March 15th, 2020- Day 1 of the new normal

It has been quite some time since I last logged in to write. Since that day, much has changed. I moved back into my apartment in Oakland and began to readjust into my “normal” way of life in the USA which consists of working at least 2 jobs to sustain the kind of lifestyle I prefer to live; which involves a lot of eating, drinking and traveling.

I was just getting back into my groove when everything stopped due to Covid-19. Well, it didn’t stop totally abruptly, I felt it coming. I knew things were about to change forever but I thought I would have a little more time to prepare. I was wrong.

It was Sunday, March 15th, 2020. I was catching up with a friend over a few drinks at a dive bar about 40 minutes outside of Oakland when the bar phone rang. The bartender answered the phone and almost immediately looked confused. My friend was talking to me, but I had stopped listening to him. I was observing the body language of the bartender while he carried on a conversation I couldn’t hear.

He hung up the phone and picked up the remote to the jukebox while he took a few deep breaths. He then lowered the music and made an announcement, “Finish up your drinks, the bar is now closed”.

“WHAT!!?”- The overall reaction from each and every patron in the place.

I looked at my watch; it was 2:30 in the afternoon.

I looked at my friend; he laughed and said, “This must be a joke”.

I looked at the bartender; he picked up the remote for the television and changed the channel to reflect the local news – Our California Governor, Gavin Newsom, was on the television making an announcement.

“All non-essential businesses, including bars, were to shut down immediately and the enforcement would begin at midnight. “

The bar drew silent as people finished up their drinks, closed their tabs, and made their way to the door.

My friend invited me to his place where he suggested we have a few more drinks and watch the news. I declined. I needed to get home; who knew how long public transportation would keep operating.

As soon as I boarded the BART train a feeling of panic and dread began to settle in my chest.

What would happen next?

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Overcoming the fears of traveling

In my opinion, fear is the strongest emotion we have. It’s stronger than happiness, anger, and even love. Fear holds us back from so many things in our day to day life, and it especially holds us back when we try to plan for our future.

Recognizing that fear is a natural emotional reaction is important, but recognizing that you can overcome the fear is much more powerful.

Recently a friend of mine and I were talking about traveling. I had just arrived back from Vietnam and he put me up for a night in his home in D.C. so we and a few other friends could all catch up.

He asked me a ton of questions about my recent journey and continually told me he thought I was “so brave” for traveling to so many places; especially alone.

I asked him where he has desired to travel to, and he shared with me his long list of places he would like to see. He then expressed to me that he’s intimidated by the idea of traveling to foreign countries alone.

He told me he has tried to plan trips with friends in the past, but that the planning always falls to the wayside and in the end, nobody buys a ticket and nobody goes anywhere… (I think we are all familiar with this outcome when making plans with friends). He recognized that if he wants to go somewhere, he needs to just buy the ticket and go; regardless of whether his friends are able to join him or not.

Of course, I agreed with him!

I ran the circle of trying to make plans with friends for many years, and in the end, I learned that If I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I was better off taking the steps to make sure I could go, even if that meant going alone.

In no time, I got comfortable doing things alone. Whether that be attending a concert, enjoying dinner at a new restaurant, taking a flight for a weekend trip to Sin City or even driving a few miles to jump on a local hiking trail for a few hours. Regardless of what you want to do or how far you want to go, friends are not always the most reliable. At the end of the day, if you want to go somewhere, GO!!

I asked him what parts of traveling alone intimidates him the most and he told me that he doesn’t know the first step of getting aΒ visa (if he even needs one), planning how to get around in private cars, taxis or some form of public transportation, deciding where to stay, understanding foreign currency, communicating when he doesn’t speak the language….his list (like many others) went on and on.

I pulled out my laptop and began doing some basic searches on a few of the countries he has been dreaming of traveling to; Tahiti, Japan, Paraguay…

Within about five minutes he knew if he’d need a visa, whether those countries have UBER/ LYFT or their own version of ride share cars, the typical cost per mile (we speak in miles; we’re Americans) of private transportation, if there was a metro or other form of public transit he could use to save money, the highlights of the city/country he wants to see that are most recommended (I take other peoples recommendations rarely but do suggest having a loose plan for your first few days in a foreign place), the average cost of staying in these places based on currency exchange and whether English and/or Spanish (he’s bilingual) is a common language in those regions.

Within just those few minutes he had almost all the information that had him too concerned to take the necessary steps to actually make these desires a reality.

…and now he is planning his first big (likely solo) trip!!!

Seek out your desires!!

I look forward to following your amazing adventures!

Godspeed.

The cost of traveling

I’m finally back on American soil!

I returned back to the USA on October 26th and have been spending time with friends and family across Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington DC.

Since my return, I have had a several people ask me how much I spent traveling the world the last 5+ months, and every time I tell them, they’re shocked by how little money I spent.

I’ll tell you a secret right now; traveling doesn’t have to be expensive.

Once you know how to look for the right deals you’re on the right path. If you’re okay with basics over luxuries, your money will go even further!

For example, when looking for flights, Tuesdays are typically cheaper days to fly somewhere than Thursdays because there are a ton of people looking for “weekend getaways” which drives those prices up.

When looking for accommodation, take into consideration how much time you’ll actually SPEND in the room, and book according to your comfort level. I tend to spend very little time in my accommodations, so I typically book dorm style hostel beds. After a few days or weeks in a hostel, I’ll get myself a proper room just to reset, and go back to hostels again.

If you look now, Frontier Airlines has $15 US domestic flight deals. The offer ends tomorrow, the 13th of November, 2019. The airports and dates are limited, but if you play your cards right and pack minimally (no checked back or carry on; personal item only), you can book yourself a getaway of your own. If you’re not a light packer, be prepared to pay extra for a carry on or checked luggage.

Traveling is not easy. Whether it be domestic travel to a city or town you’ve never been before, or a foreign land where even the language is unfamiliar, it’s always a challenge. Recognize there will be a challenge, and embrace the challenging moments, because when you get though it (which you will), the feeling of self accomplishment is indescribable.

You got this.

While traveling is a passion of mine, after 162 days, I am very much looking forward to the quiet serenity of my personal sanctuary. I will be home around this same time next week and I can not wait to settle in and begin to share with all of you the beauty of my experiences.

The good, the challenging, and the funny.

Be well. Be happy.

Reflection

It has now been 110 days since I left my home in Oakland, California to begin my travels. I spent 9 weeks in Abu Dhabi with visits to Dubai, Al Ain and Oman, a month traveling though India, and now nearly two weeks in Thailand.

The time I spent in Abu Dhabi I was with my brother and his family. My purpose there was clear and my time was more or less structured. I had freedom to come and go, but ultimately I lived in a home with my own room and there was a place for everything.

Since leaving Abu Dhabi, I’ve been solo traveling, living out of a bag, with no plan from one day to the next. I’ve been staying mostly in mixed dorm hostels meeting people from all over the world; many of whom are doing the same thing as me.

I have met so many different types of people on this journey who will forever hold a special place in my heart. Each of them has taught me something about human nature whether that be about kindness, desire, fear, empowerment, or self love.

I have learned that people travel for all kinds of reasons.

Some travel because they’re running. Running from family or social pressures to “settle down”. Running from a bad experience like a divorce, break up, or death of someone close to them. Running from a mundane life they couldn’t put a smile on one more day for.

Some travel because they’re searching. Searching for love, searching for some kind of answer, searching for “themselves”.

Some travel for the adventure of the unknown. The self inflicted stress of learning their way though a new city in a new country where nobody speaks the same language.

Whatever it is, everyone has their reason for starting their journey, even though many don’t know exactly when their journey will end or where it will take them.

In fact, of all the traveling I’ve done and the people I’ve met on those journeys, this journey has been by far more eye opening in the number of travelers I’ve met who are my age and have no plan. People in their early and mid thirties from all over the world are on a mission to see the world and learn about the differences and similarities of us all and I think its beautiful and says a lot about my generation.

I just want to say that I’m proud of each and every one of the people that I’ve met. From the 19 year olds working at the party hostels to the 70 year old taxi driver, you have all brought something very valuable into my soul that I’ll hold onto forever. I hope to be able to share each persons story eventually.

Trying to find a moment to reflect.

When I began this blog, I had every intention of taking time out on a regular basis to write about my experiences.

Then I got to India and realized that getting reliable Wifi was sometimes a bit of a challenge, and that enjoying my experiences meant spending every moment in the present and not having much time to sit back and reflect.

I finally have found time to sit back and reflect in a hostel with reliable internet, and WOW.

My mind is exploding, my cheeks hurt from smiling, my heart pumps with more joy than I can even begin to explain and my eyes are brighter from the beauty I have seen with them.

I have been so incredibly blessed with the people I have met and the opportunity I have been given in India. I would never have guessed that my trip would be this way. My loose plan got looser and my friendships grew stronger.

And now I am sitting here attempting to reflect on it all and the joy brings me tears.

I will sit down very soon and write out the highlights of this journey in India, but for now I have only two more days to enjoy it and I can’t bare the idea of spending that time with my nose in a computer instead of in a conversation with someone who will be a complete stranger today and a valued friend tomorrow.

Be well. Be happy. Be brave.

Namaste.

Day two in Mumbai, India

I went to bed last night with a “plan” of how my day would be today… This was it:

Wake up at 6, shower, get ready, take a taxi to Gateway of India, get on ferry to Elorra Caves, maybe walk around that part of town for a bit, take taxi back.

That did NOT happen.

Instead, my day was so much more fantastic, it almost brought me to tears thoughout the day and nearly brings me to tears to think about it as I prepare to write about it right now…and I’m not an emotional person.

This is what DID happen:

I woke up at 6, showered, got ready and went down to the front to ask the reception the best way to get to Gateway of India. The receptionist told me I could take the local train which would take me 1.5 hours, or I could take a taxi which would take me 1 hour. Considering I wanted to get on the 9am train and it was nearly 7am, I told him I would rather the taxi. He told me to walk to the main road and take a right and that there was a taxi stand there I could get a driver from.

I walked to the main road and saw a line of tuk-tuks.

Unsure if this was the correct kind of taxi he was referring me to, I began to ask the men standing with their tuk-tuks if they could take me to Gateway of India. You would think I had made the place up as nobody seemed to know what I was talking about. The tuk-tuk drivers flagged down a local who appeared to be my age to try to use him as a translator. The translator talked to the tuk-tuk drivers for a few minutes and it seemed to me that nobody in the tuk-tuk group wanted to work this morning. The man who they had flagged down then told me that the tuk-tuks would not take me the whole way because it was too far, but that I could either take a tuk-tuk half way and take a taxi the rest, or just take a taxi the whole way but it would be upwards of 700 Rupees one way. I told him I’d rather just take the taxi, so he advised me that if I keep walking in the same direction and I’d see the taxi stand.

I walked down the same street, around a bend, and back up to where I had been nearly five times before already and didn’t see anything that looked like a taxi stand, so I asked someone new. The gentleman who helped me the second time told me to walk back the way I had come from and that the stand was right on the bend on my right hand side. He said the taxi would either be black and yellow, or blue and yellow.

I began to walk back.

As I was getting to the bend, I saw two black and yellow taxi -ish looking vans and I met eyes with an older gentleman sitting in the back of one who just happened to look up from his newspaper as I looked over at him. We smiled at each other, so I said a prayer and walked in front of all the incoming cars in order to make my way across the busy street to him.

“Are you a taxi driver?” I asked him

“Yes, where would you like to go?” he replied

“I’m trying to go to Gateway of India, though I understand it’s pretty far away.” I responded

“It’s no problem. You are a guest in my India, I will take you where you want to go.” He assured me. “Have a seat”, he said patting the backseat of the car where he had been sitting, “I will take you there, and if you want, I will take you site seeing and bring you back too.”

“Well, how much will that cost?” I asked him.

“For you, 1500 Rupee”

Considering it’s an hour drive and that’s only 20 US dollars, I agreed, and got in.

As we took off onto the crazy road, my driver began to share with me that he had been in Mumbai for 42 years and that he had been driving taxi for over 20 of those years. Before driving taxi, he parked cars for hotels (Valet?). He told me about his small village 1500km north and about his wife, children and grandchildren.

His grasp of the English language was not 100%, but I understood 90% of what he was saying to me which is more than good enough.

I then told him I intended to take the ferry to see Elorra Caves when we arrived at Gateway of India.

He looked at me strange and said, “Elephanta caves? Elorra caves is a 7 hour drive in the other direction.”

Considering I don’t feel confident about anything I say here, I said “sure!”, and we continued on our way.

Something told me I was in good hands and that wherever we were headed would be amazing.

As our journey continued, the driver, who by then I found out’s name was Tiwari, began to ask me how I wanted to plan the day. I told him I wanted to go to Gateway of India, get on the ferry to the caves, check them out, and then I would maybe want to grab a bite and head back.

Tiwari told me the ferry alone was an hour in each direction, but that “no problem, I will wait for you at the car whenever you return”.

This seemed ludicrous to me.. Drive me an hour to a place where I will take an hour to get to my destination and then check it our for at least an hour before taking another hour long ferry back …. that would mean him waiting at his taxi for at LEAST 3 hours for me if not longer… so I invited him to join me and told him I’d pay his way.

Ohhhh my, GAME CHANGER!!!

Tiwari was so excited at my offer, and we made a light plan for the rest of the day as we drove toward Gateway of India.

In the hour it took us to get to our destination we talked a lot about everything under the sun while he simultaneously pointed out our surroundings.

Tiwari and I spent the entire day together!! We walked around Gateway of India, jumped on the ferry to Elephanta Caves, explored the hand carved caves which is said to be one of the enigmatic heritage sites in India, met some furry creatures that I fell absolutely in love with, and then we drove around town and had a delicious Indian lunch, stopped for some beers and whisky, and then he drove me back to my hostel.

I was a whirlwind of emotions when I got back to my room this afternoon.

I will see Tiwari again tomorrow morning at 5am as he will be taking me to the train station for my departure to Goa. I told him I’d call him again prior to my return on the 4th of September in Mumbai so that he could show me more of this city he loves.

I have so much to look forward to!

I also have two more beers and some whisky to enjoy before bed!!

Mumbai– You’ve been awesome!! See you again soon!

Day one in Mumbai, India.

My first day in Mumbai has been great πŸ˜!!

I landed πŸ›¬ just after 4:30am πŸŒ… and got to my hostel around 5:30am πŸš•. Check in time is not until noon, but I had given the hostel a heads up that I’d be arriving really early and they said they would accommodate me if they could, or store my bags until check-in at noon if they could not πŸ€ž.

When I arrived, the man at the front desk told me he had beds available both in the mixed dorm (what I had booked) as well as an all female dorm. He suggested I take the bed in the female dorm because it was a bottom bunk and it would save me having to climb up and down every day. I took his advice, was shown to my room πŸ™Œ.

I put my bags πŸŽ’on the floor next to my bed, kicked off my shoes πŸ‘Ÿand crawled into my bunk fully dressed (I wasn’t about to dig though my pack for something to sleep in πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ) to grab a few extra hours of sleep πŸ˜΄.

I got out of bed around 9am (7am Abu Dhabi time), took a cold shower πŸšΏ(that took some getting used to πŸ˜¬ ), had breakfast at the hostel, and then ventured out into the world to find a sim card for my phoneπŸ“±.

I think I was warned about this city just enough πŸ˜³.

The smell here is truly hard to get used to πŸ€’. A combination of rotting meat and fish, human and animal waste, trash and pollution. Honestly, when I walk by a street cart and smell delicious food, it’s hard not to stop just to breathe for a little while πŸ˜·.

The roads here are insane! There are no real “lanes”, just cars, trucks, tuk-tuk’s, scooters, and bikes going in every which direction πŸŒͺ making crossing the street a test of trust and faith πŸ™ . I had been given a heads up and some advice on how to do it though, so I did fine. Never in my life have I slowly stepped out πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ in front of an oncoming car πŸš˜ and walked, slowly, to the other side πŸ˜².

I spent the morning eating my way around town (I couldn’t just smell the food and not try it!) and then came back to the hostel for a mid afternoon nap in the common room among other backpackers also napping, playing ping-pong πŸ“ and listening to music. When I got hungry again I ventured back out to find food, and just as the sky began to open πŸŒ§ up to drench the already muddy streets, I dipped into a restaurant called More’s Kitchen for Butter Chicken, naan, basmati rice and an ice cold beer πŸΊ. Everything I have eaten has been delicious with the perfect amount of spice!! Side note, it has been about two hours since my last bite of food, and my stomach still feels fine, yippi πŸ™Œ!

The weather here today was mostly partly cloudy πŸŒ₯ in the mid to high 80’s with mild humidity. A lovely break from the Middle East desert heat πŸ”₯.

Tomorrow I plan to get up early β° in order to get to the Gateway of India before 8:30 am and take a 9am ferry πŸ›³ to explore Elorra Caves.

If this is one of the hardest cities in all of India to acclimate to, I think I’ll be just fine πŸ’•.

A call on the one and only Ganesh

India: Ganesh Chaturthi or ‘Ganesh Festival’ image of the elephant-headed god Ganesh

I’ll pour myself a glass of Scotch before I write this one….

WARNING: This is a blow off post… there may be choice words some may not appreciate.

I was losing my mind this week. I was filled with so many emotions that no matter how far I ran in this disgustingly humid yet desert-like heat, I couldn’t arrange my thoughts into comprehension that I was comfortable with.

I felt like I got hit by a rogue wave and the bowl of shiny cherries I had been carrying around with me fell out of my hands and into the sand. The pieces all scattered in the sand or being washed away by the sea, and I couldn’t even find the bowl to put them back in… fuck!!

I could say it was frustration, but my frustration was in layers like a shitty cake.

I could say it was anger, but my anger stemmed from the past and the present and everything in between.

I could say it was confusion, but I was too confused to know why.

I could say it was even a little sadness, but I try to never admit my weaknesses…

So here I was.. losing my fucking mind.

Where do I start… breathe in… breathe out…

As you all know, taking any kind of risk has a certain monetary value. As you can imagine, quitting your job and taking off for months at a time means there is a bit more risk. Unless, of course, you’re blessed with one of those “WFH” jobs that allows you to really “Work from anywhere”… don’t get me started on my jealousy.

I thought I had all my “money” things in line. I had someone living in my place and paying my rent who would also send me my bills as they arrived so I wouldn’t miss any payments, money in my checking account to last me a few months of paying said bills/ traveling/ having some fun, money in my savings account for any emergency that may come about, and cash in my pocket.. My plan was set, but it all revolved around the first piece of the puzzle going down on time before the rest of the puzzle could fit into place.

As you can probably assume from my tantrum, the rent money didn’t come in on the 1st (and still hasn’t).

I, of course, paid my rent on the 1st, when it was DUE.

POOF: $1150 over budget.

I made contact with the individual* a few days ago who sayid they paid the rent and put all the blame on Wells Fargo for not ‘initiating the payment in time’.

They said it should arrive in my account no later than Wednesday..

*Nothing disgusts me more about a human being than one who can’t take responsibility for themselves and their actions..just simply say, “I waited until the last minute to pay the rent so it will be late this month, sorry”.

Puts me to my next money topic, my bills…

The same individual in my apartment was supposed to be sending me my bills as they came in. My routine was that I would receive the email and then I would go online and pay the bill…easy enough.

So why when I went to rent a car the other day to drive to Dubai did my card get declined for non payment!!? I went though the emails, nothing.. I made a 300 dollar payment on the card hoping that the large amount would open the availability of the card up to me sooner… no such luck. Luckily this country is so willing to accommodate they rented me the card without a deposit..

I’m sure my interest rate just went up over that garbage..

I spoke to a friend who agreed to grab my mail once or twice a week to send me my bills so hopefully it won’t happen again…ok, another positive.

So here I was, all week, trying to plan my next move (I have to leave UAE by August 18th because my visa expires, again), and I had almost no fucking play money to buy my plane tickets with and my credit card was being declined due to “missed payment”..so I was dipping into my savings account and giving myself a damn anxiety attack in the process.

Because time is sensitive and the days of waiting last minute to purchase tickets on the cheap are over, I purchased my ticket to Mumbai. I booked accommodation for a few nights there and booked a 11 hour train to Goa because after being on “vacation” the last few months, I decided that I need a fucking coastal party in India to relax these nerves, I also booked my accommodation there (I hope 5 days isn’t too long..or too short..).

All booked, still no rent deposit into my account.

I contact my bank… maybe there is an issue on their side??

NOPE.

Stop. Breathe. Call an Arabic friend because instead of puff, puff, pass, they’re full of positivity, positivity, pass.

My Arabic friend 1. got me to breathe and remember “life is good”, and 2. set me up with his personal driver in India and promised me that this guy would take good care of me.

I called his driver in India who informed me that there is currently a taxi strike in India** , but that he would be sure to pick me up wherever I needed him.

**Looking at you, Ganesh!!*

Ok, a few weeks out are booked, money should deposit any day; why did I still feel like shit?

I called an old lover and friend and confessed that my excitement of traveling alone has dwindled down to anxiety. Confessed that this kind of an adventure that I used to crave and feed off of now feels like such trouble and that I’m feeling all the feels about leaving my family and traveling alone and that every step just feels so daunting all of a sudden. I told him that “giving up” and going home seemed like a better option right now.

He told me, “It’s not giving up if that’s what you want to do, but let’s talk though your other options…”

We did.

I decided to stay….

Today I took a break from the travel planning to spend some quality time playing pretend with my niece and nephew, and then went to the pool to drown in the heat and some crappy teenage book that was left in the house from the previous family that lived here.

I began to feel better…finally.

After the pool I took a hot shower, shaved my legs (it sometimes just makes me feel like a new woman), and jumped back on the computer.

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

My productivity came back!! My anxiety dwindled.

I got the paperwork together and applied for my India Visa and I booked myself to stay in India through Ganesh Chaturthi (The festival celebrates Lord Ganesha as the God of New Beginnings and the Remover of Obstacles as well as the god of wisdom and intelligence..If you know me, you’ve seen my home and my tattoo) and then began to forward think from there…

I started to stare at the map… Thailand? Vietnam? Cambodia? Indonesia???

Where will I go next?

Finally, I’m excited again…

This was a hard week…

A sense of safety

When I first began to tell my friends and family that I would be traveling to the Middle East, the most common reaction was concern about my safety.

Even as I’ve been here for now for over two months, I still get the occasional message asking me about how “safe” I feel here.

Well, let me just tell you that since arriving in the Middle East, I have met mostly only absolutely amazing people. From Abu Dhabi to Al Ain, to Dhank, Oman, and up to Dubai. I’ve rented two cars and driven all over this beautiful desert meeting people all along the way.

The only people I’ve met here who I didn’t particularly enjoy were a group of Americans who were drunk at a pool bar (getting drunk in public here is very frowned upon) talking about how they’re better than everyone because they’re Christians and serve in the US Navy (seriously, these particular guys were awful).

The people I have met who are from here are kind, generous and proud of their country. They acknowledge how much their government does for them and are appreciative of the things they have. They are excited to show you their culture and introduce you to their way of life. They are quick to ask you if you need help if they sense you’re lost or confused. They are very highly educated and have well thought out formed opinions.

The locals I have met here are the kind of people you can sit and have a conversation with for hours, and I love to talk.

Last Saturday I was laying poolside talking to a local Arabic friend about the hard parts of life. This particular day we talked about guns and gangs and violence. We talked about terrorism and hate. We talked about hardships and the crime we have personally experienced. We talked about the perspectives we’ve been fed by our government and our media. We talked about the differences in our countries laws and possible solutions for it all. We even talked about the importance of mental health.

Our conversation was eye opening to me.

You see, I am a 33 year old female from the United States of America and I have personally experienced more crime in my life than this 36 year old man who was born and raised in Dubai.

I have experienced more death (suicide, cancer, overdose and accidental), I have experienced more hate, I have experienced more gun violence, more depression, more anxiety, more more more more more of all the negative things in life… and it never really occurred to me that these things do not have to be “just a part of life” like I had always thought.

My Arabic friend doesn’t know a single person who has committed suicide or died from a drug overdose. He only knows one person who got cancer, and they got treated in Belgium (paid for my the UAE government) and has not had cancer again since. He doesn’t know anyone who owns a gun, but he does know a guy who has a pet tiger (which is against the law here). He has never met anyone who has been stabbed. He has never seen a dead person on the sidewalk. He still remembers the first fight he saw at a night club.

This is not a sheltered man. In fact, he has traveled much of the world and experienced several cultures. He speaks six languages.

We chatted all afternoon.

The next day when I went to see him, I told him about what had just happened in Gilroy, California. 4 dead, 15 injured.

His eyes got wide and his forehead crinkled. He put his head down and shook it side to side and said, “Some people are so sick”.

Little did I know that less than 7 days later I’d be telling him about another one. This time, El Paso, Texas. This time 20 dead, 26 injured.

It seems to me that I am safer staying here…

Meeting People Is Easy

“Meeting people is easy”.

I remember the first time I heard that phrase. I don’t really know how old I was, though if I do the math I was probably around 13.

I remember hearing that phrase and having an instant emotional connection to it. At the time, I don’t think I quite understood the depths in which it affected me, but as the years have gone by and I’ve grown older, moved cities and traveled countries, I am reminded how rooted that phrase is for me.

I think that when I’m stuck in the monotony of my day to day life, the phrase tends to slip away from the front of my mind. I get tied up in my routine, my neighborhood, my regular waterholes with my regular friends and there isn’t much of a challenge to “get along”.

It’s when I travel that I am hit the hardest by the true weight of what those words mean to me.

You see, as long as I can remember I have known someone who doesn’t have it as easy as me. I may not have known the words at the time (anxiety, depression, antisocial, loner, etc…) , but I recognized who those people were around me, and I always wanted to comfort them.

Maybe if I raise myself in the middle of the bully and them then the bully will lash out on me and leave them alone.

Maybe if I sit next to them at recess and tell them I don’t want to play tag either then they will feel less alone.

Maybe if I walk home from school with them they won’t feel so afraid.

I’ve been that person for as long as I can remember, and I’m sure my family could tell you countless more stories about me doing similar acts at an age that I was too young to even remember myself doing it.

The truth is, I have never found it difficult to talk to people. I have never been afraid to hold a conversation with a stranger no matter how kind or unkind that person appears to be.

Sure, sometimes in conversations people disagree with me. Perhaps they see a situation in a different way than I do and that’s fine, everyone has the right to see a situation though the lenses of their own reality, but in the end, I have still never had a problem meeting people.

I come up with this subject today because I literally just had one of the best weekends of my life with someone I met while sitting at a pool bar a few weeks ago, and if it weren’t for me being exactly who I am, and them being exactly who they are, we would have never met.

In the eyes of our “societies”, we shouldn’t have met.

Now, before anyone starts getting all hyped up about how its 2019 and people are mingling all over the world and nobody should let society dictate what they do in life, hear me out.

Before being offered the opportunity to come to the Middle East, I never ever ever would have even considered it being a destination for me. In my ignorance I thought that all of the Middle East was a war zone.

Before I formed that ignorant opinion, which was likely because of the wars that started after 9/11, I never really gave much thought to the Middle East at all.

I always knew that different parts of the world had different ways of life, and I have always been drawn to the idea of traveling as much of the world as I can, but I really just never saw myself here.

Anyway, back to my story:

I met this guy and he had a very deep voice that captivated my attention, so I listened carefully to his words.

We talked for about an hour or so and shared another round of drinks before he had to head out. We exchanged numbers and went our separate ways.

We stayed in touch and thru our chatting I discovered more about him and his background. I quickly learned that he comes from a very deeply rooted traditional Arabic family. That he wears a Kandura during his regular day to day, and even though he’s 36, he doesn’t tell his family that he drinks and likes the occasional wild party.

We chatted often about the Arabic culture and where I should travel to and things I should do here in the UAE. We chatted about places I want to go and where he has gone and he offered to link me with friends he has in so many different countries around the world.

Then, this past week, he said he would come down to Abu Dhabi for two nights to hang out with me.

The weekend was great! Montecristos, scotch, Shisha, pools, beach, sunshine, dancing and good food. We got along so well you would have thought we’d have known each other forever! And yet, we never should have met.

If he were to have followed his strict family tradition, he would have never been at the bar we met at in the first place.

If I would have listened to the concerns of so many of my family and friends or continued to think that the Middle East was entirely war stricken, I would have declined the opportunity to be in the UAE and I wouldn’t have been their either.

And yet, we met and became instant friends.

Yes, I have met some real pricks in my day, and I promise you that not everyone has kind words to say in describing me, but in the big picture, out of the hundreds of people we cross paths with each day, most people are good people, across the whole globe, and meeting people is easy.

Be well. Be happy.