Category Archives: Abu Dhabi

The end of another year

I’m coated in a crisp shell of emotion as I sit here in Abu Dhabi airport, reflecting on the year that has been. On the way here I contemplated just how fortunate I am to have such a varied life, full of action and excitement, different people, places and experiences constantly. Never really knowing what the next destination will be until it’s right on my doorstep.

I find that the end of the year and Christmas often bring on the mood for reflection. I’ve gone through a cyclone of emotions since I left the utopia of Spain, landing in the polar opposite land of money, instant satisfaction and greed. But what I came back to Abu Dhabi for, and what I have found, is that this artificial life in the desert without greenery, fresh running rivers and plentiful wildlife, has its own special charm.

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The lifestyle in a city like Abu Dhabi or the bustling city of Dubai requires one fundamental ingredient. Friendship. Without friends these could be the loneliest places in the world, and I’ve had my share of lonely days in this part of the world during my multiple travels here. But like anything, time and effort grows meaningful relationships, and that is what has fed my soul and kept me sane when I questioned my choice to take on this new direction.

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Spain brought out the best in me. I was the best ‘me’ I’ve ever been in my life, and probably the happiest. I was a thoughtful, unselfish, humble, passionate, and friendly me. My personality was influenced by the nature of those around me. In Abu Dhabi I’m a slightly more selfish, cynical, impatient and reluctant me, but in comparison to the behaviours I witness around me daily, you’d still call me a saint.

I’m stepping foot on a plane back to my homeland, and although it’s one of the shortest trips I’ve ever made to Australia, flying halfway around the world for 7 days, I couldn’t be more excited. After this year I need to plant my feet on home soil again, experience the love of my family and friends, and ground myself before taking off for a new year of adventures. At this point I have no idea what it will bring, but something tells me 2015 is going to be big!

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I made a huge life decision yesterday and decided to take my ULA backpack back to Australia with me. Since the beginning of the PCT in April 2013, this pack has been with me everywhere, though for the second half of this year, it has barely seen the outdoors. I’ve been walking a lot, but I have not been hiking. I haven’t slept outdoors and I’m not spending multiple days in the wilderness. Am I planning to do this again? Yes. Am I planning to do it anytime soon? Who knows. All I know is that the trail taught me to travel light, and carrying gear for a thru-hike across the world when I’m not thru-hiking is traveling with excess weight. My pack will be waiting for me in Australia when I want it, which means before my next big hike I’ll have a great excuse to go home again. I won’t stop walking or day hiking, but long overnight trips are not on my current agenda; so in 7 days I will need to say goodbye to my beautiful, foul smelling companion until the next time.

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I have lived my life out of a backpack, a suitcase, and a multitude of plastic bags for so long now that the idea of owning a wardrobe is only a temporary luxury that I experience in hotel rooms. I had to pack up my whole life again last night to move out of my hotel room for 7 days, and upon return I’ll be moving back into a new room that will become my home until the end of February. It’s scary how easy transitioning like this has become.

There’s pros and cons to such a lifestyle, and depending on what mood I’m in I could love or hate it. But what I figure is that life is all about new experiences and the people you share them with, so as long as I continue to move forward and live alongside people I love, happiness should follow. I read the most interesting philosophy about happiness on my friend Leigh’s blog not that long ago. It basically splits happiness into three different elements:

Pleasure – feeling good
Engagement – living a good life
Meaning – using our strengths to contribute to a greater purpose

The last two will sustain happiness, where pleasure can be fleeting. I’ve thought about these three elements a lot during my transition back to the Middle East. My life here is predominantly filled with pleasure, whereas my life in Spain was full of engagement and meaning. But now that I have these ingredients to play with, I can try to add more of what’s missing to the mix, and see what kind of recipe I come up with!

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I hope that those reading this have a safe and happy festive season, a joyful Christmas for those who celebrate it, and a New Year full of love and adventure in 2015!

What’s next?

I’m in the middle of packing my suitcase ready to leave Abu Dhabi for Dubai tomorrow afternoon. There was never really a question in my mind about what I was going to do after this job, more a question of would something pop up preventing me from doing it?

Since completing the PCT the draw towards walking another trail has been constant. I find myself reminiscing more and more about these moments. I’m like a broken record repeating the same stories over and over again. Lucky for me I have a different audience a lot of the time, allowing me to become carried away in the storytelling of a time which actually feels more like fiction than fact to me now.

Without time to plan suitably for another endeavour like the PCT, I’ve decided to venture to a different part of the world to wander through a country, culture and environment that again is quite foreign to me.

After reviewing the video above I realised my skills with the camera are becoming even worse than they used to be when I turn the phone around and film either the roof or the sky instead of what’s in front of me! Further training is required!

The Camino de Santiago or Way of St. James is a network of pilgrimage routes throughout France, Spain and Portugal that lead to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in Northwest Spain. I’m planning to walk the Camino del Norte which hugs the northern coast of Spain for the most part before joining with the more popular Camino Frances for the last leg of the trail.

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The total trip is 823km over approximately 32 days. This is what I’ve captured during my 15 minutes of research. Over the next 7 days I hope to know a little more before I step foot off the plane in San Sebasti√°n.

Life begins again

When I called for room service last night the man on the end of the phone asked me where I’d been. I realised two things: 1. I haven’t eaten at ‘home’ in my hotel room for the last month and 2. The month prior to that all I ate was room service. When I walked into my room before midnight for the first time in the last two weeks, I face planted on my bed and fell asleep. My phone was still in my hand when a text message woke me and encouraged me to order food, watch an episode of Homeland, take a bath and then sleep again. These three things have become such luxuries to me over the last month I’m really looking back and wondering if it was all worth it.

What I enjoy about working hard is the contrast it provides me with when the job is done. I have always been somewhat all or nothing, and in terms of work this is especially fitting. I still have reports to write and reconciliation to complete, but my focus has now moved to life beyond work. After spending two months in a large white tent on top of a sand pit, all I want to do is be outdoors. My only thoughts during the last 8 weeks have been work and flashbacks from the Pacific Crest Trail. It’s really weird the memories that flash back all of a sudden. A campsite, a lake, a view. Small inconsequential moments on the trail are what I miss the most. Quiet peaceful solitude and simplicity. Perspective. I think I lost some of that over these last two months.

Someone asked me recently if they should hike the PCT, if it was worthwhile and a life changing experience for me. In my opinion you should do whatever motivates you if you have the means to do so. Why wait? I read something my friend Leigh wrote recently about the notion of retirement. It mirrored my sentiments entirely: http://remoteleigh.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/by-living-more-i-needed-less/

So what’s next? Right now I’m on my way to Oman so I can extend my visa to the UAE for another 30 days. The driver and I are having some trouble finding the correct border to cross. These things are never simple. In fact to renew my visa my driver needs to drop me at the border, I then walk through the pedestrian access point to get an exit stamp, then take a cab 35 kilometres to the passport office in Oman, get another stamp, a cab back to the UAE border, and then an entry stamp back in. Sure, easy enough.

Before divulging my next adventure I thought I’d complete my recent experience here with a few pictures from the event. I’m on the home stretch now and almost ready to take my next leap of faith to another part of this big wide world!

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Half way through

I’m thoroughly looking forward to getting my life back mid next month and having time to put pen to paper. But I have to say 5 days into the festival I’m starting to feel like all the hard work is starting to pay off. Here’s a preview of the first fruitful days…

The life of an expat

The life of an expat always sounded glamorous but somewhat artificial to me. Living in a high rise or hotel, expensive company dinners, weekends on the beach, chauffeurs, live in nannies, swimming pools, glitz.

Tonight while I walked along the corniche I came to the realisation that I am in fact an ‘expat’, a word I associate with business men who wear expensive suits or women who sunbathe while the nanny nurses the kids.

Everyone in the working world in Abu Dhabi is an expat. I ran into a woman in the lift the other morning who asked if I was American because she heard me speaking English. She seemed desperate for contact with someone from a familiar land telling me how weird this place seems to her. In some ways I agree, but on the other hand this place feels just as much home right now as anywhere else on the planet.

Tonight was my second evening stroll along the Corniche. Walking is my sole activity outside of work. It brings me such joy to simply be outdoors amongst the life of the city. It also gives me time to think outside of my ever growing task list and refocus on why I’m actually here and what I want to be doing.

When I reached the beach I sat and reflected on this fascinating expat lifestyle I’m currently living. It certainly ain’t champagne breakfasts and lazy days on the sand…

Head above water

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been swimming in the world of work and desperately trying to tread water while the waves of deadlines and requests have been hitting me from all sides.

I had a few breakthroughs today, and although the tide seems to keep dragging me back, I know eventually I’ll reach a point where I hit the shore again.

This morning I spoke to my four year old nephew to wish him happy birthday, and other than a recent five minute conversation with my dad for his birthday, I’ve been completely cut off from society outside of the Fort walls where the festival I’m working on will take place in just under 4 weeks! Frightening!

As I stared at my computer screen just before 10pm this evening I decided it was time to resurface and give a brief update on where I currently stand. I’m sure a few of you might have thought I’d vanished into the ether, but I’m still alive and kicking, keeping myself afloat and my head above water.

The meaning of life

This is the one question Google doesn’t have a decent answer for. I know this because I Googled it a few years back only to discover numerous listings on Monty Python’s film from the 80’s. Is this the most accurate source we have for spiritual guidance concerning this topic? For some reason while sitting in a lonely cafe sipping coffee and eating rhubarb pie I once again I contemplated this quandary. Strangely enough I seemed to stumble across the answer. It actually came from a parallel I was drawing with the trail. Enjoy what it provides for you and leave it in better shape for the next person. Could the world be that simple?

When I got home I completed packing for my evening flight to Abu Dhabi. As I was about I leave the apartment the handle of my suitcase completely snapped off. The following is what transpired. I guess it’s true what they say: ‘it’s about the journey not the destination!’


Music: Radical Face, All is well (goodbye, goodbye)

It was a long flight but for the first in a long time I enjoyed a lengthy conversation with the person next to me. A German school teacher called Mr Wild. How does one get a name like that!? We chatted like old friends until I had to force myself into a sleep coma to be able to get up and go straight to work upon arrival, ergh! After 11 hours in the office I was done, and I’m now sitting eating room service ready to crash for a decent nights sleep.

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Heading Home

The whole notion of ‘home’ has never felt quite so foreign to me as it does right now. I’ve never not had a physical address which I call home despite flit floating across the globe for the last 8 years. But for the first time flying back to Australia is giving me such mixed emotions it’s really hard to gauge exactly how I’m feeling. Out of touch is probably the best way to describe my position in the world right now. I’ve lived in two very separate bubbles this year. The trail being the most significant and then Abu Dhabi which was like a whirlwind of hard work, amazing people, stress, anxiety and fun all blended into 5 weeks.

I have absolutely no idea how my friends are, my new niece is already 4 months old, my sister and her husband have moved to the country, and as a result the only address on my drivers licence and every other registered identity now belongs to a complete stranger. On the top of my list of things to do when I return to Australia is to change my address. The question is, what do I change it to?

I’m not often phased by long flights, but I made the huge mistake of not selecting my seat when I checked in this morning and now I’m sandwiched in the middle of middle seats between a rather large hyperactive gentleman and a more subdued guy on my right. I can’t even use the arm rests and I’m scared if I fall asleep I’ll wake up drooling on one of their shoulders. There’s also an un identified person passing gas close by who should be put into isolation.

My biggest fear heading back to Oz is the sudden loss of independence and relying on others for a place to stay. Loss of purpose is another one, and shifting down a few gears to a possible state of laziness. Having averaged 4 hours sleep for the last week I think some decent rest is on the cards, but I’m also adamant to maintain some form of momentum.

I met some of the most incredible people during this project. It’s not unusual for the team to feel like family because you spend every waking hour together, but in such a short space of time it was amazing how well we all gelled. I think this project was a god send to me. Nothing can or will ever top the life I experienced this year between April and September. There’s still much to process, but I was blessed with this timely distraction which showed me once again that there is so much to discover across this crazy planet, and so many incredible characters to be found. I’ve realised my true fascination in life are people, and it amazes me that no matter what our background, race, religion or sex, how similar our minds really do work.

I feel a bit like a caged animal on this plane waiting for the hostesses to come around and feed me. For some reason I’m absolutely starving, and I just received a bag of sliced apple which I wish I could trade for cookies or chocolate. The lights have been off forever, and my body just isn’t cooperating with this forced night time during the afternoon. The little plane on the person’s screen in front of me has been crawling ever so slowly over the Indian Ocean and has just touched the edge of Western Australia. Why does this country have to be so wide? We spent two hours sitting on the tarmac this morning after missing our take off slot. It was so misty this morning in Abu Dhabi that a lot of flights were delayed, which meant people that landed in Abu Dhabi late were still able to board our plane more than an hour after it should have left. Great for them, not so good for poor middle seat me. Those two hours were actually the only part of the flight where I actually slept, so I guess it could have been a lot worse.

I’ve watched The Great Gatsby, The Internship and Lost in translation. My eyes are stinging from the screen and my ears hurt from the headphones. For not watching TV most of the year this is an absolute overload, but I have to watch another one, otherwise I may literally lose my mind. I’m going to watch Monsters University and hope that the food trolley comes back around soon!!

Flying is such an unusual activity. Firstly the act of sitting, sleeping, eating and watching movies next to a complete stranger for 13 hours is odd, especially when you don’t say more than two words to the person. I often find on flights that most words are exchanged at the end after landing. Once you open the door of conversation it’s impossible to close, so I think a lot of people hold out until the plane’s landed and they know there’s a quick escape. The busybody on my left is looking for any excuse to talk. Every time I move he looks over as if it’s an invitation to talk. I’ve avoided all unnecessary movements because of this. I think he’s staring me down as I’m typing this. Is it possible he can read what I’m typing? Let me do a test! If you can read this man on my left raise your hand and cough twice… No reaction… I guess not. Well only a few more hours to go and at least one movie and hopefully a little snooze! See you in Oz!

My birthday surprise

It’s the second last day of the event and it’s got to the point where I can participate playing limbo and bounce around on space hoppers because the crew have got it all under control! At the end of the first day I’d been running around for so many hours I’d completely forgotten it was my birthday. After debriefing the event staff my boss Flora pulled me towards the stage saying there was an issue with security. Suddenly the stage lit up, music started playing and my team emerged with UAE flags singing happy birthday!

It has been an eye opening experience. The kids here are a different breed and the language barrier has been a challenge, especially with lost crying children who don’t know what you’re saying when you ask them their name. I’ve seen some very creative parenting during the event. One father buried his kid in the sand to 1. Keep her warm and 2. Stop her from running away.

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I’ve completely lost my voice from talking on the radio and briefing my 40 event staff at the start and end of each day. The team have been incredible, and we’ve somehow made setting up and packing down 200 rugs and cushions at the start and end of each day a bit of a game. Today we’ll try and beat out record of 20 minutes.

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It’s National Day today and we’re expecting a huge crowd. We had over 22,000 people yesterday with a peak during the fireworks which are 300 meters off shore from the beach. We’re so close we had cardboard falling on us from the sky but as long as it’s not on fire we’ve been told not to worry. We do have Civil Defence and all of our fire extinguishes on the ready though just in case!

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I’m having a ball and will actually be quite sad once it’s all over. It’s hard to believe in a few days I’ll be back on a plane to Australia. What a whirlwind!

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