When I found out I’d be traveling to Doha, Qatar for work, I was immediately excited. A few colleagues of mine had previously been, so the little I knew about the country, I learned through them.
If you had told me five years ago I would travel to the middle east, I’m not sure I’d believe you. No disrespect to anyone, but Qatar was never on my list of ‘Top 10 Countries I want to visit in the world”. This is partially because of my unfamiliarity with the culture and the country itself.
After traveling there however, I can say it was an amazing experience and I learned a lot, about both myself and Qatar. More on this to come. First, the journey and arrival.
My plane took off from Chicago Thursday night at 10 PM. London is where I would transfer and board another plane to Doha, Qatar. I flew American on the way to London.
As many of you know, I suffer from flight anxiety. Despite having traveled internationally before, I can’t seem to shake the nervousness of being 36,000 feet in the air in a giant metallic object at 500 miles an hour.
I paid to select my seat early for this very reason. I like an aisle seat, something close to the galley where the flight attendants hang out, so I can look over for a reassuring wink or thumbs up during any unexpected bumps. Imagine my disappointment when I arrived to my row and the guy there asked if I would switch seats with his brother.
I said sure, because his brother was in aisle seat on the other side. I ended up sitting next to a lovely woman by the name of Sanaa. She was also connecting through London, but going on to Amman, Jordan to visit her family. She was a delight to sit next to. She showed me pictures of her kids in Canada, and told me about their studies.
Part of the reason I enjoy traveling abroad is the privilege of meeting so many diverse people. And, despite any differences that may exist culturally, it’s an awesome feeling to connect with someone with the realization that we’re all just human.
Sanaa realized how nervous I was at certain points and offered me one of her bracelets. She wore 2 magnetic bracelets on her wrists. The magnetic properties, she said, were to pull the negative energy out of your body. She wanted to give me one to keep to remember her by. I of course refused. She insisted. I will indeed remember her and I so appreciate her presence on my flight.
I landed in London at about 11:30 am. With a 2 hour layover, I had just enough time to take the shuttle bus at Heathrow airport to my terminal, and grab a hydrating coconut water to refresh myself. Now is the stage in the trip where I was tired and nervous about my upcoming flight, so needless to say, I was anxious to get on the plane and get to my destination.
The next absolutely awesome person I encountered was Minji. A flight attendant on Qatar Airways, she was assigned to my section. Yeah, I get it. She’s a flight attendant. It’s literally her job to be nice to people. But I ended up spending a lot of time talking to her and think we would actually get along very well as friends. I am pleased to say she and I are now Facebook friends, and when one of her flights brings her to Chicago, I definitely plan to take her out on the town!
It was midnight when the plane touched down in Doha. I made it! The next hour and a half was spent waiting in line to pass through customs. My driver sent from the hotel, the poor guy, had been waiting for 2 hours for me.
He drove me to hotel, where I checked in, went to my room, called my parents, then promptly passed out from exhaustion. A new bed in a foreign place and with my tired mind, I wasn’t sure what to expect for the week. Little did I know the knowledge I would gain and the experiences I would have.