Iranian stories: The quest for a travel buddy or the Austrian-Australian Confusion

The Iranian Connection

Through all my student and professional life I constantly got to know Iranians. They just seemed to be everywhere and I found it easy to connect with them – I worked with Iranians in my first career in telecoms, started to talk with a guy at the airport who happened to be Iranian, sat next to a guy at a film festival in Portugal who was also Iranian and now one of my close friends, worked as a director of photography for an Iranian director… My friends already started to call me the “Persian magnet”.

During my film studies and later work at a film festival I got to see loads of Iranian movies. So Iran, its people, art and culture were for years close to my heart and I always loved the sound of the Iranian language (called Farsi) and the rich Iranian cuisine.

It was therefor natural that I always dreamed of going to Iran. After all my positive experiences with Iranian people, I just wanted to see this country and experience the life there.

For the first time I planned to travel to Iran six years ago. But the political situation was never really easy, the application for visa time consuming and sometimes just life came in between.

Don’t get stopped by obstacles anymore

In 2017 I finally didn’t let myself be held back by media, visa application processes, and other obstacles and was determined to travel through Iran on my own. The political situation became a bit more liberal over the past four years. Visas can now be obtained in advance or at the airport (as visa on arrival) and little by little hostels are opening all over the country to host international travelers who want to experience the country on a budget.

Social media and several travel networks offer support and people share stories about first-hand experiences there. Several airlines again started to offer direct flights to Tehran, for a reasonable price.

The only thing that was missing now was a TRAVEL COMPANION. I have travelled alone before but wanted to share the experience and also responsibility for the organisation of the trip with someone likeminded, so both could enjoy the trip even more.

Traveling to Iran – are you crazy?

I started to talk to several of my friends and work mates over half a year before the actual trip. But finding a travel partner appeared to be far more difficult than expected. First, getting three weeks off is difficult these days; a lot of employers hardly let their employees off for two consecutive weeks. Second, a lot of people are still scared to travel to Iran.

Media, existing stereotypes and deeply rooted fears often win over the stories of people who have traveled that beautiful country already.

But I was determined to go on the trip to Iran and to travel with somebody.

There are several travel partner networks and apps available online now, but the Lonely Planet forum was one way for me to find a buddy. Although it would be a kind of “blind date”, it would also be a chance to meet people with a passion for traveling. A post with a rough outline of the trip and my preferred travel style was mainly answered by Indian guys and some Iranian locals in the beginning.

Information about traveling with a travel partner of opposite sex varied – friends told me to not risk it and rather travel with another girl; online I found several stories of unmarried couples, friends and travel buddies visiting the country without any issue. I wanted to be on the safe side in that aspect and also found it a bit more convenient to stay with a female stranger in the same room than with a male one.

Finding a good match is never easy

Finally I got a reply by an Australian lady, who seemed to fit:

Hi, I am hoping to fly from Australia into either Jordan or Iran and have the same sort of itinerary in mind. I don’t like package tours and have researched public transport in Iran – trains and VIP buses look good. But also happy to hire a car and driver. I am 52 single lady who is fit and healthy. Oh… and very easy going.

I was stunned how quickly we talked about actual itineraries and how much research she had already done too.

After a few messages and whatsapp chats we were sure that we wanted to travel together and already tried to organise flights and visas. It took another few weeks and nerves till we finally had our visas confirmed and flights booked. We agreed to meet in a hostel in central Tehran and travel together from there onward.

After my adventurous trip to Tehran, the first thing I saw and heard from Aleena was a rough “Good Morning”, wild hair and half open eyes at 5am in the “Hi Tehran” hostel bed.

A few hours and a bit of sleep later, we finally got to know each other in person and set out to explore Tehran together.

There is always a chance that you don’t like the other person or have nothing in common. I had a plan B in that case: We would either just share the room and spent the day alone or with other travelers or even go different paths after the few days in Tehran.

But from the first moment we got on so well and seemed to complement each other.

Austria or Australia?

During my trips and studies abroad, I got used to answer “We don’t have kangaroos in Austria, but you might know Sound of Music or Mozart”, when people ask me where I am from. Traveling with an Australian got the Australian-Austrian confusion to a next level.

Iranians love foreigners and you constantly get asked about your home country – by random people, young couples, shop keepers and whole groups of pupils.

After a short introduction of ourselves, people usually looked at us buzzled. The next question usually was: “Are you mother and daughter?” (that’s not the charming one) or “Are you friends”? And then “But how is that possible?”

When we then told the story of how we met and what brought us together, they are even more buzzled. After two weeks, several thousand kilometres traveled together, nights spend in hostels, a nice hotel bed and on the floor in a nomads house, a taxi accident and some Aussie lessons, I can just recommend the laid back Aussies. They make an incredibly good travel buddy match.