I have a bucket list of 83 amazing experiences I want to do in life, which includes Petra, the Red Sea, the Dead Sea and scuba diving – all of which made Jordan a natural choice for me earlier this year.
I’ve been to the Middle East before, visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but I don’t know the area well enough to travel completely solo. Flash Pack’s adventure in Jordan offered a perfect combination of travelling alongside people of a similar age and mindset, with a few of my dream items to tick off, too – each of which turned out to be as good as I’d imagined.
Jordan made a natural choice for me this year
Although this was my first time trying group travel, I relaxed into the dynamic straight away. As a former English cricketer and one of the first women to present Test Match Special on the BBC, I’d say I’m quite good with people.
Like me, a lot of travellers on the trip were fellow Londoners, which helped in terms of making friends and creating that initial spark. In fact, we’re all still chatting on WhatsApp now, which is great.
Our group all shared a love of travel and adventure
With my career as a broadcaster and a World Cup athlete, a few people in the group were impressed for a bit – some even Googled me – but they quickly realised that it really didn’t matter. We bonded very easily and everyone felt a similar connection to one another. We all shared a love of travel and adventure, and a desire to see more of the world with real, authentic experiences.
Our superstar guide Fadi was central to us being able to do that. He acted like a bridge between us and the locals, the culture, the food and the way of life in Jordan. He was just so passionate about everything, and would always make a point of getting us to slow down and absorb the flavour or history of wherever we happened to be.
In the desert, our hosts laid on a ceremonial meal
This was especially true of meals, which were amazing – I must have put on a stone in eight days. I’m a lover of hummus and salad, and we were all obsessed with the falafel. I’ve eaten it all my life but it’s never tasted as good, or as soft and fluffy, as it did in Jordan.
When we glamped in the Wadi Rum desert, our hosts laid on a ceremonial meal, cooking lamb underground for hours. When it came out, it was this unbelievable pot of goodness. I’m also really drawn to tea culture which is big in Jordan. Whenever we went on a hike or an expedition, we’d stop to brew some on the side of the mountain. As someone who drinks a million cups a day, it was a dream.
With a sports mentality, you throw yourself into everything
I was all over canyoning in Wadi Mujib, too. The water was so warm and the colour of the stone was incredible. I think my background as an elite sportswoman played into this, along with trying other challenging activities, like hiking through the heat of the desert.
With a sports mentality, you still feel fear of daunting feats, but you’re used to carrying on regardless. You throw yourself into everything. And, as an athlete, I’ve spent my life injuring my body, so I wasn’t worried about those kind of risks. Other people in the group were nervous, but I was so impressed and proud of their ability to push through it.
We went scuba diving in the Red Sea – exploring shipwrecks
Scuba diving wasn’t on the agenda, but brilliant Fadi was able to offer it as an extra activity. As a former England player, this was one of the activities that was off limits for me for many years due to my contract, so it was amazing to try it out at last. We got to explore a shipwreck at the bottom of the Red Sea. It was quite scary but the team around us made us feel safe.
The highlight of the trip for me was definitely Petra. It wasn’t just the experience of being in the rose-red city itself, but also arriving in the way that we did, hiking through a secret back-door passage. We learnt so much about the history and culture of the place – it was beautiful. Being able to explore iconic sights, such as the Monastery and the Treasury, was very special.
I’m already considering my next group getaway
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot during my career as a cricketer and sports presenter, but my adventure to Jordan is definitely up there as one of my all time favourites. It was a mixture of the way the trip was put together, the balance of activities and the leadership of our guide, Fadi. We all just fell in love with him; by the end he was like family.
I’m already considering my next group getaway, possibly to Vietnam or somewhere in South America, because travelling with Flash Pack feels like you have a community straight away. It’s this recipe that combines like-minded people with quick immersion into a new country via experiences that are full of meaning and help you to push yourself. It was an adventure from beginning to end.
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Images: Courtesy of Ebony Rainford-Brent