We're Off Again: Long-Haul Flights & Dubai

Wow, it's been almost a month since my last post on here which is (I think) officially the longest I've ever gone without putting up a blog post in something like three years. To be honest, the break was a little bit needed. Putting together travel legs that last for about 2-3 months is not easy (understatement!) and let's be real, I am not a winter person and our stint to go home for the holidays and get reorganized didn't exactly get me in the blog writing zone (it did, however, get me in the how-high-can-this-thermostat-go-more-holiday-cookies-please zone).

We're back though, and we're halfway around the world, and in our interim of planning this next batch of travel I did a lot of thinking and a lot of blog reading and am hoping the next few months posts are the best I've ever written. I know what you're thinking: "wow, what a well articulated goal!" (kidding) but seriously, I think my biggest flaw with writing on here is that I don't always ask myself "what would I want to know and hear?" and so, I'm going to do more of that. It might not make a huge difference, but for my sake, pretend it does.

Just five nights ago we boarded our direct flight from Boston to Dubai (there's one every single day, which I found kind of surprising!). My carry-on had just about every possible in-flight comfort I could think of because all-in-all I was dreading the twelve hours it would take to get there. I'm talking lavender pillow spray, to-go tissues, socks (the fluffy kind), eye masks, ear plugs, and about thirty episodes of The Office. I hyped it up a whole lot because this was the longest flight I'd ever gone on, but now I have developed a theory on long-distance flying that I think hits the nail on the head of how you should go into any 10+ hour airplane experience. You can thank me later for the solace this brings you when you've reached cruising altitude, or curse me out when you realize my one-flight sample size got it all wrong.

Remember "runner's high?" the theory that if you go out for a long enough run (let's say twelve miles) the first stretch might absolutely suck, but you're going to hit a mile in there where you're so consumed by the repetitiveness of the activity that you go on autopilot, and it doesn't feel so bad? Let me introduce you to flyer's high. It's kind of a white whale.

I'd done a bunch of six and seven, even eight hour flights and had never felt it, but when you get into the sweet spot of 10+ hours you're in that metal tube for long enough that you can feel awful for about a solid six: enough time to get an altitude headache, take some Aleve, fall asleep for ten seconds and get kicked by the brat (I mean, sweet child) behind you, enough time to watch the one thing you were about to reach for somehow fall from the pocket and roll out of reach under the person in front of you's seat, and enough time to start heavily tuning out whatever it is you're watching or listening to so that a small portion of your brain can allocate itself to thoughts of self-pity. I have experienced this many times. I went to school abroad so you could say surviving this experience was basically an every-semester core module (that's what Irish people call classes). But there is light at the end of the tunnel for those who are going further than eight or nine hours because somewhere along the way your body will be so tired, your mind so confused as to where it is and why, that it will tap out. You'll start to doze off for longer & longer increments, you'll wonder about things you've never thought about before (like why there's only two forms of cutlery in a world of billions of people, are forks and chopsticks really the best we can do?), and eventually those pieces of sleep and wondering will quilt together into a restfulness that brings you relief. You'll find yourself stepping off the plane not only smiling and thanking the flight attendants but more well-rested then you've ever felt stepping off a red-eye to Europe. I wouldn't believe me if I hadn't experienced it myself, but I only lie about my high school AP English score (I got a 3, okay, stop bringing it up, Porter it was seven years ago) and the volume of french fries I consume. So believe me, flyer's high is real, trust in the system, and you too will experience it.

Now onto Dubai, a city that was in the top five of my bucket list for this year, and one that is almost impossible to describe if you've never experienced it yourself. But for your sake, I will try.

Close your eyes and imagine for a second if there was a capital of the world. What would it look like, who would live there, where would it be located on a map? For me, I'd picture something ultra modern, impeccably clean, a city that felt futuristic, insanely functional, where there was not a piece of trash even near the gutters, one where people from literally all walks of life mingled so seamlessly that there was no way to differentiate between who was a tourist and and who was a local. I'd picture every great thing from every other city poached and improved upon: bigger skyscrapers, higher-caliber design, every city's favored go-to restaurant and shop from Le Pain de Quotidien to Jamba Juice to Marks & Spencer to Galeries Lafayette. I'd think of a location somewhere almost equidistant from all the major cities of the world with a vibe of superiority that reminds you of the Capitol in The Hunger Games or the way the students from that French wizarding school carried themselves in The Goblet of Fire. I'm talking the kind of thing that would totally impress an extraterrestrial species come to engage in interplanetary relations. Now, open your eyes. That city exists and it's called Detroit. Jokes! It's called Dubai.

I have a hundred little notes on my iPhone on all the things about this city that are just better, but it really is a place that I think as many people as possible should attempt to visit at least once in your life. Seeing it and realizing a city like that can spring up in a matter of fifty years just makes you think about the world differently and the possibilities of the future differently. A quarter of the world's cranes are in Dubai, and the city is growing at what feels like a rate of ten new skyscrapers a week. We could count about forty cranes just from our window at the Shangri-La alone, and there's something like ten thousand restaurants and six hundred hotels. Even though it isn't the most walkable place just yet (because of how hot it is there for most of the year) they're innovating to create different forms of air-conditioned sidewalks and I have a hard time doubting that those won't come around quickly and be the coolest things ever (no pun intended). This is a city with an indoor ski mountain, after all.

I also felt more safe and welcome in Dubai than I have in a lot of major European cities (cough, Paris) and they even have a taxi system where pink-roofed cabs are driven by women for women (this is such a great idea and something I think a lot of cities should have!). People are respectful in Dubai of any and everyone, the service culture is impeccable, and there's a newness and a kind of an aura of anything-is-possible glinting behind the eyes of those who live and work here. It's captivating and encouraging and makes you wonder why there aren't more fresh-out-of-college kids from America heading there to live and work for a few years (I kind of think that's inevitably going to increase). I could also write pages on the design, from the plating of the food in coffee shops to the artistry of the subway system. I've never been to a city that cared so much about binding function and beauty.

So there it is, our very first blog post from our current travels through Asia. We're heading to the Maldives for two weeks tonight and from there are onto about a month of exploring Sri Lanka. I can't predict everything, but I do know that it will be humid, Porter will likely attempt to refuse sunscreen with the phrase "burn today, bronze tomorrow," I will consume as much curry as one human can, and you can bank on a whole lot of photos. I also can't wait to share with you all the ethical brands we've brought along with us!

Cue the bell, because round two has officially begun.


Anna Lisa & Porter

*Thank you to the Shangri-La Dubai for sponsoring this post. As always, all thoughts & opinions remain our own.

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