In a wild incarnation of this anthem, I’ve just returned from a solo 9-day trip in the United Arab Emirates, and — ohh — did it ever satisfy a hunger! But how in the world did this trip come to be?
The story starts in 2014 when I attended the White House Travel Blogger Summit to encourage more Americans to study abroad. There, I connected with the wonderful team at Turkish Airlines, who were helping sponsor the event. This chance meeting led to further partnerships with the airline, which ultimately earned me… a complimentary plane ticket anywhere in the world. Where would YOU have flown?
For me, October was the clear answer to WHEN I would use the ticket. Why October travel? Because I’m due to give birth in February, and thus cannot travel far for at least a year after this November, since I’ll become too pregnant to fly, and then will be too tied down with the freshly born baby to take off alone until new parent demands chill out.
With October set, the next question was WHERE I would travel with this ticket. Turkish Airlines flies through Istanbul, so the destination needed to be within a reasonable radius of Turkey, thus ruling out places like Latin America, which would be a silly geographical backtrack. The destination also needed to be safe for my pregnancy, with excellent infrastructure, but also had to be important and interesting enough to justify taking a week’s worth of days off my beloved teaching job (kindly permitted by my open-minded school administration, as long as I could demonstrate educational value).
The answer became clear: Dubai fit all these requirements! I have been yearning to visit the U.A.E. since my original 2009 itinerary for world travel, and even had a 2009 the plane ticket to Dubai, but ended up changing that ticket because Thailand and Ghana took precedence.
Further, Dubai is smack in the middle of one of the most important geo-political spots on Earth right now: the Middle East. Since I teach Global Studies, lacking firsthand knowledge of this region has hurt my curriculum, and a ticket to the U.A.E. could begin to remedy that.
Finally, and most remarkably, once I decided on Dubai, my family reminded me that my brilliant second grade teacher had moved to the U.A.E. from Boston, and was now a school administrator there! I emailed him, and within a few hours, he responded with a gracious invitation to stay with his family for the week, tour his school, and set up a penpal exchange between our students. I booked the ticket, boarded the flight, alone and happy, and felt my heart soar and my face grin as the plane took off towards Dubai.
Over the next several months, I will tell you in detail about my phenomenal travels through the United Arab Emirates in the Dubai section of this blog. (Yes, there will be an article about cuddling a live penguin.) As I edit my 1,000 U.A.E. photos and prepare the posts, however, know this: I was extremely nervous about taking a trip of this magnitude while pregnant, leaving a toddler at home, but I can’t express to you enough how important and worthwhile this journey has already proven to be.
Not only was the experience in Dubai priceless, but being away from home to follow my solo travel passion for 9 days ended up enhancing my marriage and parenting profoundly. While I was away, my husband did a perfect job caring for Devi, making me realize that he doesn’t need the nagging I fall into sometimes. Meanwhile, by giving wings to my joy, solo travel, I can now be a much more present parent for Devi, especially since it really hit me how much I missed him while I was away. The saying rings true: “Happy Mama, happy baby!”
I share this with you because so much emphasis is placed on a couple taking a romantic “Babymoon” before a new baby is born, but we forget: Parents’ INDIVIDUAL passions need support, too, for us to be the best parents we can be. What are your thoughts on this, and your experiences that relate? Do share!
See all 20 of my pregnancy stories at this link.
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The author, Lillie Marshall, is 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 3.7 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!