As anyone who follows me on Instagram knows, I just got back from a week in Dubai. Though the world was starting to come to an end during my trip, I managed to come away with some thoughts and takeaways unrelated to coronavirus.
Dubai is Much Different Than You Probably Think Full disclosure here, I technically work for Dubai’s Tourism Board (via my agency), so my professional role is to promote the destination. That said, I can honestly tell you that you’d probably be very (pleasantly) surprised by how modern it is. Before I left I had people warning me about everything from drinking alcohol to wearing certain dresses to potentially being sex trafficked! First of all, I am way too old for anyone to purchase my body on the black market. But also, no! You can drink in Dubai just like anywhere else. You can wear a low cut top (but not OD low). You can be a single woman traveling on your own (I spent my first and last day there solo dolo and did quite a bit of exploring by myself). Dubai is very modern and frankly very Americanized; it is the only foreign country I’ve ever thought I could actually drive in because the cars, roads and street signs are the exact same. That’s just one example of how westernized the place is. Everyone speaks English, and many people there actually aren’t Arab; it’s a massive melting pot so literally people from all across the world have settled in Dubai, meaning the culture is very worldly and eclectic.
Why Are We Travel-Shaming? As I set out on this trip I always made it very clear that this was a work trip in which I’d be escorting members of the media. Just reporting the facts, never representing the trip as me stunting around the UAE. Yet, some hood booger (who I'm sad to say I’ve had an intimate experience with) decided it was prudent to slide into my DMs and inform me that he is traveling soon to Abu Dhabi for free, and he doesn’t need his job to do it. Um, congrats?
For some unfortunate reason, people have taken to using travel as a means to stroke their ego. Bragging about going to more unique, more exotic places, more often -- now bragging that your job didn’t have to send you? So now travel is only valid if it happened apart from employment? Who the fuck invented these rules? I will proudly say that I've sought out jobs in the travel industry so that I could travel for work. If I have to work to earn a living, why not travel as a part of that if I can? My jobs over the years have taken me to many places -- from Palm Springs to see Beychella to Dubai to see the Burj Khalifa. I think that's a huge blessing! And while I deeply appreciate the importance of travel and the access it provides, I by no means consider myself some worldly travel connoisseur. The vast majority of my travel experiences outside of work have been in and around the Caribbean. I’ll pick a beach 10 times out of 10. Am I interested in exploring more far flung locations? Sure! But if I don't make it around the world and back, that's fine too. I really hope that as travel becomes a bigger and bigger priority for millennials that we don’t start to make it something ugly and competitive. Go where you want to go, and don’t go where you don’t want to go. Get there however you can (as long as it's legal and safe). And unless you’re included on someone’s itinerary, keep your opinions about their travel funds or travel plans to yourself.
The Rona May Change Travel Forever Okay fine, I can’t avoid coronavirus while writing a travel post in March 2020. During my entire week in Dubai, coronavirus was all anyone could talk about. At one point my reporters and I were walking through Old Dubai and a man in front of us let out a massive wet open mouthed cough, which promptly caused us to yell "Corona!" then cover our faces and run across the street. We even saw a mannequin with a mask covering his face. He was better prepared for The Rona than I was!
So it’s really just the reality now. In the days and weeks leading up to my trip I was thinking about every single detail except Miss Rona. Suddenly the day before everyone was all do you have a mask? Is your flight good to go? Have you washed your hands in the last 60 seconds? Um can you not cause me so much anxiety?! I tried to get a mask at the last minute and of course they were all sold out so I decided to just wrap a scarf around my face. I damn near washed the black off my hands; I was on perma-ash status the whole time. When I got back, my coworkers didn’t even want me to come back to the office (though I was/am fine!) I did it end up working from home last week (our entire office was required to), which did give me a little extra time to find some pretty amazing flight deals. I guess that's the silver lining to all this?
But in all seriousness, as someone who works almost exclusively within travel/tourism/hospitality, the impact is massive. In addition to illnesses and deaths, the financial devastation from coronavirus continues to become more and more apparent as events are being cancelled, companies are implementing hiring freezes, and entire industries are having to go back to the drawing board on their plans for the year. Hopefully we'll see travel rebound sooner than later.