Krista Tollefson | SEM Specialist in Bellevue
I have been with Expedia for four years now working with teams across the globe and it’s not uncommon for us to travel to other offices. This year the operations teams were given a chance to do just that but it wasn’t to a location we had heard of before in the context of work. This year we had the opportunity to travel to Amman, Jordan, and partner with the SEM Engineering teams there.
My first thought following the announcement was “um, we have an office in Jordan!?” My second thought, er, question, was “holy cow, how long is that flight going to be?” A few Google searches revealed to me that Jordan would be a minimum 17-hour flight and that the country shares borders with Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Jerusalem. If you read between the lines what I’m trying to say is that Jordan is in the Middle East and if you’re a westerner like me it’s very likely you think the Middle East is “scary”. As you can imagine this opportunity that had been presented to us was equal parts exciting and terrifying. But let me tell you something. My trip to Jordan was the best trip I have been on to-date.
Flights and hotels booked, passport checked, bags packed and travel day upon us. If we cruise right on past a missed connecting flight and temporarily lost luggage we find ourselves at the W Hotel positioned just off of The Boulevard in a very trendy area in Amman. This part of the city caters to the traveler so naturally a co-worker and I walked as far from this part of the city as we could on the very first day to get a real feel for the city. We found ourselves wandering through residential neighborhoods comprised of buildings three stories or taller and most on steep hills, past local businesses tucked in any and every place you could fit one, beautiful mosques, and even past herds of goats nibbling on grass beside the freeway. The most notable thing from this adventure was how much we stuck out but how comfortable we felt wandering around freely, even sans head covering for me.
With Sunday upon us (Monday for those in Jordan due to Friday being the Muslim Sabbath/their Saturday), it was time to work. We worked hard in Amman but when you work hard you get to play hard. We spent lunches chatting with our local teams about all things Jordan and evenings out with our hosts eating amazing food, checking out historical structures, and generally enjoying a culture that is incredibly rich in history and welcoming to foreigners. With so many cultural differences it was intimidating to know what to do and say at times, but we were shown nothing but kindness and understanding.
One does not go to Jordan without visiting Petra. At the end of our last day in Amman, we all made the long drive to the “Rose City”, coined as such due to the pink sandstone cliffs the city is carved into. This was one of the single most incredible things I have ever done in my entire life (floating in the Dead Sea was pretty great too). I spent hours hiking through Petra visiting every last archeological site and watching droves of tourists being carted through the canyons by horse and donkey. The energy there was palpable. A picture could never do this place justice.
After the workweek was over a co-worker and I went on to visit Israel and Jerusalem as well. I would have never had the opportunity to see these incredible places without an employer that puts into practice what it preaches – helping people bring the world within reach. “Bleisure” allows me to do the work that I love alongside people I’m proud to work with, make new friends, have new experiences and expand my world view. Oh, and also try some really killer food. So cheers to bleisure!
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