To be even typing this, I am ecstatic. This is the feeling of finally living a life long dream. For 19 years I have dreamt, and waited patiently for my opportunity to trot around the globe. And it came in the most unexpected way : my mother’s midlife crisis. What else do you call it when your mother of 50 wakes up one day and starts travelling across the country(India)? I could not join her on most of those trips because of college. But for this one I somehow made time and things just fell into place for my first trip abroad.
We were unprepared and excited, and I’ve come to realise that it’s a great combination if you’re looking for some adventure.
We landed in UAE, Dubai. on the 13th of October. I was rudely woken up by the flight attendant at around 4 AM. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to wake up! The first hour went in just taking it all in. It was all smiles and sunshine till the hunger kicked in and our tour guide still hadn’t shown up to take us to our hotel. Then the stark realisation that we had no means of communication made things worse. We didn’t get a SIM card that would work in Dubai, and apparently talk time is pretty darn expensive there. But it really didn’t matter to me. I just wanted to be able to ask for some words of advice from my Dad at this terrible hour. But I never got to do that. I ended up eating at the airport. The double chocolate muffin sort of turned things around and I saw a little clearer.
We finally found our guide at around 8 after four hours of waiting. He unapologetically informed us that we couldn’t check in to our hotel until 2 PM. The tour company’s carefully thought out plan was to show the tourists around Dubai WITHOUT SHOWERING OR GETTING ANY SLEEP. What you’d probably know about me by now is that I am hot-headed and a control freak so things were not going very well for me with this whole lack of organisation. But the City made it all go away..
There were underwater bridges, and palm shaped Islands. I saw buildings that could almost touch the sky and white sandy beaches that stretched out into the beautiful coastline. And oddest of all, trees in the middle of a desert. I had never seen anything so surreal in my life. We drove around Sheikh’s palace and all the beautiful buildings on the Dubai Skyline. In those moments I was a child again, seeing the world for the very first time.
This trip had a lot of bumps. For instance, it wasn’t part of out tour package to visit the Burj Khalifa. (For those of you who don’t know it’s the tallest building in the world.) I was extremely dejected that we couldn’t get the tickets to go. It was the lack of communication that hit me hard at times like that. Then, we got lost often and we couldn’t easily find our way back because I didn’t have GPS without a SIM card. Let’s not even talk about the terrible service in the restaurant in the hotel we were staying in. I was pretty miserable. After the city tour, going to the mall was a big let down. There’s nothing adventurous about a bunch of outlet stores.
What I learned in time (thankfully) is that I could survive on my own if I tried. Even in a different country. Even without a cell phone. I ended up tracking down an agent and going to the Burj Khalifa the very next day. I honestly felt like someone who had just climbed Everest. It was exhilarating. Standing on top of the Burj, I felt as high as I was. It wasn’t just the view, it was also the pride in having found my own way there. It might seem silly to you but I’ve never really done anything on my own. I’ve been protected my whole life. This was my first taste of freedom. and I LOVED it.
The desert safari was another touristy thing that I enjoyed on the night of the second day. The thrilling drive was just the beginning. It was a night of meeting these new amazing people. Right from the Camel herder to, the Emirati (a local) who drove our jeep, none of them failed to amaze me. I never thought I could relate to a Camel herder on selfie skills. Seriously. And watching my first ever sunset in the desert was incredible! It was truly a night to remember.
When I woke up on the third day, little did I know that things would take such an unexpected turn. Did you know that Dubai is a hub for illegal first copies of branded goods? One morning, we were walking down a shopping street when a man suddenly approached us asking if we wanted brands for less. Having watched my share of the Sex in the City movies I nodded along. I did not think it would be that cool but it was!!! I won’t lie that it wasn’t scary. We stood in a dark alley with men talking in hushed tones carrying sacks from one room to another. For a minute there, it felt like the beginning of a bad horror movie. Then they took us to an apartment in the back with piles and piles of bags, watches and purses in Coach and Jimmy Choo! I’m pretty sure I even saw a few Rolex’s just like in the movie. I got a few things just to remind myself that I went where Carrie Bradshaw did! Pretty damn cool for my first overseas trip, I’d say. 😀 But I don’t think it’s as illegal as they made it seem in the movie because no one really cared that much about busting them.
We also got a glimpse of Abu Dhabi the capital of UAE the next day. It was much bigger than Dubai, and the people seemed richer. But it was quiet and residential. I prefer the aura of a busy City to suburbia. I got to wear a burka and everything to enter a sacred mosque which was extremely cool! 😀 The whole building was filled with an eery silence and it smelled sterile. I spent around 5 minutes at each pillar photographing the intricate carvings. I’ve never seen anything so beautifully crafted, and I don’t think I ever will. You’ve got to hand it to the Arabs for their craftsmanship.
After a tiring day of roaming around Abu Dhabi I eagerly awaited the cruise that had been planned for the night for some long over due relaxation. The Dhow cruise was indeed memorable but not in the way you’d expect. I went on board a leaky ship with dreams of getting a perfect view of the skyline with the lights and everything. Instead, the cruise was in an area with virtually NO buildings. Or anything except for the other sad boats that were floating around. The tour company had failed us once again. But it was almost the last day and our tour group was so exasperated that we ended up laughing so hard at our own plights. We were at this point where nothing more could go wrong. The on board entertainment wasn’t all that bad. A man wearing colourful skirts twirled around and around in circles until everyone but him felt dizzy, that was his talent of choice. I guess you can literally make money out of anything if you tried hard enough.
The last and final day, I decided to just do everything I possibly could and say good bye to the beautiful Dubai city. I got to see dolphins for the first time. I dearly missed my dog each time the dolphin did a trick and looked to its trainer with excitement, for approval. I’m pretty sure I teared up. But it was a good feeling. The first thing I did when I came home was hug my dog. It’s funny that it was my dog I missed the most during this trip.
When I thought I’d seen everything, I was in for a treat on my last evening there. I fell in love with their cuisine. It is what I miss the most right now. What I would give for a bite of Arabian Shawarma, or a taste of Pakistani biriyani. It was a shame that I only discovered my love for their food on the last day. Till that I never had time and ended up eating in the hotel we were staying in which had a pathetic excuse for a restaurant.
The flight back home was bittersweet. I was coming back home, where things felt more in control. But I knew that I’d miss that uncertainty and the excitement that came with getting lost in a foreign country. Getting lost is truly how you find yourself. If you’re reading this, you’ll probably wonder whether or not I’m happy about the trip. Well thats the thing. Everything in life comes packaged with the good and the bad. It can be a trip, or something else you’ve wanted for a long time. When you actually get it, I can guarantee that it won’t just be what you imagined. There will be ups and downs. When you’re open to the lessons life has planned, it’s hard not to have a good time.
– The Obsessive Writer.