Why the f*ck did we travel to Afghanistan?!

Why the fuck did they travel to Afghanistan?! is the question burning in your mind right now, and we don’t blame you.

The country is plagued by war and considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Sensible governments advise against all but the most essential of travel in Afghanistan. Yet we went without a guide, without an interpreter, and without security.

So why did we?

The answer is simple, if a bit selfish: curiosity. We were curious to learn about its ancient history, spanning thousands of years. We were curious to see what the life in the country was really like. We were curious to meet the people.

Why did we travel to Afghanistan?

Thousands of years of history with no one there to see

We wanted to see ancient Balkh, once capital of mighty Bactria, where Zoroastrianism was born and where Timur reigned supreme.

The ruins of the Masjid Sabz, Green Mosque, in Balkh province, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The ruins of the Masjid Sabz, Green Mosque, in Balkh.

To wander through Herat’s ancient citadel and admire its colorful Persian roots.

The Jame Masjid, Friday Mosque, in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

The Jame Masjid, Friday Mosque, in Herat.

We wanted to explore the Panjshir Valley, where the Mujaheddin held off the Russians, and bombed out tanks still stand as a testament to their strength.

A bombed-out tank in Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

We wanted to explore the caves of Bamiyan and stand before its (sadly desecrated) Buddhas.

Overlooking the destroyed Buddha caves in Bamyan, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Can you spot the buddha enclaves in the background?

Simply put, we wanted to see what Afghanistan had to offer.

Also planning to visit Afghanistan? Make sure to have a comprehensive travel insurance policy. We recommend First Allied Travel Insurance! 

Don’t believe everything you see on T.V.

But there’s more to it. When people think of Afghanistan, they think of war and violence, Predator Drones and Taliban, bomb blasts and murder of religious minorities and security personnel. Not people.

Playful Afghan boys in the back of a truck in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Afghanistan is filled with people trying to live their daily lives, constantly coping with the threat of violence while trying to make a living. They laugh together with their friends, they cry together with their families. They are mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, not just a bunch of angry men with turbans and Kalashnikovs.

Sebastiaan posing with a friendly barber in Herat, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

We wanted to meet these very real people and hear their stories, to go beyond the news flashes and learn the Afghan people’s perspective.

 

Where no man dares to tread

Of course, we also take a certain pride in going places where not many other travelers go. Not because it’s “cool” or because it makes us “interesting”—if we wanted that we could’ve hiked through the remote Wakhan Corridor, the only safe place in Afghanistan and a hotspot for people looking to check Afghanistan off their bucket list… sans-risk.

Wandering the great walls of Old Balkh, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

Wandering along the walls of ancient Balkh.

No, we seek out these places because they scream to have their stories told, and are dying to welcome international visitors (other than aid workers) once more. Tell an Afghan you’re a tourist, not an aid worker, and you’ll be blinded by the smile blossoming across their face.

 

But we might just be insane

We hope that by going here, without any form of protection or hired help, we can show the world it’s possible. If you’re crazy enough to dream of it, you can, too.

Some of you might think we’re foolish. Some of you think we just went to get attention. Some of you might think we’re batshit crazy.

Alex getting an IV drip at a clinic in Kabul, Afghanistan - Lost With Purpose

You might be right.

Curious about traveling to Afghanistan, too? Check out our comprehensive Afghanistan travel guide!

 

Why the f*ck did we travel to Afghanistan? It's one of the most dangerous countries in the world, rife with inequality, and extremely poor. So why did we? Read on to find out!

 

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

More about Sebastiaan

49 thoughts on “Why the f*ck did we travel to Afghanistan?!

    Kiara Gallop says:

    This is incredible! And I know what you mean by saying these places “scream to have their stories told” because a lot of the time I do think twice about writing about somewhere that’s been covered so many times by other travel writers/bloggers. I just think no-one’s really interested to read yet another post about X, Y, or Z, which is why I always try to search out quirky or off-beat experiences wherever i go. Whereas when I travel to somewhere that isn’t generally visited by tourists, it excites me a lot more and this comes across in my writing 🙂

    We feel the same way. ‘Oh, ANOTHER Cinque Terre post? Urrrrgh…’ It’s definitely possible to find new perspectives, but most people don’t.

    You’re much more accomplished than us in that regard! We travel in places where it’s easy to find something no one has covered. It takes more creativity and effort to find off the beaten track things in other countries!

    Antonio says:

    You might be right???

    I hope you are both fine, guys, I did not like that last photo.

    Haha never fear, we’re alive and well! It was just a bad case of food illness.

    CurlyCurlyK says:

    This was such a wonderful read! I really commend you for exploring and sharing a part of the world so many of us will never get to see. Hope everything continues to go alright!

    Thank you! We’re not commendable, just two curious kids 🙂

    Hopefully one day the security situation improves so more people can visit… Afghanistan needs the tourism!

    Meg Cale says:

    That cliff hanger tho! come onnnnn

    No worries, we lived! It was just a bacterial infection from some tap water.

    Arzo Travels says:

    Great to see pictures of Afghanistan. My parents fled the country in the early 80´s as political asylum seekers when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. When I get older I had a constant battle with them to visit Afghanistan. Though I travel the world it is something my parents “do not allow me” – arguing that they did not save my live by bringing me to Germany so that I now risk it and something happens to me over there. I see so many other Afghan German girls visiting and moving back and though Afghanistan is not on very high on my list at the moment I cannot wait to visit one day <3 I love all your gorgeous pictures and am happy you were able to visit 8btw. what happened so you ended up in a hospital?)

    We can understand your parents perspective… Afghanistan is still very dangerous, and not the best place to be as a woman. But it’s also important to see your homeland and understand where you come from!

    Maybe you should do the same as us and just go and hide it from your parents 😉

    As for the hospital, it wasn’t a big deal… We consumed some tap water in the form of soft serve ice cream (we think) and got quite ill and dehydrated. Nothing some fluids and antibiotics can’t fix!

    Corinne Vail says:

    Good for you! I’m sure you found wonderful people. Your photos are a testament to the strength of the basic human bond we all share. Great article.

    Thank you Corinne, we certainly did! We fully believe there are good people to be found everywhere, and Afghanistan proved to be the same 🙂

    Brittany Hemming says:

    This was an awesome post. I absolutely agree that what you see on TV is never the full or most accurate story. I always try to tell this to family and friends when I’m traveling to less desirable places. I think this is the wonderful thing about travel. We realize that deep down we are all the same. We all have hopes and dreams, we all want to care for our families, we all want to be loved and accepted. Well done! Great post. I hope to make it to Afghanistan one day too!

    Precisely Brittany! At the end of the day, we’re all just humans trying to live and enjoy our lives. Unfortunately people don’t think about that, and just absorb what they see on the news…

    We hope one day the situation clears enough that people can more safely visit Afghanistan. It has so much to offer!

    Beautiful pictures and people! Afghanistan is on my “wish-list” of places to visit. I hope you’ll be writing much more about this intriguing country and your experiences. Safe & happy travels!

    Zabihullah Atal says:

    we wish and hope soonly you visit our home land and collect a lot of beautiful memories from here.
    you most welcome..

    GeekGirlGoes says:

    So refreshing to read! Looks like you had a really great time there! I wonder, how did you feel out in the open rural areas? Did noises scare you? Or were you able to really relax and enjoy it?
    I’m really interested in your experience, because I totally agree that so many people avoid experiences because they’re scared – and there’s really nothing (much) to be scared of!

    The rural areas we went to were actually safer than the cities, so no scares there! The biggest concern for foreigners in Afghanistan is actually kidnapping, not bombings.

    We learned that Afghanistan truly is dangerous, so a little bit of fear is probably healthy there. But we agree that in other places, people should really stop and think about whether or not their fear is rational before writing off the destination as dangerous!

    Candace Kinlaw says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I imagine that this took away much pain after having only the dark story of Afghanistan. I imagine it to be a beautiful place along with beautiful people. Thank you for painting such a beautiful picture for the people who aren’t able to.

    Thanks for the kind words Candace! There’s both beauty and ugliness to be found in Afghanistan, but we were fortunate enough to experience more of the former than the latter.

    Angela Corrias says:

    I’m an Italian married to an Afghan and currently living in Afghanistan, the country is dangerous. You have visited the safest areas of the country, which are very few as most provinces are under Taliban attack/control. And even in places like Herat, the city is safe, but the surroundings are not as they have a heavy Taliban presence.
    As I have mentioned in one of my latest articles, I’m not discouraging travellers to come to Afghanistan but especially foreigners MUST follow proper security measures. I, myself, travelling with my Afghan husband, try to blend with locals as much as I can by dressing like them and speaking the local language whenever I can. The TV is not even saying half of the dangers in Afghanistan, what they constantly lie about is to describe Iran in more dangerous terms, and this is the nonsense, Iran is the safest country in the region, Afghanistan is a war zone in all aspects.

    Zarlasht Sarmast says:

    Thank you so much for writing this piece. I am 20 years old from Kabul Afghanistan. I am now abroad because of my studies, I travel a lot, and when ever I travel and meet new people, and, tell them that I am from Afghanistan, you can’t imagine the look on their faces… And then the questions they ask me… 🙁 I always feel bad when I read the news and articles written about Afghanistan. Because they always talk about one thing: “war, war and war”… This was so refreshing. I am going to share this on my Facebook so people can see a different side of my country.

    P.s, anytime you need help with something anywhere in Afghanistan, do let me know, I have a lot of contacts. My email is [email protected]

    Thank you <3
    Love
    Zar

    Sorry for the super late reply. Sometimes we space out a bit. We’re glad you liked the article, and we’re really happy we could show the country from a different perspective.

    dany2306 says:

    Happy to read a different perspective on a country that receives too many bad looks over the last decade.
    That paragraph about being a tourist and not an aid worker surprised me the most. I can understand how it feels to be seen as forever helpless and not able to do anything like you have some disability because of your postcode.
    Maybe you`re crazy, but you`ll have great stories to tell to your grandchildren/us!

    WOW. I am so glad I found this post. My boyfriends dad backpacked the middle east 30+ years ago and I’ve been obsessed with reading different perspectives on Afghan. I have friends who served there that can’t really offer much insight other than ‘dusty and sandy’. This was really great to read and I think people need to outline more of the positive aspects of travelling to a culturally and historically rich are of the world. Dangerous or not. We as humans dwell on the negative but never take time to reflect on the small positivity. Which leaves me asking myself why the fuck have you not been to afghanistan?

    madiha says:

    Hey the last picture is of Alex in a hospital. What happened to her? Is she okay now?

    Wow, so sorry for the late reply. Alex is fine, just had a little food poisoning 😉

    Abdull Mahmud says:

    So, because of it’s Great ancient history, you adventured into Afghanistan because: you wanted to…this..you wanted to that.. ” With your long list of “wanted to’s”, you felt; in your ‘superior’ judgement, that those list of your “wanted-to” are the remarkable historical facts about Afghanistan.(huh?) This gets me wondering if you ever imagined that among your readers would be Muslims, too!….
    And hey, that story: about having to Lie to gain entry into Afghanistan…and afterwards…making derogatory remarks about their cultures, their belief(which they have freely chosen for themselves) and even, passing judgement: about what is “normal” as against the Afghan ‘abnormal’ ways…
    Come to think of all that: Who/What the hell, gave you the competence to decide what is ‘ normal’ for others?! By whose standard are you defining what is “normal” and what isn’t.
    Why the fuck did you go to Afghanistan(?)
    But Who the Fuck invited you to Afghanistan!!!???
    Know what? – your own ways are way provocative, even if you work undercover; for politics.
    Spread Peace Around The Word and Let Afgans be.
    You suffering from some kind of #phobia??
    Deal with it!!!

    Sorry sir, but we have no idea what you’re trying to say beyond accusing us of… something.

    For the record, the majority of our readers are Muslim. But none of them seemed quite as distressed by this article as you.

    Abdull Mahmud says:

    Your writing is captivating, no doubt! That was what kept me glued in it; till the end – so much that before getting to the end, I was already getting convinced in my mind that I would definitely share it across all my personal social network places (but Thanks to ALLAH (GOD) ) that I didn’t commit what would have been the most stupid mistake of my life! thus, I read on; to the end – only to realize that your travel blog about Afganistan, was most unfair in most of it’s contents.
    But, only a reader who could read “between-the-lines” and who ‘can see the handwriting on the wall’, would understand that most of the contents were with so much sacarcims that contain subtle attempts to mock, ridicule and undermine the Fundamental Belief upon which, those Afghan folks base their ways of life –
    which is: ISLAM!
    The fact that you skilfully and conveniently avoided mentioning ‘ISLAM’, is exactly the pointer to my allegation!
    But then, I can read-between-the-lines! And, I am a Muslim, but not from among the stock of passive Muslims; who constitute the other Muslim readers you made reference to.
    Please, try seeking the opinion of some serious practicing Muslims; about that blog, so you know if I would be the only Muslim who sees it the way I do.

    We’re sorry sir, but the only part on this page that might be considered as undermining Islam are your remarks about our followers and how they might practice their faith.

    Hussain Ali Karimi says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and thoughts and showing a different image of Afghanistan.
    No one who knew Afghanistan before 9/11 can fail to note the remarkable changes that have taken place here: the dramatic increase in life expectancy and decrease in child and maternal mortality rates; the elections for President, parliament, and provincial councils; the distribution of millions of cell phones, many connected to the Internet; the flourishing of the mass media; the construction of office and commercial towers, roads, and, airports; and, perhaps most important, the spread of education, which is creating a generation of professionals who, as they move into positions of influence, are sure to transform the country.

    It’s our pleasure. We can imagine the country has made some progress. Our Afghan friends often joked about the rapid rise of mobile phone usage and 3G, even though many people don’t quite know how to use their phones. Let’s hope future generations can build on the process and sacrifices already made. Based on the people we’ve met, we think it’s possible.

    GirlAstray says:

    I love your approach! We are currently (veeery slowly, spending the winter in Turkey) on our way hitchhiking from Europe to India and I would like to cross Afghanistan on the way. To be honest, I give little thought to the safety concerns I hear from outsiders (media) but usually ask the locals where I can or cannot go. Didn´t get in trouble yet! Oh, not to forget, I love your photos too. 🙂

    That sounds like a great journey. Hitchhiking in Afghanistan is not recommended, though, due to the obvious safety hazards. Getting out over land isn’t possible either, unfortunately.

    Thanks for all the compliments!

    GirlAstray says:

    Yeah, I figured it´s not the best place to hitchhike. But didn´t know it´s not possible to leave by land…something to count with when we´re in the zone.

    I just find your blog and I like it ! Just went through your blogs post about Afghanistan and Pakistan as I always wanted to go travel in Central Asia and I will go hopefully soon ! I find good advice and tips and will definetly take some notes of it when I will plan my trip there. Happy travels !!

    Hi Fabien, thanks for reaching out. Glad our blog is helpful. Let us know if you have more questions. Cheers!

    Today I visited an exposition from Steve McCurry and I said to a friend I would truely loooove to visit Afghanistan to see this country with my own eyes. A few times we flew over the country on our way to or from Asia and I am so curious about these desolate mountainous regions, the ancient cities and the people who live there. Great that you had the chance tot visit! I’m not in the position right now, we have 2 young kids and I don’t want to put them into danger, but once I’m gonna go! For sure!

    We understand that sentiment! Steve McCurry is one of Alex’s favorite photographers, and he’s done Afghanistan quite some justice in his photos.

    Afghanistan most certainly merits a visit for so many reasons, but it is indeed wise of you to wait until the kids are a bit older. Not the best place to draw eyes as a family traveling around!

    dare2gocom says:

    I consider this brave (but not foolish). I was in Afghanistan and Iran long before the war and loved it! I even saw the Buddhas of Bamiyan before the Taliban blew them up. But no photos of my own as at that stage I didn’t own a camera. So I guess I should file it in my head under ‘unforgettable’…

    That should definitely be filed under unforgettable. We’re still angry every time we think of those empty crevasses. Such an affront to history.

    Josie says:

    Afghanistan looks a like a truly beautiful country, those landscapes are breathtaking and sadly you don’t see that on the news. Absolutely fascinated by your adventures in Afghanistan, thank you very much for sharing them, as I’m not sure that I’ll ever pluck up the courage to go…

    Sebastiaan says:

    It is truly a gorgeous country, and it’s a shame the current situation bars people from appreciating it. We really hope that things will change, and that more people can experience the beauty, but the situation is getting worse, not better 🙁

    April Pishna says:

    Beautiful. Exactly why I want to visit Afghanistan, for its people and its beauty. We are all humans and simply trying to live a full life amidst all the conflict. I have read many personal stories about life in this conflicted country, and I cannot wait to meet the everyday heroes who live here.

    Sebastiaan says:

    Thanks a lot. It’s such a shame that a beautiful country like Afghanistan has been so ravaged for so long. Let’s hope things will get better, to that the people of Afghanistan can have their peace.

    Wahab Siddiqi says:

    When I saw the title I thought it might be like other stories about Afghanistan, but I found my rest of life in this story.
    I’m from Afghanistan and live in Herat, it’s quiet secure and amazing historical places for visit.
    I not a tourist guide but I guided many of my foreigner friends from USA, Australia, Pakistan, turkey, Iran and Italy.
    Without any expectation, I say welcome to all people around the world how are thinking and behave humanity.
    Afghanistan people are victim of the war not a part of the war! Our dream is world peace ✌️.
    Thanks

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