This story was originally posted on Vocal.com.
In 2010 I was in high school and Facebook was still relatively new. I had become friends with someone on the other side of the world in a country I knew nothing about. We were never super close, but she helped me with a project I had been currently working on at the time.
Fast forward a few years and the project my friend and I had been working on was complete. We connected on Facebook and stayed in touch and she was supportive of future projects I was working on as well. I later found out through Facebook she had written that she had been diagnosed with cancer. I followed her journey and she seemed to be recovering. There was a time when the doctors had cleared her of cancer and I celebrated with her. About a year later, she wrote that the doctors had told her the cancer had come back but she was optimistic she would beat it again. I continued to see her updates on her progress with her diagnosis. As the weeks went on, she went from stage one cancer to stage four cancer. However, even in that moment when she continued receive bad news, nothing seemed to dim her light or break her down.
My worst fears were realized when she hadn’t spoken to me or posted updates for a while and I received news from her family that she had passed. I was heartbroken and grief set in. Do you know how when you’re grieving there’s different stages? I went through all of them. I think the thing that went through my head the most was the question, Why does the world seem to take good people too early? Why do bad things always seem to happen to good people?
My friend was from Dubai, which is a part of the United Arab Emirates. I remember after she had passed looking back through some of her old photos on Facebook to remember her. One of my favorite photos of her before she had started on her journey battling cancer was of her at the top of the Burj Khalifa, which if you don’t know, is the tallest building in the world. The photo showed her sitting in the corner of one of the large windows at the observation deck at the top of the building with a huge smile on her face. The skyline was absolutely stunning, and I remember thinking to myself, wow that is absolutely incredible and I might like to go there someday. I made a mental note at the time that maybe someday I too would get there to visit and remember her in that moment. It was one of those bucket list destinations for me that I never thought could be attainable and I kind of filed it away in my mind and forgot about it as the years went on.
When I was 20 and moved to Los Angeles, I started working better jobs and began to make more money. It’s a story for another time but I ended up career wise landing in the entertainment field. I love working in my field and lucked out with an incredible job that allows me to take time off in between contracts. As such, I fell in love with traveling and researching places I would love to go.
In 2020, I had several vacations booked that obviously got canceled. In 2021, my hope was to be able to rebook a few of them but border closures and Covid cases proved otherwise. 2021 so far has proved to be a challenging year for me. Without going into many details, in June someone who I believed was one of my closest friends betrayed me in the worst possible way and broke my trust indefinitely. That person also lied about me to several of our mutual friends who I was also close with and I’m no longer friends with either. No one likes to talk about friendship break ups, but they are just as painful if not more as breaking up with somebody when you’re in a relationship. This was the final straw of 2021 that broke me.
I went through a massive depressive stage and kind of shut myself off from the world. At one point, I started to read travel blogs again which I used to do in the past as something fun to kill time. I ended up reading more and more about Egypt as I was supposed to have gone in 2020 with a friend but she hadn’t been able to get time off to rebook the trip and go with me. I ended up thinking maybe I would like to travel internationally again and maybe it’s time for another solo vacation. I did a lot of research around countries in the gulf coast since a lot of countries there were open to Americans. At one point I remembered my friend who had been from Dubai and how I wanted to visit at some point to honor her memory and see the Burj Khalifa and so I ended up booking a trip to Dubai.
I’m not sure if you’ve read or watched Eat, Pray, Love, but I felt myself going through a bit of the same journey and healing process that Liz did, albeit a bit shorter. I was only in Dubai for about a week, but it was all the time I needed to clear my head a bit, relax and heal. While I was in Dubai, I found myself making new friends, as well and learning more and more about the digital nomad lifestyle which I have been looking to make the jump into for quite some time now.
It’s interesting how when you’re in the eye of the storm of grief or tragedy or whatever you’re going through you can never see clearly, yet when you’re out of that and you look back you can appreciate the journey no matter how painful it was. As I’m sitting on my 16 hour flight back home to Los Angeles, I realize that if certain things that happened to me this year did not happen I would not be sitting where I am today. As painful as it was and it still is to lose people, to grieve, to go through painful situations out of my control, I’m grateful for the new opportunities and people that have recently come into my life that I wouldn’t have met or had otherwise.
So, thank you Dubai for being that place that offered me closure and healing but also new friendships and new opportunities. And yes reader, if you’re wondering, I did indeed check off one of the many things on my bucket list and go to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.