It’s funny for me to think about the fact that up until I was 15, I had only left the United States one time… and I didn’t even make it off of the continent. I went to Canada with my family when I was too young to remember and I didn’t think much else about using my passport again. In high school I renewed my passport and took a couple trips, but the whole travel thing still didn’t mean much to me. I was completely satisfied with a trip to D.C. or New York; if I went to Los Angeles (omg! what a long haul) then that was a big deal.
Things changed in 2012. I was going through an unfortunate time in my personal life, and I remember walking in the hallway at Spelman when I saw a sign on the wall: “Study Abroad.” I had never thought twice about studying abroad and I didn’t even think that my busy course load would allow it. But I was desperate for an escape so I applied, and next thing I knew I was packing for a two month trip to Costa Rica. I was going to study and complete independent research in ecology.
This was not the longest time that I’d stayed away from home, but it was my first time doing it by myself, and my first time doing it outside of my country. I can’t describe to you how liberating it felt to be on my own and detached from everything. I really felt free to make my own decisions and develop my own thoughts without being influenced by anyone else. I didn’t have to worry about what people would think or if I was following the norm. I was really independent for once and I loved it. I tried new things and I got to know myself. I realized how strong I was to survive by myself, and I came back from that trip a different person (and I was also a little thicker too because I ate rice and beans with every meal).
Needless to say, after this trip I was itching for more chances to get away. At this time, I was studying Biology and planning to go to dental school so I was very busy with school and I really didn’t have much opportunity to leave the country unless I could incorporate my studies into it. So I began looking for more study abroad programs again, and I found one that would allow me to go to Ghana for two months. This was obviously a win for me because most of my family is still living in Ghana and it would have allowed me to study and research but also enjoy my homeland. Bet.
This trip to Ghana should have been a movie. I had the time of my life! Granted, I had been to Ghana before but I was young and just following my dad around while he handled his business (boring). This time was different. I was honestly living the life and doing cooler stuff than I had ever done or imagined in America- AND I was in Africa. Once again I was not weighed down by the stress of home and other people and I was completely unbothered. When I got back home from this trip I felt depressed. I realized at this point that I had to change my life plans. I couldn’t sit in an office for the rest of my life. I wanted to leave the U.S. because I needed excitement. I am a person that gets bored extremely easily. Atlanta was getting repetitive to me.
So at this point I was going to graduate soon and I had to figure out what to do since dental school wasn’t my first choice anymore. Everyone I knew that left the U.S. went abroad to teach English, so I figured I’d pursue that and then I’d figure it out from there. The only question at that point was where to go. I debated a few different cities but then I came across Dubai.
So up until this point in my life Dubai literally meant nothing to me, but I heard about this school there so I reluctantly looked into it. I couldn’t even have picked it out on a map. But I started looking at the hashtag on Instagram #MyDubai. I thought, “this place looks crazy” but I found out they had all of my favorite stores and a lot of American restaurants (my thought process was so basic lmao) so I figured I would try it. On Sex and the City they were calling United Arab Emirates the new Middle East. It seemed like a place I could really be comfortable and I figured if not then I would just go home. I’m always up for a challenge so I did it.
This was the best decision I’ve ever made. My life changed drastically from the image I’d always seen. I spent two years teaching and I went to over 20 countries within that time. I meet so many people from countries I’ve never even heard of and my outlook on the world completely expanded. I eventually changed my job but I decided to stay in Dubai because I have a lifestyle that feels like vacation year round. I’m able to travel so much and the experiences I’ve had in the past 3 years are so unique and priceless.
So my whole point in telling you my story was because I was asked to do so. Not everyone is meant to hop on a plane and dip for 3 years like me, but I just wanted to share how much a simple vacation can change your life. There is so much out there in the world to see for yourself. If you rely on TV to tell you about the world, you would think that there are no nice cars in Africa and that people are dropping bombs down every street in Dubai, as it’s a city in the Middle East. That is not the case at all. So I encourage you to step outside your box and take a trip further than the Caribbean.
Here are some photos from these pivotal points of my life!