Airplane Mode – On
Tour the world from the comfort of your sofa…
Cue the Emirates onboard music.
This is the final boarding call for passengers booked on virtual flight IMY8 to The World. Please proceed to Gate 3 immediately. The final checks are being completed and the captain will order for the closing of the aircraft’s doors in approximately five minutes. Thank you.
Wanderlust truly knows no boundaries, even in a pandemic. I’ve started reminiscing about flying through the clouds, despite the light turbulence. I don’t even mind being stuck in the middle seat between strangers who take one-too-many bathroom breaks only to pour another glass of water once they’re back. I miss the instructions we’ve heard more than a dozen times over, the endless scrolling to find a good movie and most of all, I miss Emirates’ flying music playlist on ICE.
I come from a family where international travel is inherently seared into our genes, or so it seems. I know of babies who travel at the tender age of two-months, cousins who require flexible jobs to travel for leisure, and those who travel to more than 12 countries a year. Travelling is our staple but I’m an amateur in comparison. And yet, throughout high school and university, my friends were never surprised when I flew off to India or Thailand for a week. Regardless of whether I missed the first few weeks of school or if I left in the middle of the year, or even during exam season – it was the norm. New teachers always thought I was new, strolling in days late.
It’s been a long time since I spent my summer here in Dubai. Having graduated from university this year, I had mentally planned a travel-filled summer. From a celebratory three-week trip somewhere new to flying home to Bangkok, for what would probably be my last long holiday ever. Needless to say, it didn’t quite happen that way. And so, when lockdown kicked in, I spent my time watching the same old reels of memorable trips gone past. Today marks the 378th time I’ve visited New Zealand. Sigh.
Though Dubai has slowly been opening up, it’s still a wee bit scary. Here’s an apt quote from the Lord of the Rings (I just did a marathon recently). “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Since everybody, even strangers sending emails, tell me to stay home and stay safe, I’ve taken to an alternate way to travel.
If you’ve ever watched Gilmore Girls, you’ll probably remember Lorelai’s Asia-themed party for Rory in season seven. From deco (a poster of Sandra Oh) to food (dessert sushi), and merchandise (lots of Hello Kitty), each corner of each room represented a different country from Japan to China, Vietnam, Cambodia and more. Barring the EXTREME amount of effort the crew put in for that scene, here’s a low-budget and lazy way to travel instead:
Welcome onboard Virtual Flight IMY8 with service from Dubai to The World. We are expected to be in the air in approximately one minute.
On behalf of the crew, I ask that you please direct your attention to the video on your monitor for a teaser of our trip.
There are no emergency exits on this aircraft. In the unlikely event of an emergency landing and evacuation, leave your wanderlust with us and come back for it later. We ask that you make sure all your distractions are stowed away safely during this flight. While we wait for take-off, please take a moment to imagine your happy travelling spot.
Despite my love for words and what they can do, I can’t deny that audio-visuals provide an all-encompassing vibe. I could spend all day describing views, experiences and food but it’s just not the same. To replicate the awe of exploring a new city, I’ve compiled travel footage from friends and family to bring you – ‘Around the World in 10 Minutes’ TM. Because flying is so last year, quite literally.
Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts, we’re going on a feels trip.
Ayswarya Rajeevan, who went to Azerbaijan for an AIESEC Cultural Experience, made this video of her entire trip:
“Stepping out of my comfort zone was just the scariest task for me. I never knew I needed to take that flight to Azerbaijan to really find myself,” she says. “I found myself as I walked down the streets of Icherisheher laughing with funny strangers. I found myself as I stood on top of the hills in Ismaili and watched the sunrise. I found my place in this world and I came back to begin the next phase of my life.”
Before the virus got too serious, Harira packed her bags and went home to stay with her family. Does she regret it? Nope. Why? Because it’s Cape Town!
“A place I love for its beauty, wonderful delicacies and diversity. The city has so much to offer, from dune buggying to sharing the same beach as African Penguins! I couldn’t be prouder to call this beautiful place my home!”
“Before moving to Grenoble, hiking was such a foreign concept to me,” says Ysabella Louise who shifted to Europe for university. “Being a GCC kid, I was used to driving to places and spending time outdoors wasn’t the first thing on my mind when friends wanted to meet up. The first time I ever went on a hike with friends in Grenoble, I was out of breath and in such bad shape! ‘Why is everyone else walking so fast??? Why are they walking AND talking at the same time???’ I could barely form a sentence with the inclines and I was determined to get better and face my fear of heights. Thankfully, an amazing Irish woman named Ruth taught me exactly how.”
With Ruth, Ysabella climbed her most challenging trail yet – from narrow paths, icy patches and the absence of safety rails, it was no picnic. “All I had to rely on were some ski poles as I prayed that I wouldn’t break a bone or fling myself off the mountain.” After that, she was a goner. “The feeling of touching the sky once at the summit makes everything worth it.”
“The French Alps are so memorable for me because it’s where I learnt to step out of my comfort zone and connect with nature in a way that I’ve never experienced before.”
Nasreen Abdul Aziz travelled to Georgia (the one in Europe-Asia) in 2018 with a group of friends from her university. She reminisces, “From the excitement of seeing snow for the first time to hiking up mountains – something I never imagined I could do – to the long late-night walks with hot choco in my hand. It all made my heart happy and excited for more.”
Needless to say, she fell in love with exploring new places. Currently, a gold foil scratch map hangs above her bed, where she slowly scratches off the countries she’s visited – one by one.
Just a drive away from Bangkok, Thailand. I remember spending a whole lot of weekends over the years at Hua Hin, it’s the perfect mini-getaway. On the way over, stop at Santorini Park for a short visit in what feels like Greece before checking in at your resort. The Hyatt there has a big blue slide, forget dipping your toes in the water before using the side steps, slide in and make a big splash instead! Let’s pretend I’m giving you great life advice as well.
Ever known someone who just can’t stay in one place for too long? If so, you probably know a Shaan Bajaj. Having hopped between London, India, Thailand and Japan for most of her childhood, she can’t imagine spending adulthood any other way.
“A month before I turned 21, my parents asked me what I would like to do on my birthday. To which I replied, hypothetically, ‘seeing the northern lights in Iceland would be pretty great, but dinner with the family is good too’. Bless my dad because he really doesn’t know how to say no to me. Fast forward a month to the night before my birthday, we were in Iceland on a tour to see the northern lights. The weather forecast was not on our side and the chances were unlikely but the sky cleared up for just about 45 minutes and I got to witness the natural phenomena right before I turned 21. Definitely one of those life-changing trips, and one I’ll cherish forever!”
Follow her travel escapades on Instagram @travelshaananigansxo.
Pro tip: Even though it’s an island getaway please DON’T forget to pack shoes. Hiking in flip flops is a big no-no, I almost slipped down the steep stairs half a dozen times. You really wouldn’t guess that I was actually wearing shoes.
Another pro tip: Always leave a day at the end of any trip to spend time enjoying your hotel room and pool. The hiking, kayaking and snorkelling were great, but we really needed that last day to do absolutely nothing and laze around the pool, pizza in hand.
Hands down the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited. I got to tick off so many things on my bucket list. From my first time seeing snow to having a snowball fight and visiting Hobbiton. Auckland is beautiful but Queenstown definitely stole my heart. Sledging down Coronet’s Peak is a whole lot of fun. Plus, there’s nothing quite as lovely as warm sheets and hot cocoa on a freezing cold day. Excuse me while I go plan my next New Zealand trip now.
While travelling internationally is still a big question mark, staycations seem to be the way to go. Two weeks in advance, Elena and Rym booked the Sandy Beach Resort for a short trip to Fujairah. Elena reassures me, “We purposely chose to go on a weekday because the resort would be at less than 50% capacity. Most of our time was spent snorkelling around Snoopy Island or in our room, so we barely had any other human interaction.
“It was the perfect getaway to celebrate our graduation and grades. Initially, Rym and I had planned to travel abroad to Cyprus or Georgia but Corona made everyone change their plans a bit. The day before our departure to Fujairah, our classifications were published. We were relieved and could finally take the long-deserved break for a mental detox.”
Just a few years ago, Jayesh Rajwani graduated with a bachelors and flew to Romania to work with his uncle. Since then, he’s picked up a bit of the language and clearly, spends a lot of time eating pasta and lounging on the beach.
“What I like about it most are the seasons. I grew up in a place where there was just one. This way, it gives you a chance to experience every aspect of the country. And buying new clothes for every season is a great excuse for shopping!
“Also, the people here always greet you with a ‘good day’ in their language, no matter how formal or informal the situation, whether it’s your friend or even a neighbour you don’t talk to much. A little greeting out of respect and love definitely brightens my day.”
Ladies and gentlemen welcome back to reality in Dubai. The local time is ‘when can I go again’ and the temperature is ‘scroll up and travel all over again.’
On behalf of the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for joining us on this trip and we are looking forward to seeing you onboard again in the near future. At this time, you may use your cellular distractions and switch apps if you wish. Have a nice day!
This article would not have been possible without the absolute best people I call my friends and family. Thank you for sending over your edited videos Ayswarya, Dalia and Nitnam. The beautiful footage you’ve seen in these videos belong to Anaitha, Atul, Aya, Ekpreet, Elena, Gurp, Harira, Jayesh, Nasreen, Noran, Ras, Shaan, Sim and Ysabella. I am also incredibly grateful to Adobe because my Premiere Pro didn’t give up as I was editing, well mostly.
Need help curbing your cravings for bad habits before the 20th of September? Here is your guide to power through the rest of quarantine!