“You’re so lucky, you get to travel,” if only I had a dirham for every time I hear that. If that happened, I’d probably also agree about the ‘lucky’ bit because I’d be getting paid money for my life choices. Honestly, luck has got nothing to do with it and I don’t get to travel, I just do it when I want to and for as long as I like, something that is a direct intended outcome of my career as a location-independent professional.
I personally know a lot of people who manage to travel way more than I do, even with family responsibilities, a 9 to 5 job, and a boss they have to report to. None of these people inherited large sums of money or get their rich parents to fund their travels.
My point is that if you’ve reached a certain level of financial independence (i.e. have a regular income, place to stay, and money for life’s necessities) and really want to travel or take frequent holidays, you will make it happen because that wanderlust gnawing at you will be too much of a priority to ignore.
This is so much easier to do when you live in Dubai, a major hub that is well connected to the rest of the world (and that is perhaps what I love most about Dubai).
Long gone are the days when travel needed meticulous itinerary planning and booking accommodations months in advance (unless you go to Iceland in summer); traveling today is so easy, you can book and plan a trip on your phone as you ride the metro to work.
Today, all it takes is a cheap flight to a cool new city you haven’t been to, booking a hostel, hotel, or an apartment online (where you don’t even need to pay in advance), easy visa application, and travel insurance, and off you go.
So next time you tell me I’m lucky to travel, I’m going to say, “Why don’t you travel too?” Then I’m going to send you to this post about five affordable trips from Dubai to give you some holiday inspiration.
Hey, we always need more travel, right?
1. Tbilisi, Georgia
As I write this post from this interesting city where old crumbling lanes and abandoned ruins co-exist with beautiful restored wooden balconies, hilltop houses, and vintage themed art cafés that would remind you of your grandma’s house, I am so glad that I took the time to discover Tbilisi.
Tbilisi is an intriguing city where getting lost in its picture-perfect Old Town is a worthy pursuit, as are eating unusually large portions of the delicious Georgian food and drinking copious amounts of Georgian wine. Then there’s the rich culture; this city of artists and writers has been nurturing an awe-inspiring theater, opera, and ballet scene through its history. Today visitors can enjoy classical and contemporary performances in the many theaters that line Rustaveli Avenue, as well as independent underground theaters.
If you’re willing to explore further away, you’re guaranteed to be swept away by the impressive Caucasus mountains in Kazbegi, hiking trails in Svaneti, wine heritage in Kakheti, and the beaches of Batumi. Top all of this with legendary Georgian hospitality and friendliness, Georgia emerges as a top affordable destination.
2. Jaipur, India
No stranger to tourism, Jaipur rightfully continues to attract visitors to India, a country that is known to be overwhelming to first-timers. Compared to cities like Mumbai, Delhi, or Kolkata, Jaipur is gentle and charms you with its grand palaces, quiet lakesides, busy markets, and rich calorific cuisine. If you can find an affordable Spicejet flight booking, Jaipur is also very easy on the wallet.
Staying in a heritage hotel is a quintessential part of any trip to Jaipur; why would you stay in a drab hotel when you could stay in a restored haveli whose walls and opulent dining halls once stood witness to the lives of royals? Sightseeing in Jaipur is also about visiting palaces like the Hawa Mahal, City Palace, Amer Fort, and Jaigarh Fort to learn about the lifestyle and tales of valour of Indian royalty.
The food tends to be a highlight with creamy gravies, aromatic spices, tender succulent meats, and the generous use of ghee. Jaipur is also a great place to shop in its bustling bazaars for jewelry, traditional shoes, and hand-printed textiles dyed with natural colors. Here you can read a full list of things to do in Jaipur.
3. Colombo, Sri Lanka
I’ll always remember Sri Lanka as the teardrop-shaped country in the Indian Ocean home to smiling faces and unique local food. I say unique because being Indian, I expected the food to be similar, but while eating in Sri Lanka, I tasted new ingredients- fruits, vegetables, and spices and these culinary discoveries made me fall in love with Sri Lanka even more.
The food isn’t the only reason to visit; Sri Lanka’s real treasures lies outside of its capital Colombo. The town of Kandy is of interest to the cultural traveller with the Buddhist cave temples of Dambulla and the Sigiriya Rock. For nature lovers, there’s the beautiful Hill Country, inviting with its verdant terraced tea plantations and towns like Nuwara Eliya from where you can hike up to the World’s End trail or up to Adam’s Peak.
Relax yourself with a few days’ rest at a quiet beach town like Mirissa or Unawatuna where you can do several water sport activities like surfing, swimming, snorkeling, and lying on the beach sipping on sweet coconut juice. While you’re here, don’t forget to try the amazing seafood.
4. Bangkok, Thailand
You might be surprised to see Bangkok on this list because sometimes it seems like everyone knows about Bangkok and everyone goes to Bangkok, especially from Dubai. Well, I recently travelled to Bangkok with a group of people from around the Middle East, and I was shocked to learn that for many of them, it was their first trip to Bangkok. Given how affordable Thailand is and how much there is to do, I’ll have to say, “Go figure.”
The city is home to beautiful ornate Thai Buddhist temples, known as Wats, that could keep you busy for days. You can also cruise along on the Chhao Phraya River and shop in its night markets, street markets, and malls. Don’t forget to enjoy the charms of modern Bangkok as you wine and dine in the world’s best restaurants and take in views of the Bangkok skyline from one of many rooftop bars.
While there’s lots to do outside of Bangkok, I recently discovered the province of Samut Songkhram, an excellent choice for those who want to experience authentic village life and floating markets while living in luxurious riverside villas or intrepid homestays, not far from Bangkok. Here, you can get away from the fast-paced city life as you ride on long-tail boats through mangroves, enjoy fresh seafood, and learn how to fish alongside local fishermen.
5. Ljubljana, Slovenia
Slovenia, in my opinion, continues to be a highly underrated country in Europe and one that has a lot to offer to those traveling on a budget. I visited last summer and I was blown away by how much I enjoyed being there. The capital Ljubljana was awarded the Green Capital of Europe for 2016, that alone tells you how lovely it is to walk through its cobbled pedestrian streets, admiring the interesting architecture, hipster neighborhoods, and cute cafés that line its leafy promenades.
While the active cultural and nightlife scene of the student hub of Ljubljana can keep you busy for days, it’s easy to get out of the city and explore the county’s unassumingly beautiful nature. Gape in awe at the Postojna caves and see the world’s only dragon-like human fish living in this subterranean environment, get the quintessential Slovenia photo at Lake Bled, and drive along the villages in the countryside, enjoying great wine, delicious food, and the hospitality of the locals.
That was your travel inspiration for the day, so where are you off to next?