My sister is one of the strongest, most independent women I know and although our many sibling quibbles, I admire her dearly. As well as being an extremely dedicated business woman, she is fearless with her travels, taking on any opportunity that comes her way. Not only has it inspired me to experience more of the World, but it has given me that drive to be just as dedicated as she is.
In 2016, Izzy moved to Dubai for 6 months to experience the culture they had to offer – 3,500 miles away from home. Izzy relished in the experience of living alone for the first time, particularly in a new country, and ventured out solo to do some exploring. In one of fastest growing cities in the world, that was once a small town in the middle of a desert 50 years ago, it is a perfect place to explore new possibilities within the jungle of skyscrapers, malls and endless air-conditioning.
Sisterly love and all, Izzy has been kind enough to answer a few questions on her solo travels to Dubai, with the consideration of how she personally used digital communication.
Did You Find The Prospect of Travelling Solo Daunting?
“At first, yes, but more the living side of things – it was my first time living entirely on my own! The physical travelling element didn’t faze me because I’ve done a fair amount of travelling and I’m a bit of a transport fan! I flew there and back three times in total and I definitely found the experience enjoyable, not daunting. A seven-hour flight on Emirates (fab planes) with movies, wine and snacks… what is there to be daunted about?!”
Although Izzy lived alone and found pleasure in the solo travelling experience, she also had a work team to keep her company. As most of her colleagues were also new to this experience, it created a strong community that looked out for one another. Whether one is travelling for pleasure or business, there are many ways to meet new people and it could be argued that digital communication such as social media and other interactive apps, such as Travello, help create new communities wherever your travels take you.
How Did You Use Digital Communication To Support Your Adjustment To Dubai Life?
“When others and I went out to restaurants, bars etc., digital communication was really important. Logistically, WhatsApp groups allowed us to coordinate activities. And as Dubai is quite an expensive place, savvy apps like The Entertainer provide discounts for meals and drinks, and let you know about happy hour and brunch offerings which are pretty integral to expat social life!”
As important as a good happy hour is, digital communication also aided Izzy in her time spent alone. Without apps and reviews from popular sites such as Tripadvisor.com, it would have been far more challenging to find inspiration in her spare time. According to The Guardian, 456 million people visit Tripadivsor.com to help plan a trip, due to its constantly updating source of information and as a result has transformed a $3m investment into $17bn. Powerful apps such as these helped Izzy find some of her favourite restaurants, such as a Sushi Café close to her apartment.
Did Digital Communication Accessibility Differ In Dubai?
“In a way, it did. FaceTime, Skype and any other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services are actually banned in the Middle East which makes keeping in touch with family and friends a bit harder. It’s always nicer to be able to see people’s (or the cat’s) faces when you’re away from home.”
According to CNBC, the ban of many free telecommunication services, such as WhatsApp, Facetime and Skype are put in place in order to allow for the monopolisation of larger telecommunication companies. This seems a peculiar notion to me, as in this culture the main perk of digital communication is that it is free. It was sometime hard that I couldn’t talk to my sister face-to-face, even if that was via Facetime, however I loved receiving all the pictures of her latest adventures (especially the ones of drinking cocktails on skyscraper rooftops!) thanks to the constant accessibility of social media.
Would You Have Gone To Dubai If You Didn’t Have Digital Communication To Aid You?
“That’s an interesting question. I suppose so, yes, because I was there for work. However, I can’t imagine doing my job without digital communication such as emails. What happened before emails? Fax machines? As a 90s baby, I can’t imagine this!
I also thing I would have been less keen to go without tools like WhatsApp for communication, or the internet to research things. It would have been a more isolated experience.”
A response such as this one sparks the key question of ‘has digital communication services transformed our ability to travel?’ and it should be considered that they don’t. Although they have become a valued asset in the aiding of one’s holiday bookings, inspiration and many other elements, travel has always been a massive industry even before the digital communication boom. It should be used to support one’s travels, not control it.
Thanks to Izzy, Dubai no longer seems 3,500 miles away from home. She has brought me closer to the understanding of their culture and lifestyle, which seems desirable to say at least! For me, I personally feel it is a little too far away, however as the benefits of digital communication grow evermore, the world is becoming a global community that is moving closer together.