Sacred Moment in Dubai Desert

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.” ― Mark Twain

            As I held tightly to the grip of my atv in the Dubai desert, I tried to convince myself “this is supposed to be fun.” It was my first time on an atv, with minimal instructions given, outside of how to turn the vehicle on and follow who is in front of you.  “Follow me exactly, you don’t know the desert, and if you go even one meter off, it could be a drop in the sand.”  I was over alert, after my atv stalled and turned off in the first 10 minutes, after I gave it too much gas.  I couldn’t turn correctly and would veer too much to one direction, or I only pushed the gas minimally, and lingered behind the group due to my lack of speed.   I remained hesitant throughout the first half of my drive.  

            My friend and I were on an 8 day journey to the UAE, to add seven emirates to our ever expanding list of territories for the Travel Century Club (TCC).  We had spent two days travelling from Spain to get here, after a cancelled flight in Paris.  Our sleep was minimal and now our adrenaline was heightened on this day long adventure excursion.  I couldn’t help but wonder if we were overdoing it at this moment. 

            As we drove our atvs up and down small hills, they would get stuck out of the sand.  Our tour guide would have to get into the seat or lift the vehicle out of deepened sand.  Our atvs then drove up a large hill and stopped in a central area, where all other drivers were stopping.  It was time for sandsurfing.  A snowboard was used as perhaps sandboards do not exist, as our Egyptian tour guide noted it’s the same.  I’ve never snowboarded or skied.  I wondered if I fall down.  The couple from Ohio in our group both opted to skip this portion of the journey, while the Greek boys flowed down the sand, as if they were naturals.   And the first time going down the hill, within seconds I fell. My bum was temporarily sore, but nothing horrible happened. I got up again and tried, and made it down the hill without falling.  I did it! It was after this, that the tour guide then said, “We’re going to go through the difficult part now, don’t be scared. If you are scared, then it will impact your drive.  You got this.  What’s the worst that could happen? You fall in sand?” 

            I am not sure if it was those words from our guide who said, “what’s the worst that could happen?”, my first failed attempt in the sand or the confidence I built when accomplishing this feat, but a shift occurred.  When I got on the atv again, something changed.  I was more relaxed, I drove faster.  I caught up with the group with more ease. I recognized I needed to be at one with the vehicle. Surrender to the moment, process, and align with the experience.  It was when I felt this that I began to enjoy this ride.  

            This was a metaphor for my journey to the United Arab Emirates. I was slightly concerned of travelling this deep into the Middle East, due to worries from friends, family members, and the news.  My mom also heightened fear in me of getting arrested for bringing the wrong medication or vitamins, chewing gum if it was illegal, or wearing inappropriate clothing.  I had been warned of an American female who recently was arrested and jailed for touching an airport security guard, and having an argument with him.  I prepared for this trip with the mantra of “do not get arrested” versus “live it up lavishly and enjoy.”  This was evident in the initial clothing I packed looked as if I was going to Amish country in Ohio rather than the cosmopolitan city of Dubai.  But after watching loads of youtube videos and Sex and the City 2, I realized I needed to bring a little bit more color to my wardrobe. And so I did. I would be respectful of the culture, but still be me.  

            What I needed to do was loosen my grip on the vehicle, let go of fear, build confidence, learn from my falls, and be at one with the experience.  Surrender and be present, not just for this ride, but for this trip, and for the larger journey of life. 

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