It’s hard to fathom I graduated university last year. Why does it seem like it was 40 years ago!?
A lot has happened since I left my comfy university bubble, from working in 9-5 government positions to pursuing my travel dream and everything that has occurred since. The end of 2017 arrives with a tinge of sadness, at the thought of growing older (albeit wiser) and attaining more responsibilities that I yet don’t want to grasp. But I have noticed I matured this year, thanks to surviving office politics and travel. I don’t mean to sound cringey—but I’m not the same young, naïve woman I once used to be, immersed in textbooks and Thai takeout. Even my mother noticed. *tears up*
I jumped at the opportunity to really travel in 2017, whether in another country or to places within my country, Canada. It started with my trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
I spent summer 2017 in the city of Al Ain, situated in the Abu Dhabi emirate. I didn’t know what heat was until I was forced to endure the summertime desert sun. Hot is an understatement. Most days, my clothes clung to my skin, drenched with sweat that seeped through my underwear. I traveled to the UAE carry-on only to try minimalist travel. Might sound like a bad idea, but I think it was a success. I rented a car, which taught me to research driving laws in another country, before driving there, I mean, who knew about the radars located every couple metres? The UAE was an interesting experience, which opened my eyes and taught me more about how the Islam is incorporated in the Gulf countries. There was the good, but also the not-so-good, which I will attend to in a later post.
- Dune bashing
- Jet skiing in the Persian Gulf
- Exploring the quirky rides at Motiongate Dubai
- The one day it rained
- Summertime heat
- Sweaty clothes
- Getting into a car accident
- My heart skipping a beat when my sister fell off the jet ski (she doesn’t know how to swim).
What I learned
The UAE has excelled at creating an image of luxury and class, but that’s just on the surface. From a country that has gone from barren desert land to hosting the tallest building in the world in just a matter of years, there must be more than meets the eye to that image—and there is. There was a level of superficiality in the UAE that I couldn’t stand, some even say the country is soulless (but that’s for another post). I did enjoy a lot of my time here, while also being appalled at some of its laws. Maybe I felt more strongly about it than others, because I am a Muslim woman.
I took time to explore the vast, beautiful country I live in: Canada. Where I live, Ontario, provides a nice balance of city life with rural landscapes and quaint towns just within reach.
Banff was no exception.
Banff town is a mixture of old town vibe meets modern architecture, with a background draped with the Canadian Rockies. Alberta is lowkey known as the Texas, or America, of Canada, due to the sheer number of conservative voters who reside there. But the people I met in Banff and Calgary were friendly as hell. The scariest, but most lovely activity I did was learning to drive a moped, which I drove on the roads of Banff town. It was a fantastic way to explore Banff’s lakes, waterfalls and mountains. I recommend it to anyone who will visit Banff.
The city also hosts the well-known Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, two majestic, glacier-fed lakes that turn turquoise blue in summer.
- Arriving bright and early to canoe in Lake Louise to avoid the long lineup
- Finishing the Plain of Six Glaciers hike
- Alberta charges 5% tax as opposed to Ontario’s 13%, which called for a shopping spree
- Being surrounded by beautiful scenery
- A speeding ticket while driving from Jasper to Banff (the cops stood around the highway bend, where the speed limit changes and caught everyone argh)
- Paying ridiculous amounts for gas
- Realizing the length of the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail and wanting to give up
- Drinking copious amounts of coffee and then noticing the lack of washrooms in Jasper’s Athabasca Glacier tour
What I learned
Banff is breathtaking. A gem located in the midst of the Canadian Rockies, I’m almost sad that it took me so long to travel there. It was a trip with my older sister. We have extremely different personalities, so my Banff trip tested my limits and taught me what type of person I would prefer to travel with. From a three hour hike to a mountaintop teahouse, to navigating the dark roads at night, Banff was a surreal experience. I usually avoid traveling twice to a place, but Banff would be an exception.
Vancouver, British Columbia
British Columbia is beautiful. It’s a hiker’s haven, with many trails, glacier-fed lakes to explore and waterfalls. I solo-traveled during fall, and hiked under grey skies, immersed in the mystical ambiance of thinly veiled pine tree forests and mountain peaks, behind the ever-present fog. I rented a car in Vancouver and driving had never been easier—basically, everything was perfect until I broke my leg in Stanley Park.
- Felt safe as a solo female
- The scenic drive along Sea to Sky highway
- Fall weather
- Mountains everywhere
- Broke my leg
- Underwent my first surgery
- The cheap nurse who continuously informed me medical supplies were expensive
- Rescheduling my Taiwan trip, which was in two weeks
What I learned
Life is unpredictable. Learn to accept the bad that comes along with the good and you’ll have a less worrisome outlook on life. This is what got me through—knowing that I’d overcome this, just as I had every other time life head downhill. It’s easy to plan out your travels and be excited about your adventures, but sometimes life decides to go the other way, so be prepared for the worst. Always carry a charged cell phone and portable charger and let a friend or family member know where you are.
Best Travel Moment
There are many to choose from, but dune bashing in Dubai’s desert takes the cake. This partially depends on the type of driver you have for your land cruiser and I’m happy my driver was quite the thrill-seeker. Typically, four or five land cruisers follow each other, racing over the sand dunes. Despite having to stop a few times due to others throwing up or a land cruiser suffering from a perpetual flat tire, it was a wild experience. Especially at night.
What I’d like to forget
My broken leg may seem to be an obvious answer, but receiving two speeding tickets and the car accident in the UAE was more frustrating. Especially since one speeding ticket is equivalent to the cost of Skydive Dubai, which I wish I had done now. I suppose there is always next time. I maintain a clean Canadian driving record, but 2017 felt awry. Someone must have cursed my driving (lol).
What I love about travel is that it continuously expands your knowledge and skills. Whether it be how to survive an injury on a solo trip or how to interact with individuals from a different culture, who speak a different language, you realize that your travel capabilities, communication skills, and preparedness level constantly grow. My travels have made me more patient and acute towards people than any 9-5 job ever could.
I’ll be kicking off the new year in my friendly (and oh-so-dramatic) neighbours down south, in good ol’ ‘Murica. New York specifically.
My Taiwan trip will be my first to East Asia, planned for March. Fingers crossed I won’t need to reschedule it again.
And ICELAND! I’m stoked to visit this stunning country in July. It was a constant battle deciding which time of year to visit, but I found cheap WOW Air tickets in July. I haven’t been there yet, but I’m keen to return and visit during the fall and winter.
I’m contemplating a solo Spain and Portugal trip towards the end of 2018.
So how was your 2017 travel year? What did you like and what is your favourite memory? If you have tips on solo female travel to Spain and/or Portugal let me know!