My travels in 2013 were highly educational. My experiences abroad introduced me to sides of myself I either didn’t know existed before or I have recently developed, either ways it took the unfamiliarity of travel to bring it out. I saw new places, returned to a couple of favorites, travelled with new companions, made new friends, pushed several envelopes and tested my limits. I was bound to learn a thing or two in the process, don’t you think?
Kuwait was the only GCC country that I haven’t visited before, until I took a short trip with my family there in February. We set off to discover the place where the majority of our pop culture and heritage comes from. We found it incredibly charismatic, and we managed to spend lots of quality time together between intensive shopping sprees. I am not surprised that what I learnt in Kuwait had nothing to do with the country; it was my mother who proved to me that the apple never falls far away from the tree. She and I are undoubtedly genetically related; we spent most of our time on this trip photographing everything around us and instagraming it! If you thought I was too hooked to my Instagram before, you know how that happened to me now!
In Italy, I ate my way through Venice, Florence and Rome . I now understand what is it like to fall in love with a place because it tastes so good. Food is definitely love, only eating Italian food in Italy can teach you that.
I am the kind of woman that eats; I enjoy food not because it’s fancy or exotic, but because it is a simple pleasure of life that’s worth appreciating every time. The Italian ways of eating showed me that regarding food as the stuffing that calms the grumble in your stomach diminishes its true value. Food is to be respected as true nourishment of the soul (most of the time), a great social facilitator and a key to understanding cultures and people.
Oh, and never drink Cappuccino after eating tomato based food!
Boy, did we eat in Italy!!
In the Vatican City I learnt that inspiration is the key to success. If you want to become good at something, practice will inch you closer to your goal each time, but in order to sustain your motivation for it you must find inspiration somewhere.
As I crossed from room to room at the Vatican Museum, I admired the magnificent works of the renaissance masters, while listening to the tour guide explain how each piece was almost always inspired by the work of another art genius. I will not get into technical details here because I am obviously not an expert on the subject (at all), but it sounded like this: Leonardo was inspired by Raphael so he made art history, Titian got jealous of Danti and drew something much nicer, Caravaggio copied Poussin but made it a bit bigger and better, etc. These people were indefensibly talented to begin with, yet they looked around for inspiration whenever they ran low on creative juices! and look what humanity inherited from them as a result.
I find inspiration in great books, and in the work of other gifted bloggers and photographers. Thank God for you awesome authors and content creators out there, I certainly need you to stay on track.
A remote Indian Ocean Island perfect for a relaxing holiday away from everything we know. That’s what we bargained for when we decided to vacation in Mauritius in the summer. What we got was a buffet of choices including adventure, nature, culture, night life, water sports, and even plenty of underwater action to explore. Greedy me wanted to do it all, and I failed to strike a sustainable balance between resting and having too much fun. My already worn out body refused to cooperate at one point. I was left with an unshakable sense of exhaustion all the time. I was taught a valid lesson on how to avoid needing a holiday after what was supposed to be a recharging holiday in the first place.
It is vitally important to know your body’s no go point while travelling. I reckon you will make better use of your time and experience if you didn’t push it too far. Not more than once anyway!
Also, in Mauritius I took a risky leap of faith when I skydived to face my fear of falling. I am still not sure if I have forever lost that phobia, but I did learn that fear if well managed isn’t, the enemy. Depending on how I channel it, it could make or break my dreams.
The highlight of my travel year was attending my first TBEX in Dublin. It was such a great networking opportunity with travel bloggers and social media experts from all over the world, individuals who do what I take as a serious hobby for living, and are shaping the face and future of travel media. I found myself drawn towards those who stayed humble despite their glossy status as cyber celebrities. At the same time, I am sad to say that few have lost me as a reader and follower forever with their hotshot and patronizing attitudes.
The program was incredibly rich and catered to various interests. One of my most important takeaways was from a session by the amazing Lola Akinmade who spoke about backyard blogging. She explained that you don’t always have to travel far away in order to become a travel blogger. I learnt from her that my familiar territory at home is a destination to others, they might have never been to where I live, hence the stories I share on this blog or other forums could serve as guide to them. It is also a successfully proven method in becoming an expert in a specific area, while occasional overseas travel might not provide that same in-depth insight.
With my recent move to Abu Dhabi I plan to exercise more backyard exploring and blogging, for this place has many stories waiting to be told.
In November a quick business trip took me back to London. Since it was mostly business and less pleasure, I had very little time for new experiences, but I did manage to do a couple of my favorite things in London; theatre and shopping. At Harrods I heard more GCC Arabic than I would normally hear back at home, which was such an eye opener to the recent travel trends of my own people. From what I saw and what I hear from my friends, “Khalijis” it turns out are relatively easy to satisfy when traveling. without generalizing, give us a luxury destination where we can shop, eat and be ourselves, and we are the happiest people on earth. This is why London is an all-time hit with the locals.
Our last getaway of the year was to Muscat in Oman, during the Hijri New Year holiday (more about it soon). A swift break that made me realizes how returning to favorite destinations is a great reminder of why you fill in love with them in the first place.
I have been travelling to Oman since childhood with my family and friends. Each part of it is different and special, yet all of it never fails to show me a great time. I am especially grateful for the hospitality and friendliness of its lovely people. I am sure there will be more Oman in our future.
The biggest lesson that I picked up in 2013 is that Travel is a school. The more you frequent it, the more you learn. I hope 2014 will bring me and you more meaningful travel experiences and precious memories.
Happy 2014 to you.