GoNOMAD Editor Travels to Iran: Recorder Article Jan. 2009


Need New Travel Ideas? Try Iran

Deerfield business owner details a trip to Iran on his online blog

By Chase Scheinbaum
Recorder Staff
the article appeared in Recorder Jan 7, 2009

Waiting in line for breakfast porridge in Shiraz, Iran. photo by Max Hartshorne.
Waiting in line for breakfast porridge in Shiraz, Iran. photo by Max Hartshorne.

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.”

More Friendly

Hartshorne, the owner of the former GoNOMAD Cafe and editor of the travel website GoNOMAD.com, has traveled to about 60 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 Hartshorne says make Iran a traveler’s dream.

The country is home to towering mountain ranges, deserts, ancient ruins, and shores of the Caspian Sea, art and history going back to the dawn of civilization.

No Throngs of Tourists in Iran

Iran is off the beaten travel path, making it attractive to crowd-weary travelers. He says you won’t find throngs of tourists like in Rome or Venice. Once you get there, it’s also a cheap place to travel. 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 discover his thoughts 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 website.

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 Recorder, Greenfield, MA print edition.

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