A blog about Traveling, Aviation, Social Media and life as a Digital Nomad.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Slow Dancing In A Burning Room: Leaving Dubai & Embarking On New Adventures!

Happy as a clam in Ireland

This John Mayer song feels like 2020 so far, so I'm borrowing the title for this post! 


Even if I had the intention to keep this blog up and running while everything around me was a complete mess…it didn’t happen! I hope you can understand: leaving what had been home for the last ten years was difficult (I’m actually talking to myself here: it’s important to cut yourself some slack). Hopefully, these next few lines will make you feel understood and make you go easy on yourself.

First, though,  let me update you on what the last two months have been about: stress, frustration, fear and a little more stress sprinkled right on top. And there was nothing out of the ordinary going on: it had to do with the logistics of closing bank accounts, packing, rescheduling plane tickets due to travel rules constantly changing, among other things. 

But I won’t bore you with details of the most annoying process ever, nor do I want to bring you down with negativity. However, I do briefly want to take you through my “Dubai Evacuation” only because this experience totally changed my perspective, and it has been rough, but it was definitely for the better.

Leaving Dubai was harsh and hard, and it was a process:

  1. Looking for jobs in Dubai itself - FAIL.
  2. Looking for remote jobs that would allow me to stay in Dubai - SECOND FAIL
  3. Trying to go to Barcelona to get some headspace - THIRD FAIL (borders closed for non Europeans)
  4. Coming to terms with the fact that I was spending my savings in a city that was only stressing me out, and that this was getting me nowhere- EPIPHANY!

Yes, this process was a true struggle. However, it was necessary I went through it.

By the time I was transiting the job hunt phase of my process, the job market in Dubai was overpopulated with candidates that had similar attributes to mine (6000 crew made redundant at the time) and were in between a rock and a hard place with mortgages to pay and/or other obligations (in Dubai it is against the law not to pay your debt and you can end up in jail for it, no matter the amount). This, unfortunately, translated into: lots of candidates taking whatever jobs they were offered, even if they had to lower their salary expectations to an amount that was hard to live on (can’t blame them for that: pandemic!) 

So after I couldn’t make it to Barcelona (which is where my mother is, so it feels like a second home) I realized that I had a big decision to make: this decision involved me admitting to myself that maybe there was a reason why I shouldn’t stay in Dubai and perhaps I should go home to figure out what my exact next step was: regroup and recenter. So after a month of endless fights with Emirates, they finally gave me a ticket home to Uruguay. 

From the moment I stepped in Dubai Airport, I can only use one word to describe my experience and what the week after I arrived home was like: weird. 

As expected, coming back home felt strange (it included a one week quarantine and my thousandth nose swab), but flying out of Dubai was also weird, waiting twelve hours in the empty Madrid Barajas airport was weird, being met by Ministry of Health officials on arrival was weird, to sum it up: it was all completely surreal. 

But, do you know what I found was the weirdest? The overwhelming feeling of freedom I felt as soon as I set foot in Spain. Even if I couldn’t leave the airport, I felt so incredibly free! It was as if I was finally able to do whatever I wanted to do, in whatever way I wanted to do it. Crazy how all of this was in the back of my mind, huh?


Just landed in Barajas Airport (no filter...or is there one?)

Once in Uruguay, quarantine was exasperating. I locked myself inside my friend’s house and just waited as the days went by. The first few days, I kept thinking how once I was out, I could do whatever I wanted to do and I  couldn’t wait to get started. The thing was…I wasn’t that clear about what I wanted to do! I spent most of my time (over) thinking, dying of boredom, Netflixing and cooking meals with real ingredients (if you lived in Dubai before, you know what I’m talking about: tomatoes that taste like tomatoes!). At some point, things started occurring to me. I had already enrolled in a course so I could learn something new and wouldn’t feel like 2020 was such a waste. I also decided I wanted to teach English again, just like I did before embarking on my journey around the world. My friends started referring potential students to me, so my teaching project was a ‘go'

After that never-ending quarantine week (and yet another nose swab) I started seeing friends and family, and started reconnecting with my city, and (without trying) I started reconnecting with myself. The first few days were difficult, to say the least: I was tired, sad and felt like such a failure. But meeting my people, my tribe…I can’t even begin to describe how positive that was! 

I started gaining back my confidence and the self respect I had lost in the last few months. Turns out: if you are constantly being treated like crap, you start feeling and believing you are crap. However, if people continuously shower you with love and tell you how valuable, cool and brave you are, just the opposite happens…go figure!


Sitting on the roof, while losing it during quarantine.

 Another shocker was watching the irritation I felt, that was caused by people on this side of the world being so relaxed and not being in a rush (compared to my Dubai experience), slowly mutate into admiration. The kind, chilled vibe of my hometown was exactly what I needed! It left me no choice but to sit back and watch reality go by, without being able to do much.
Plans kept changing, ideas started flowing and I started seeing this new normal, this new reality as an opportunity for change and growth…all of a sudden I was thanking my lucky stars for having lost my job as a flight attendant, otherwise, I wouldn’t have left my "glamorous lifestyle", and I would have been stuck living a life in which I wasn’t truly happy. 

I’m still getting it together and I’m still taking it one step at a time. I get frustrated, I get anxious, I get nostalgic…but the difference with the ‘pre-pandemic me’ is that ‘present me’ is more appreciative of how much she has, unglamorous bits and all, and she admires herself more for putting up with the struggle.


The vulnerability I felt in the last few months, and even now, is truly a new thing for me: it is definitely humbling. Hopefully, if you are going through similar stuff, you know that things do fall apart, so they can fall back into place. It’s funny how we forget to love ourselves, and thank ourselves for doing the best we can and how we actually come through! I’m still getting used to my “life on the ground” that allows me so much time to make lots of plans and dream many dreams (and actually follow through!). Challenge is positive, even if it feels horrible at times. So if you’re struggling: reassess your previous reality, you may find you were a little too comfortable, too. The best part of a messed up situation is coming out on the other side like a total winner! 


My plans for the future are slowly coming together, it's taking time but they are slowly taking shape, so I will keep you posted.

I would love to hear your experiences with big changes (or with going back home if you're in a similar situation) Comment below!


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