Need New Travel Ideas? Try Iran
Deerfield business owner details trip to Iran on his online blog
By Chase Scheinbaum
article appeared in Recorder Jan 7, 2009
DEERFIELD– Max Hartshorne became the envy of his traveler-friends when he spent eight days in Iran around Thanksgiving. Everyone else thought he was crazy.
“Why would you willingly spend the money and time–and possibly put yourself at risk–traveling to a country that is hostile to Americans?” they asked.
While there is widespread anti-American sentiment, he suggests Iran is quite welcoming to Americans. “Nothing bothers them more than the perception that they hate us,” he said.
Contrary to what most Westerners think, he says, Iran is a modern and wealthy country. “This is not Afghanistan, this is not Iraq.”
Hartshorne, owner of GoNOMAD Cafe and editor of the travel web site GoNOMAD.com, has traveled to about 30 nations. Iranians, “are noticeably more friendly and more trusting than any other country,” he said. “As a traveler that makes you feel great.”
He attended a tourism conference in Tehran, the nation’s capital, and toured the country, paid for by the conference organized by the Iranian Tour Operators Association. The aim of the four-day conference, Hartshorne says, was “to get people to think of Iran in terms of travel.”
Tour operators from North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East were encouraged to build relationships with Iranian tour operators to boost inbound travel.
Attendees were taken to some of the most stunning places in the country–places that Hartshorne says make Iran a traveler’s dream.
The country is home to towering mountain ranges, deserts, ancient ruins, shores of the Caspian Sea art and history going back to the dawn of civilization.
Iran is off the beaten travel path, making it attractive to crowd-weary travelers. You won’t find throngs of tourists, he says, like in Rome or Venice. Once you get there, it’s a cheap place to travel, too. US credit cards or traveler’s checks are not allowed. Alcohol and dance clubs are banned.
Hartshorne said he was fingerprinted in the Tehran airport before officials let him go free. The diplomatic visas procured for the visitors on this trip were the first issued by Iran to Americans in more than 30 years.
But that is not the whole story, Hartshorne says. Iranians were eager to find out what he thought about their country, asking him “What do you think of Iran? What do you think of Iranians?
Iranians Love Americans
“Americans have to realize that they’re safe and they’re loved there,” he said.
Hartshorne was invited by Thomas Steinmetz of eTurbonews, who extended invitations to travel writers like Hartshorne on behalf of the Iranian government in the hopes that he would write travel articles about Iran, which he published on his web site.
Hartshorne believes the tour signals an increase in travel to Iran by Westerners. “To me this is a symbolic crack of the door,” he said.
This story appeared on January 7, 2009 in the print edition of the Recorder, Greenfield MA.