An Unforgettable Year | 2019
First of all, I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. I’m (still) living abroad with a man I met three times in person. Yes, three. I made the quickest and most significant decision of my life in a matter of a week. I jumped into the unknown, and it made for an unforgettable year. The decision rewarded me with rich adventures. I experienced several different cultures, cuisines, currencies, and climates. Meanwhile, making some spectacular memories.
Valuable life and relationship lessons were learned. Being newly married to a foreigner in a foreign country is life and relationship training on steroids. I had a crash course on myself and Daniel. 2019 was a year of self-reflection, self-discovery, self-improvement, and self-love. 2019 is truly an unforgettable year. Below are some highlights:
January 1, 2019 — March 15, 2019: UAE
Dubai s everything. This was my second visit. As always, it was full of glamour and excitement. We watched spectacular fireworks and laser show at the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Later on in the afternoon, we went on a desert safari. Two days later, we made our way to the Fujairah Emirate, where we spent the first quarter of the year. We explored the area and its surroundings on our weekly date. The climate was cooler than I expected due to the emirate’s mountains and valleys. Our weekly meals consisted of grilled chicken biryanis, parathas, khubz and Friday brunch at Mados. I had an opportunity to witness a historic visit by Pope Francis to the UAE. Literally, 2019 started off with a bang. The biggest lesson I learned during the first quarter of the year was to live in the moment and have fun while doing it.
March 14, 2017: Kenya
We had to exit the UAE for Ghana abruptly. I decided to meet Daniel in Ghana a day later and take advantage of a long layover in Nairobi. It was an opportunity to visit three of the four corners of Africa within the year. I visited Morocco in North Africa in 2016. We were planning to spend my birthday in South Africa. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed for hours and did not land until late afternoon. Still, I didn’t want to waste an opportunity to explore a different country. My memory of Nairobi was a sea of cars and pedestrians. It was gridlock for hours. It prepared me for Accra’s traffic that seemed like highway heaven compared to Nairobi’s. The lesson learned is to use a reliable airline to take advantage of long layovers.
March 15, 2019 — June 7, 2019: Ghana
I spent 89 days in Ghana. Even after attending YouTube University, it was still a cultural shock. The country is multi-faceted. I had the opportunity to indulge in all facets and not only the curated tourist perspective. I attempted to explore every corner of the country with the help of my local guide, Daniel. We took mini-staycations and went on self-guided field trips, which included several slave castles. Daniel and Grandma Alice introduced me to all the popular Ghanaian dishes. We survived what we think was typhoid fever from eating street food. The climate was hot, hotter, or hottest depending on the time of the day. Many milestones and memories were made in Ghana, including our matrimonies. There were too many lessons learned in Ghana. The major takeaway is that I am resilient.
June 8, 2019 — July 3, 2019: South Africa
Initially, the plan was for Daniel to accompany me in South Africa. Unfortunately, his visa application was denied. Instead of becoming somber, June became my first personal retreat of the year. I ate the juiciest chicken grilled over an open fire in S.O.W.E.T.O. by a native lady. I fell in love with Cape Town, journaled intently, and dated myself (again). An Uber drove me up Signal Hill for my birthday. Poor Uber driver. I was scared. I’m continually facing my fear of heights. The views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, the city, and the ocean was breathtaking. I can’t leave out the sunset. All were worth the anxiety. The town is westernized and easy to explore. Oddly (to me anyway), winter is in June. The lesson learned is to take time to stop and smell the roses.
July 4, 2019: Spain
I took advantage of another extended layover this time in Madrid. I’ve traveled to Spain before. I vacationed in Barcelona for five days in 2016. I love Barcelona. The two cities are a stark contrast. Barcelona is for beach lovers. Madrid is for art lovers. Art and museums can be found everywhere in Madrid. The city is aligned with sculptures. It’s a pedestrian-friendly environment. I was dropped off in the city center by bus from the airport. I walked all over the city to the major sites. It made for a memorable USA Independence Day. The lesson learned is long layovers can be rewarding.
July 4, 2019 — July 30, 2019: France
Spending July in Paris was a dream from 2016 that come true. I rode the metro like a local. I strolled along Champs Elysees Avenue, the most beautiful avenue in the world. Meals consisted of croissants, baguettes, and more than my fair share of Nutella. I people watched from the sidewalks of cafes drinking a latte or cappuccino. I spent time at the American Library in Paris. Where I discovered the “Black models: From Géricault to Matisse” exhibition at the Musée d’Orsay. Also, the curator, Denise Murrell, spoke at the library and explained her inspiration for the exhibition. I sat, walked, picnic, cruised, and took in amazing views along the Seine River. I was among the crowds of locals and tourists at the Bastille Day Military Parade. The lesson learned are dreams really do come true.
July 6, 2019 — July 8, 2019: United Kingdom
I went to London for a business mastermind meeting. My mode of transportation to London was a bus ride. The bus was then transported to the UK from France on a ferry. It was a unique experience. London was cold in July. I met a great group of UK businesswomen. I still communicate with a few on WhatsApp and Instagram. The next day had a few hours before the bus departed for Paris. I chose to tour the city in a rickshaw. My female driver got me to several major tourist sites. She was very skilled at maneuvering through the cars, buses, and bicycles. I’m just happy that I am alive to write about it. The lesson learned is to take even the smallest opportunity to explore.
July 30, 2019 — October 7, 2019: UAE
I was enjoying myself exploring. At the same time, I was missing Daniel. Being reunited with him felt so good. We made our way back to Fujairah and resumed our routine. I looked forward to our weekly dates. Our dates included: Iranian/Persian cuisine in the private seating (customarily used by Emirate families), late-night beach strolls, morning runs on the beach, weekend trips to Dubai, and of course, church on Friday. On one of our date nights, we happenstance on The Orangery restaurant. The service, food, and ambiance is something to be desired. Now, it’s our favorite restaurant to visit in Fujairah. The lesson learned was absence makes the heart grow fonder.
October 8, 2019 — October 20, 2019: India
It was time for yet another visa run. Coincidentally, I read a Medium article on the Vipassana Meditation Course. I decided to do the course in India because of its proximity. I kinda wish I came more than a day earlier to explore India in-depth. The country is so rich in culture. While in Mumbai, the locals were celebrating a festival on the beach. They invited me to dance with them. If you want mid-range or luxury accommodations on the dime, plan your next vacation in India. Now, on to the course. The food served….. Oh, my goodness. The food served made the experience worthwhile. Indian cuisine is beyond delectable. It’s my all-time favorite. The practice as well as the environment stretched me physically, mentally, and spiritually. You can read more about my experience here. The greatest lesson learned was, to quote the course facilitator, “this too shall pass.”
October 21, 2019 — December 15, 2019: UAE
I returned to the UAE once again. Weekly dates, morning workouts, and football matches resumed. In November, I made a visa run to Oman border with a visa renewal company. The night before, I danced my heart out in an African club. I had the best time moving my body to Afrobeat music and everything in between. One of my most memorable artist dates (from the Artist Way by Julia Cameron). It’s a life-changing workbook. You can order it here on my website with no additional cost to you. We celebrated UAE National Day at Umbrella beach. We drove to the same African club and danced the night away. The lesson I learned is dancing is good for the soul.
December 15, 2019 — December 23, 2019: Oman
If I knew I was this close to a piece of heaven on earth, I would have visited sooner and often. Oman’s landscape is beyond beautiful. I stayed in an Airbnb in Qantab, a fisherman’s village. It was a 5-minute walk to the beach. I visited frequently, morning, afternoon, evening, and night. I read books on the beach. Most of the time I just gazed into the ocean and listened to the waves. I spent a day at sea and discovered secret beaches. The people are so friendly and helpful. I was invited to an Oman’s family house for light treats and tea. The environment was invigorating and relaxing at the same time. Quite honestly, I didn’t want my trip to end. The lesson learned is to become friends with the locals, it’ll make for an enjoyable travel experience.
December 24, 2019 — December 31, 2019: UAE
On my return from Oman, I realized it was our “first time ever meeting” anniversary. This was our first time being together on Christmas Eve, since the day we met in 2017. Daniel suggested we celebrate at The Orangery. I agreed with his selection. The service, food, and ambiance were phenomenal the second time around. The Friday after Christmas, I took a field trip to Dubai Mall with 60 plus Nigerian church congregants. We entered the new year in a car driving from Masafi to Dubai. We caught a view of the fireworks from Burj Khalifa during the drive. Not the most exciting way to celebrate New Year’s Eve. I was happy that my back pain had ceased from earlier in the week. The lesson learned was to be grateful for health and your caretakers.
After reading the two journals 2019 produced, my first year of living abroad resembled a rollercoaster ride at an amusement park. It was fun, exciting, and frightening. There were ups and downs, twists and turns. The year taught me to throw my hands in the air and enjoy the ride. The overall lesson I learned is the twists and turns can not be avoided. Somehow they help mold us into better human beings. Happy 2020 Year!!!
More photos on Instagram
Originally published at https://findingchalandamichelle.com on January 13, 2020.