Becoming A Team

By GIRLWITHABOOK Co-Founder, Lena Shareef

This entire trip was an insane idea. Not only is it completely crazy to try to visit four different countries in a row over the course of four months, but to do it with two other people who I have never traveled with before? Sounds ill advised at best, and potentially catastrophic at worst.

How was this going to work?

I knew Olivia and Jen separately. Despite the fact that we all attended the same undergraduate university, we didn’t necessarily hang out with the same crowds (at the same time) while we were there. In fact, I met Jen right before we studied abroad together in Cairo, Egypt during our junior year. Our friendship actually formed while we were overseas. And I met Olivia during my senior year, but didn’t really get to know her well until the week of my graduation when she needed a place to crash. Both Olivia and Jen didn’t even know each other until about a year before we embarked on this crazy trip. Well, they knew of each other but never hung out until I introduced them.

The three of us hadn’t even been in the same room until July 2015. And even then, we were only able to be together for only 24 hours. Let that sink in: The three of us were only able to see each other in person for only 24 HOURS, a mere 3 months before embarking on our epic, crazy trip to South and Central Asia.

I ask you again, how on earth was this going to work?

It’s a question I constantly asked myself leading up to the trip and constantly pushed to the back of my mind because I just didn’t want to think about it. What if we fought every single day? What if we all ended up hating each other? What if we couldn’t agree on who to interview or the subject matter of each interview or the hotel to stay at in every city we went to? What if we couldn’t agree on anything?

Although none of us had any answers to any of those questions, we did have one thing: the mission. We knew that this trip wasn’t about us. It was about all the incredible girls and women we were about to meet. It was about their dreams, their voices, their stories. This was the mission. 

We also made a pact to always be honest with one another. If something felt wrong or uncomfortable, we had to let each other know. No excuses.

That helped a lot, but there were still plenty of bumps along the way.

But...we stumbled. There were days when we didn’t agree. There were times when we got on each other’s nerves. A lot. Sometimes there was a little passive aggressive attitude going around. Other times, the silent treatment took over. And then there were the interviews. The first few were super awkward. We all felt a little unsure of ourselves. Was the camera angle ok? Is this the right way to connect a lav mic? Do we even know what we’re doing? (Thankfully we really took the “fake it til you make it” attitude to heart. It helps)!  

But we always came back to our normal selves for the mission. Even though we messed up at times and got irritated, we knew we could always rely on us as a team. Plus, we recognized that we had a healthy dose of luck on our side.

Because we did get lucky. I had the smartest, coolest, most talented, and versatile young women by my side. Whatever challenge came our way, we problem solved the shit out of it. All while keeping our eyes on the mission. did we make this work? Like everything else. One day at a time.

A selfie from every country we went to! Starting in the top left going clockwise: Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, India.

A selfie from every country we went to! Starting in the top left going clockwise: Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, India.