TRAVEL: THE BEST EDUCATION.
Ever since I can remember, I have always been fascinated with the world. I would spend every spare moment with my head buried deep in books trying to uncover its secrets. I wanted to know all I could about everything, science, history, literature, everything.
As I grew older I realised that this was not possible. I would never know everything, and even worse, was slowly being forced to trim down what I would ever be able to know. I was told that one day I would need to choose what I was going to do. I would switch from career day to day, and found that I would still be doing this as an adult, throughout my university studies. Eventually, I chose science, I think as a reflection for my thirst for knowledge. I had successfully been funneled into my chosen career path and had now committed to 3 years of study to get my career started. It was never enough however, and I would find myself caught between periods of obsessive study followed by long periods of absence and depression as I realised that I could never know all that I wanted to know.
This all changed when I went on a 2 month trip to Europe. I discovered here that I learnt more in 2 months then I had learnt through my entire university study to date. Not just about science, I had learnt about culture, architecture, food, religion, people, language, history, geography and much, much more. It took me back to the time when I was a child, endlessly rifling through piles of books. I knew know that I did not want to be a scientist, I wanted to be a traveller.
For some, this may be enough. Some people may be perfectly happy with choosing a career and sticking to it, and this is perfectly fine. For me, and many other travellers, it is not. We roam the globe looking for something more. Something that cannot be learnt from a textbook or off the internet. Travel is not just taking a holiday. It is a form of self-improvement, whether this be mentally, spiritually, emotionally or physically. You will find yourself tested in every way and will come out the other side a better person. Out of the many people I have met on my travels, I have never met one who I have not enjoyed every second being around. They are all happy, something that is painfully absent from much of our daily life.
Of course, every adventure has to come to an end, but it is these lessons that you learn which you take back with you and use to benefit not only your life but the lives of others. Set yourself a goal and set off on adventure. It may be as a one off, or may become your life. Either way, you will come back knowing more, about the world, and about yourself.
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Think of Dubai and you think of money, 7 star hotels and mega rich oil tycoons. But I bet you didn’t know that it is possible to do a holiday in Dubai for cheap! I visited Dubai for a few days on my way back from Europe and found that, with a bit of care, holidaying in Dubai doesn’t have to break the bank.
The best way to get a cheap flight to Dubai is to make it part of a longer trip. Book your fare with Emirates and they will stop in Dubai (on routes such as UK/Europe>>Australia/NZ) where you can arrange a few days layover for no extra cost to break up those long flights. This works perfectly as I would recommend allowing 3-5 days for a stopover. Obviously this depends on the person, but I would say that this is generally enough time to get a good taste of the city and cover most major attractions.
This is usually the second biggest expense after flights. Save cash by checking out the areas in and around Old Dubai and Deira for cheap rooms. It is possible to find rooms for around $40 NZD a night ($30 USD). Though these are not the 5-star hotels that Dubai is famous for, they are usually of reasonable quality and serve their purpose well. Try and find one with breakfast included to save more $$$.
I ♥ Hostelbookers for cheap rooms:
-CATCH THE TRAIN:
Dubai is home to some of the cheapest public transport around. You can catch the train from Dhs1.80 to 5.80 ($0.60 to 2.03 NZD) depending on the length of the trip. Make sure to purchase a Nol card to take advantage of the cheap fares. (http://www.nol.ae).
-ORGANIZE A DRIVER FOR THE DAY:
This sounds expensive, but with a few white lies you can get your own private day tour around the whole of Dubai for less than $30/pp. Dubai is a country not used to broke backpackers and many expect passengers hiring a driver for the day to be taken to a theme park for the day and picked up in the evening. To turn this into a tour, suggest to the driver an itinerary that revolves around souk visits, sightseeing and politely decline when the driver suggests you go and enjoy one of the many overpriced theme parks that populate Dubai. Keep making suggestions on where you want to visit next and sit back and relax as you are taken on a tour of the city for much less than half what you would pay for an open top bus tour. You can organize this through your hotel (usually one of the staff member’s mates), just make sure to establish the price of the days hire BEFORE you set off to avoid any angst upon your return. Taxis are also generally cheap in Dubai, just make sure to avoid rush hour.
Al Diyafah (now 2nd of December Street) offers a great range of multicultural food for cheap. Don’t forget to check out foodcourts, and corner shops for some cheap eats. Dubai isn’t exactly famous for its food so there’s no shame in going to Mcdonalds as a last resort. Just be aware that it is an Islamic country, so you sill hard pressed trying to find pork (including bacon) anywhere. That means no Bacon and Egg McMuffins. Waah.
SIGHTS AND ACTIVITIES:
-DEIRA SPICE SOUQ AND GOLD SOUQ:
A walk through the souqs of Dubai gives a great insight into Middle Eastern style markets and makes for a fun walk. You can find them within close distances to each other in Deira and entry is free. You can purchase you own spices, jewellery and souvenirs here and gold is usually a lot cheaper than what you would pay at home.
-THE DUBAI MALL:
This place is shopping heaven, home to all sorts of stores housing everything from high street fashion to designer shoes. The best thing about the mall however is the number of cool attractions that you can find inside it. It has it’s own ice skating rink, massive fountains and one of the worlds largest aquariums, most of which can be visited for free or cheaply. You can also check out the MASSIVE burj khalifa from outside the mall.
This is a bit more pricey then the others (Dhs125/$40NZD) but it relatively cheap compared to the amount of fun that you will have doing it Start of you journey to a traditional (– ish) Bedouin camp by 4WD as you bump/slide your way around the sand dunes through some beautiful desert scenery. It does get pretty rough, we actually ended up breaking down in the middle of the desert after coming off a dune the wrong way (oops). The drive takes you to a campsite area where you are fed some amazing traditionally cooked kebabs and middle eastern style bread, smoke shisha under the stars, watch a belly dancing show and even ride a camel. It’s a bit touristy but was honestly my favourite thing I did in Dubai and i strongly recommend it.
- JUMEIRAH BEACH:
Home to the famous Burj al Arab Hotel, this is a really nice beach thanks to that great desert sun and fancy buildings that line the sands. Take time to walk around and admire the ridiculously lavish lifestyle found only in Dubai.
-DUBAI MIRACLE GARDEN:
This place is hilarious. Kind of tacky but in a good way, it still makes for a fun green day out from the concrete jungle that is Dubai. It’s pretty much a giant flower garden in the middle of the desert, which is pretty amazing in itself, but also has some cute little flower sculptures (my favorite is the VW beetle made from flowers) and makes for a cool picnic location. Entry is cheap, around $10 NZD.
For the more culturally inclined, You can join one of the free tours that are offered here to learn more about the Islamic faith, the dominant faith in Dubai. You will soon realise this as the calls to prayer consistently ring out across the city . My favorite thing about Dubai was the experience of being in an Islamic country. I had never been to one before nd knew very little about Islamic culture and beliefs. It is definitely an eye-opening experience coming from a Western Country and I won’t soon forget it.
If you have any questions about travel in Dubai, or travel in general, feel free to comment below.
DO: BE A TOURIST
Paris is one of the most visited destinations on the planet, and for good reason. I understand the whole “be a traveller, not a tourist”, but most famous sights are only famous because they are worth seeing. So go and see them! The hordes of grumbling tourists can be off putting but there are plenty of ways of seeing the local sights from a different perspective. For example, try walking around the Champ de Mars for a better view of the Eiffel Tower instead of pushing your way to the front of the queues at the bottom. Don’t be put off by being labeled as a “tourist” by other travellers, see what you want to see and how you want to see it, fanny packs and all.
DO: GET COMPLETELY LOST
The best way to see Paris is on foot. Although the city has much to offer in terms of sightseeing, the real magic of Paris can be seen best when just walking around, the further away from tourist spots, the better. Take at least a day to pretend to be a local, visiting the cafes and parks that only the Parisians know.
DO: EAT YOUR WEIGHT IN PASTRIES
They say that French women never get fat, but they have never had to live without the delicious croissants and bread that line every corner in the streets of Paris. For us foreigners, these can be hard to resist and taste so much better without that extra layer of subconscious guilt that we have programmed ourselves into feeling with every bite. So bring some sweatpants and enjoy yourself! You have all the time in the world to hit the gym when you get home but for now, get eating!
DO: LEARN A FEW WORDS OF FRENCH
No matter where you travel in the world, it is always good to know a few key words and phrases. This is not only practical (Always good to know how to find a bathroom) but can lead to much better interaction and understanding of the local people and culture. A few words here and there will make travelling around the world a lot easier, you never know how fast you will pick it up. I have never had a knack for language but have had many memorable conversations about how good my limited Bahasa Indonesian is. (limited as in 2 words).
DON’T: ASSUME ALL FRENCH PEOPLE ARE A**HOLES
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Paris. Yes, there are some people that will be rude to you, just as in any other place around the world. Pop out a few words of French et Voilà! It is amazing how differently you will be treated if you put in a bit of effort. Don’t be disheartened, you will still get the odd grump but make sure you keep a positive attitude, a smile and don’t forget to say bonjour!
DON’T: TAKE PICTURES INSIDE GALLERIES OR MUSEUMS
Before you take out your camera, ask yourself, will you ever look at this badly taken picture of half the Mona Lisa hidden behind some dudes head again? The answer is probably no. Do everyone a favor and put the camera away. Taking photographs of art is annoying and ruins the viewing experience of other visitors. It can also damage some artwork. It is alot easier to admire a painting if it isn’t covered by someones ipad trying to take a selfie.
DON’T: COMPLAIN ABOUT THE POOP
The first question on everyone’s mind when they ask about Paris, “Isn’t there dog poop all over the streets?”. I’m not sure if this is just a New Zealander / Australian thing, but seriously, out of all the questions you could possibly ask..? The simple answer is yes, there is occasionally poop on the streets like any other city in the world. Please don’t be one of those people who spend their holiday finding any possible chance to complain about something. You’re in frikkin Paris! Take every opportunity to enjoy every second of it, including the poop. It is after all, part of the experience.