Solo Adventures in Old Dubai

Solo Adventures in Old Dubai

Here I am, on a solo adventure. Before I ventured out, all I knew is that I wanted to try getting out.

It was a head knowledge, not really a heart one.

So to push myself out, I created a list of a few questions to discover:

Will I be able to motivate myself enough to actually get out?

Would I be able to have meaningful conversations with people?

Who am I? With unlimited time, all alone, what do I end up doing?

Would I give up and return to the mindless comfort of my room?

Do I enjoy it enough to travel alone, like I believe and always say?


Well, here I am. I left college at 9:15 in the morning. It is now 3:15 pm.

I’ve wandered all around. I took a bus to Bravo, then a bus to Oud Mehta, followed by a metro to Fahidi, and then finally walked to, well, nowhere in particular. And where have I reached?


Firstly, I’ve realized that I do feel a bit lost at times. For almost an hour and a half, I was walking, looking for a chill spot. Just to sit, or have tea. And it was hot, and noisy, and loud. But, I suppose moments like this will help me be more decisive. I had to pee twice, and shamelessly entered random restaurants (which I will agains), heading straight for the washroom. Besides that, I have been walking for hours through the same streets, passing the same shops, and crossing the same people. Obviously, I have been noticed. And that has also made me feel conscious.


But right now, I finally had enough. I realized, what is holding me back from sitting wherever I want, or passing the same people again? Why am I conscious? Because I am alone? That maybe I look lost or aimless? Or that I am a girl? Or because I am a very queer girl, with a big, conspicuous Adidas backpack, who is itching to settle somewhere and pull out her laptop to write, in the middle of bustling, noisy, market alleys?

Well, too bad. I might be one interesting character that inspires people. Maybe someone else wants to bring their laptop to the creek, but thinks it might look weird. Well, for that person, I hope to be an example. Maybe a normal looking girl, in jeans and a shirt, wants to sit in a narrow alley, and chill. And there might be weird men around. Well, I hope she sees me and I give her the confidence to reclaim masculine spaces. What am I apologetic for? Being alone? Being a girl? Exploring? Having my own adventure and answering to nobody? Breaking societal rules?

I always talk about wanting to do that anyways; living in a manner that isn’t dictated by predetermined norms and conventions. And if I can’t do that in front of a few strangers, well then I most definitely won’t be able be different in front of people I know.  

… aaand, now, I need to pee. So I think I may move to another, more chill location.

I thought of slightly giving up and sitting in a cafeteria where I can be comfortable and type at the same time, but that’s normal; I can do that anytime. So I might end up in a slightly uncomfortable spot, and I may have to carry tea there, and I may have to walk a bit and again attract attention and pass people who have noticed me, but too bad. It is my day and my adventure and I am next to the creek so I want to see the water.

So, until I reach that spot! J


I went to that spot. Next to the water. But there were weird people there. Shit! I just realized that I had decided I wouldn’t care. God. Well, I could have sat there for a while there, but I didn’t.
As a result, I found a cafeteria in a back alley to settle down into. It is basically a dead end. But now that I am here, suddenly the adjacent table is occupied by a group of guys. It is a little annoying. Haven’t they seen a girl before?

And my peace has kind of been destroyed. But you know what, I am not going to let it; let me shock them a little more. 
Why do people affect me so much? I get conscious of strangers and what they will think. Seriously, if they haven’t seen girls around, they should get used to it. And I’m too tired to move again. Hence, no matter how weird they make me feel, I am not going to go.

I just lit a cigarette. And I am not like them to stare and figure out their expressions, so I am not sure what they are thinking. But hopefully I have broken a few stereotypes, and maybe made the world a slightly more accepting place.

Lol, such high hopes. But, it just takes one thought in one mind at a time.


Back to today’s lessons. The most notable experience was sipping on an avocado shake with a newly-found friend, discussing life. I began a conversation with the usual, ‘where are you from?’ Well, he looked Punjabi, so to be precise, I asked,’ are you from Punjab?’

And, as Punjabis get quite excited to connect in a foreign country, a bond was made over our commonalities and an opportunity was born. However, I had to remind myself that I had decided to skip all the small talk, no matter how many trivial similarities existed between my company and me. So, after digging through my brain for the correct Hindi words with much difficulty, I asked him what one piece of life advice he had to offer. His answer: to be honest.

And that was the start to a long discussion.

He told me how honesty leads to success, and that if you dig potholes for others, you will inevitably fall into them yourself.
He discussed the Gurus of Sikhism, and how one must follow God. He spoke of Modi’s new policy eradicating 500 and 1000 rs notes, and how the rich, who earlier didn’t have a penny-or a rupee, my bad-to give to a beggar, were now standing in bank lines, anxious to deposit all their cash. He spoke of a hope that finally things now may be more equal between the rich and the poor.

When I asked him what his son plans on doing, he answered with something that I always thought I believed in, but I suppose haven’t been living. He said, we will see. You never know what will happen in life. You can never trust life. Recently, not far from where we were talking, a signboard fell on a man, abruptly snatching his life away. Similarly, my new friend had lived a normal life in Amritsar, worked there, and had a family. One day, an unexpected opportunity to work in Dubai arose. He never knew, he never planned. Life happens. And you can never trust it.


A great talk to have with a stranger, on a random morning, no? It all comes down to what opportunities you give yourself. Ask real questions instead of engaging in small talk. Don’t stop at, where are you from, and what do you do. After those questions are answered, what next? An awkward silence? And then any chance of getting to know your friend any further is strangled.

Get out of your comfortable bed, in your settled room. It may be comfy. You may not have enough confidence to get out. Where will you go? What will you do? What if you get hungry or tired or need to pee?

Well, I will tell you one thing I learned today. There will be moments when you are exhausted, when you can’t find a decent place to sit, when you feel lost. And you might walk for two hours doing nothing, just searching. But, answer this: how many collective lazy 10-minutes would you waste in your room? How many times do you enter, tired, and just sit down and daydream? Or stare at your phone, utilizing the endless supply of wifi, staring at random snapchats, and scrolling through Instagram? You will be tired in your room too. You will waste as much time in your room too. You might feel lost and restless in your room, too. And at the end of the day, you will go to bed, after going through the same monotonous routine, with nothing learned, and nothing experienced.

Alternately, though, even in the worst case scenario that you hate your excursion, still provides new experiences, new sights, new sounds, new thoughts, new ideas, and new perspectives. And novelty is the nutrient that the human mind and soul requires to grow.

And in the case that you like it? Well, then it’s a win-win, no?


PS. Remember how I was uncomfortable in this cafeteria 40 minutes ago? Well, now I am very settled. I finished my second tea here, im charging my laptop, im resting, and im writing. I broke a few stereotypes, and now I am barely noticing who is passing me, much less what they might be thinking. It is pretty chill. So what’s the conclusion? Give it time. Even if you feel uncomfortable, stay. Persist. Be determined. What seems daunting will soon be a piece of cake.  

Oh, and things I learnt:

To be shameless and reenter same restaurants just to pee

To be decisive

To not overthink

To be comfortable in my own skin

To make big talk, every opportunity I get 

Published by Tanvi Chadha

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