled’s community in Lebanon is bigger than any around the world, and it’s no surprise. Living unsettled has always united us in spirit; today a real platform does that physically. Having access to that platform translates to me as a pass to a network of infinite possibilities, the most beautiful of which is the possibility of random human connection, anytime,anywhere.
Unsettled coming to Beirut is like someone finding his natural habitat. Coming home to where people are naturally life lovers, adventurous, wild explorers, creative, passionate, and hospitable, where a contradiction of lifestyles, environments and landscapes offer something to the wild and unconventional minds, where modernity meets the traditional, where the chaos of city life meets the stunning countryside, and life is an unexpected unfolding of spontaneous experiences and adventures.
Welcome to Lebanon!