On Tuesday 8 October at 2 am I can finally call myself the official owner of 1627 Living Lebanon guidebooks. Stored at the attic of my friend’s place (the printer company forgot to deliver them in boxes, so let’s forget about how they got there) they are ready for distribution and sale.
After the small pre-launch party on the 9th of October, where I shared the first copies of the guidebook with my friends, and distribution of my guidebook to the first 9 selling points in Beirut, I felt there finally was time to relax and enjoy.
It was only two weeks later that I laid sick in bed, caught by stress, exhaustion and every lack of perspective. I guess it’s like giving birth to a child: you think that after you get rid of that big belly, things will get easier. Well, no… Like a child after birth, also a book after publishing gets to lead its own life. First of all, people start to share with you their opinions about it. And trust: one critical comment against a hundred of positive ones; you can only focus on that critical one. As of now, I will only share positive things about my friend’s newborn babies. Not liking the name that much; I’ll tell them I do! Secondly, and the most difficult to handle, are the tiny omissions you slowly become aware of. In spite the many times people in the business told me that publishing a book without at least a few mistakes is impossible; I wanted my guidebook to have none. So finding out about them, especially in pages that you have had edited so many times, is awful, nerve wrecking and a guarantee to become very insecure. Even after I spent several hours on Google to find out that the Lonely Planet guidebooks are filled with omissions, I felt devastated, sad and angry.
It was a phone call with my mam to make me realize I did not only publish a guidebook, no, I also became the guidebook. Fortunately, a friend from the Netherlands had just called me with the good news that she was planning on visiting me for 6 days; so I took the advice of my mam to plan these days without focusing on my guidebook and take some time off.
Having a visitor in Lebanon is amazing; finally you can share the beauty of the country you have been talking about for years. But there always is also this tiny pressure; what if they don’t like it. Knowing myself, I have this tendency of exaggerating, especially if I am enthusiastic about something. So there my friend was, and now it was up to me to show her the greatness of Lebanon.
Following a visit to the picturesque old centre of Byblos and two days of sunbathing – adding to the latter the enjoyment of the knowledge that in the Netherlands people are long wearing their winter coats – it was time to head to my favourite part of Lebanon: the mountains! With a rental car under our butt, our first destination was Qadisha Valley where we tested the strength of our tires during a dirt road drive from Deir Mar Elisha to just before Deir Qannoubin, and from there enjoyed a lovely hike to Saydet Hawqa and back. As there where some protests in Bcharre – some tire burning just next to the hostel we were planning to stay – we headed to Ehden, a 20 minute’ drive from Bcharre.
Back in Ehden… Ehden is the mountain village where three years ago I started to realize I wanted to live in Lebanon. Although I had returned there a few times after, this time it was different. Enjoying a morning coffee on the lovely three-shade square of al-Midan, spending two nights in one of the amazing new cedar-wood bungalows of restaurant el-Rabieh, waking up with splendid balcony views and taking a hike in the beautiful autumn-colored Horsh Ehden Nature Reserve. And then it happened: I fell in love with it again!! The exact happy feeling I experienced in November 2010, yet now with one big difference: I lived in Lebanon, I had published my guidebook and I had the freedom to visit these places as many times as I felt like.
Also included in our mountain trip was a visit to the Khalil Gibran museum (where I bought The Prophet again), a small hike in the old Cedar forest, enjoying a Lebanese Brew in the chairlifts of the snow resort, hitting one of the hiking trails of the Tannourine Nature Reserve and enjoying the views and (now very tiny) waterfall of Balaa sinkhole.
And my friend: I think Lebanon won another soul!