If you know me, you know I love to travel. Thankfully, I have friends who live all over the US and a brother who lives across the world which, obviously, makes it easier for me.
I try to visit new places, but I love visiting my friends too much and find too many good flight deals to stop going to see them. In the past few years, I’ve frequented Nashville, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas, Denver, Chicago, Philadelphia, and my most recent travels abroad to the Middle East, which seems like a good place to start…
My journey abroad was my first time traveling overseas, and I just happened to be doing this alone. Why the Middle East, you ask? Of all the places in all of the World my brother could have been placed with his company, he ended up in Doha, Qatar.
At first, I was not thrilled with this, but once I realized I was going to get to go somewhere that’s not popular for most people to visit, it seemed a lot more appealing. I was going to experience a culture that is incredibly unique and completely different than my every day, American life. Traveling overseas was one of the most incredible experiences and the trip of a lifetime, thanks to my brother!
I started out with a 21 hour layover in Amsterdam. Alone. My first time to another country and I’m exploring it ALONE. Now, also if you know me, you’d know this is not something I would normally do, but when in Rome! Or Europe, for that matter… It was terrifying and exciting all in the same. As my train arrived in the city, a rush of panic came over me as the crowd of people rushed around me and I realized I had no clue where I was going or what I was doing. So, I picked a route and found a Starbucks immediately to gather my bearings and caffeinate after a somewhat sleepless night on my 8 hour, coach seat flight.
Little did I know, all of my planning and all of the maps I printed and screen shots I took with my iPhone wouldn’t matter once I hit the streets on my journey to my hotel. I got incredibly lost and my 30 minute walk turned into an hour and a half. At first, I tried my best to go with it and take pictures and figure it out on my own, but soon I realized I needed to ask for help and found some really nice women who finally showed me where the streets signs are. That’s all I needed. Every single person that I talked to before I went failed to mention that their street signs are not like ours. THAT’S VITAL INFORMATION. Please remember to mention this to first timers if they ask for any advice. After that, I was fine. Apparently, so much so that I looked enough like a local to be stopped and asked for directions. Of course, the first word I utter he says, “Oh, you’re not from here”. What gave that away? My Southern accent or the shirt I’m wearing that says “y’all” on it? But soon enough, I was safe and sound at my hotel and stayed close for the rest of the night until the bus ride back to the airport the following morning.
The next few days, I spent in Doha where I saw Westerners few and far between. I loved not being like everyone else. It was fascinating to me to learn how they live and how badly they drive and the things they do that’s so different than how we operate here. It was definitely an eye-opening experience and made me appreciate America that much more.
Every day, I would meet my brother for lunch (he was working a few days while I was there) and he would take me somewhere for dinner every night and show me different areas of the city. We went to The Pearl (the man-made island) one night for dinner, visited the Souq (the Old World market), and I spent some time in the malls that are much different that those here. One I went to had a canal, like Venice, and painted skies, a theme park, and every high-end store you can think of, for adults AND kids!
The last two days I was there, we spent in Dubai. And YES, it’s as fabulous as you would think. Our trip was short, but we squeezed in as much as we could. That Friday, we went to Dubai Mall, saw the Fountains, and the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. It was absolutely breath taking. That afternoon and evening, we went on a desert excursion which was spent dune bashing and eating amazing Middle Eastern food. Afterwards, we were dropped off by the Burj to see the Festival of Lights and walk the streets of marble. Dubai is basically Las Vegas on crack. The amount of money in that city is outrageous… The last day, we went to Mall of the Emirates so my bro could get in a “ski trip” on the indoor slope and then we flew back to Doha so I could catch my flight back to the US. We ended up making one more stop by the Souq, saw some camels, and had dinner at Turkish restaurant called Turkey Central which was quite possibly some of the best food I’ve ever had.
My travels back home took about 32 hours, but it was well worth the jetlag! I would definitely go back to the Middle East in a heartbeat and encourage anyone to travel there. It’s an incredible place, y’all.
So, there’s that trip in a nutshell and my first blog post!
Next stop — Denver!