As a first-time visitor to Dubai, I was adamant about including a desert safari on my itinerary. I went with Platinum Heritage based on a personal recommendation from a friend, but it was one of the more expensive tour options. There were several companies that offered these safaris, many of which could be found on Groupon, Viator, and Cobone. I wasn’t interested in the adventure of dune bashing or sand boarding, and preferred a more authentic experience in the desert. Platinum Heritage offered that, so I have no regrets about choosing them.
I received an email from them the morning of my tour that provided the exact pickup time from my hotel. When I arrived at my hotel lobby, the guide was there already waiting for me. He guided me to a Ford Expedition, where there was another guest inside. We all went to another hotel to pickup four other guests, so our group included six people and a personal guide. We rode about 40 minutes to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, and received a swag bag with a refillable water bottle for the day. We took a short break to don headscarves to protect our faces from the desert sand. From there, we transferred from the Ford Expedition to a vintage Land Rover and began our drive through the Arabian Desert.
Dubai is the reason I began my journey of international solo travel. It all started on a warm Louisiana Christmas Day in 2014, when something known in history books as Christmasgate occurred. Etihad Airlines, one of the “big three” gulf carriers along with Emirates and Qatar Airways, had an unheard of “glitch fare.” They were pricing flights from the U.S. to Abu Dhabi for less than $200, and I wanted to be in that number when the saints went marching in. It can be difficult to get to the next state for $200, so that was mind-blowing for me. Adding to that, there were no blackout dates. Typically expensive travel holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years were available!
I wasn’t a member of any travel groups back then, so I don’t even remember how I found out about it. I sent a message out to all my friends to see who was coming. No one took the bait. A few responses were positive, but no one actually booked. I got pissed because I knew this was a once in a lifetime airfare. I considered going solo but I had not yet developed comfort with the idea of solo travel. The fare lasted for several hours before it ended, and I regrettably did not book.
It was at that point that I realized I couldn’t sit around waiting for someone to travel with me. The world would go by and I’d still be sitting at home waiting for a travel partner to make up her mind. Never was I going to allow someone else to decide my travel fate. Exploring the world didn’t require another person, and I wasn’t going to miss out on another journey because I didn’t have a travel partner. It was then that I began my journey to solo travel. It took me a while, but I traveled solo to the country of Panama for the first time eight months later. I didn’t even take the time to ask those same friends if they’d like to join because I knew I would have been disappointed. Years later I still get upset when I reflect on that missed opportunity to travel to the Emirates. How could I have allowed my travel life to be dictated by others?
There has been lowered pricing since then, but nothing as good as the Christmasgate pricing. Every damn person that was interested in travel and interested in UAE took their trips while I sat at home twiddling my fingers.
My interest in the country waned after seeing so many people post pics of their visits. Plus, my travel tastes had changed over time and I didn’t think I would enjoy a place like Dubai with all of its glitz and assumed pretentiousness.
When I began planning my annual birthday trip, I decided I wanted to go to Egypt, and was considering another country to add to the trip. I narrowed it down to UAE. I wasn’t even excited about it, and tried to fit in Jordan instead before I decided on the Emirates.
And I went. Continue reading