Guys, I effed up big time!
I fully expected to be flying to Tajikistan, where I would begin to explore the ‘stan countries over the next couple of months. I had my hostel reserved, flight booked, and everything! As it turns out, I’ll have to save Tajikistan, and all the other ‘stans for a later date.
Here is what happened.
I rocked up to the Kathmandu Airport, bags in tow, passport in my pocket ready to go. I proceeded to the desk to check-in my big bag for my flight to Tajikistan. I had an 11-hour connecting layover in Dubai first.
“Your bags will go straight through to Dushanbe (that’s the capital of Tajikistan)” said the airport attendant. “Can I have your Tajikistan visa?”
“Umm…what?” I said, confused as all heck. I was certain I would get a visa upon landing in Dushanbe. I checked that shit.
“Your visa for Tajikistan?” she repeated.
“I don’t need a visa now,” I said to her with certainty. “I will get one on arrival.”
She paused for a moment.
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you board your flight without a visa,” she responded.
We battled back and forth (in a friendly manner), because I was so sure that I didn’t need a visa before going to Tajikistan.
“Can I log into your Wi-Fi and check?” I asked.
I handed her my phone and she input the Wi-Fi password. I stepped aside so she could assist other customers while I checked the visa procedures for Tajikistan online.
Turns out we were both correct. I do get a visa on arrival but only after I apply for it online first.
I can’t stay in Nepal any longer. This was day 90 of my 90-day visa!
I apologized to the woman and asked her if it was still possible to go to Dubai. She said yes. I had an eleven-hour layover there, so maybe by some God-help-me-please miracle, I could whip up a quick Tajikistan visa and continue as planned.
Well once I got to Dubai, I was informed that America just dropped bombs into Syria which for some reason slowed the procedural processes down here in the Middle Eastern airports. Great.
I looked online to apply for a last-minute visa, but with no luck. I even spoke to airport staff to see if there was absolutely anything I could do. They wouldn’t let me on the flight because they were concerned I would be trapped in Tajikistan, since I didn’t have proof of a visa yet. The embassy in Tajikistan was closed and wouldn’t answer their phone. I tried everything until I lost all hope. I was stuck in Dubai without a flight out to anywhere.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid me. This was all my fault. No one else to blame. How could I be so careless not to realize? I’m usually so careful!
Alright Daniel, just book a hotel for a few nights while you wait for a new visa, then book a new flight to Tajikistan.
Dubai is not a bad place to be; it’s just expensive as shit. But then I thought… You know what? I’m gonna treat mah’self!
Soft luscious beds with big fluffy pillows and fast Wi-Fi doesn’t exist in Nepal so I decided to book a hotel that had all of that and then some. The hotel I booked just outside of the airport was a lot more expensive than I needed it to be, but after spending three months in the mountains, I’d say this was well deserved.
Another thought occurred to me.
Daniel, you don’t HAVE to go to Tajikistan. Really, you are free to go ANYWHERE in the world you want!
The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to my thirst to see the world. I decided to save the ‘stans for another time and spontaneously head to Eastern Europe to backpack there, beginning with Romania which has been a country I have wanted to visit for a long time.
Some friends that lived nearby in Qatar saw that I was in Dubai and half-jokingly implored that I come visit them while I was here. A flight from Dubai to Doha is only about 50 minutes. It’s also relatively cheap. And I’ve never been to Qatar before. So why not? With that I booked a flight to Qatar. From there I had a flight booked to Bucharest, Romania a few days afterwards.
A week ago, if someone told me I would be spending time in Qatar, I wouldn’t believe them. I did not expect to be here, especially on such short notice, but thanks to the magic and enthusiasm of my international friends, anything is possible. And so here I am, in Doha, Qatar!
My friend Yasmin picked me up from the airport.
I met Yasmin while in Mexico a couple years back through our mutual friend Sam (whom I visited recently in Bali). She was happy to have me here! We rode to another friend of ours’, Katie, whom I met in Guatemala around the same time. (It truly is a small world, folks!) Both Yasmin and Katie are teachers in Doha, but previously they both taught in Mexico City. When they taught here during the day, I was free to explore the city much to my anticipation! I knew nothing about Qatar besides the fact that it’s comparable to Dubai in terms of aesthetics and build. One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the heat.
It was hot as shit!
I was supposed to be in the moderate temperatures of the Tajikistan mountains, not a Middle Eastern desert! I took it in stride and walked all along Al Corniche (Doha Harbor) towards the main souks.
Doha is what I expected it to be: a big city that prides itself on suave architecture and man-made everything, just like Dubai.
Many of the hot spot buildings I walked to (in intense heat, I might add) were remarkable in design and not as touristy as one would expect. As a matter of fact, I barely saw any tourists, as far as I could tell, in this tiny hot-oven of a country. Most of them I found in the main souks. This particular souk had a diverse selection of restaurants, specializing in specific international menus such as Turkey, Lebanon, Italy, and even Iraq.
A good amount of the city was under construction, in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that little ol’ Qatar will be hosting, so walking around wasn’t quite as straight-forward as it should have been.
Yasmin also invited me out to a birthday celebration dinner with her friends in the city. We had Mexican. I LOVE Mexican! It’s been awhile.
Still, I had an underlying sense that “I wasn’t supposed to be there in Qatar”. It was bizarre, yet cool at the same time. This Quest to the Seven Continents can truly lead me anywhere.
Later on, I met up with another friend of mine by the name of Renata, whom I met way back in the day in Tanzania (2012). She’s also teaching here but in an international school further away from Yasmin’s.
Renata wanted to show me around as well and took me to Katara, a happening area on the other side of the city. There I had THE BEST hummus of my life in a restaurant called Mamig near the bay, along with a dazzling backdrop of Doha lit up during the night.
It’s been about four days. I came here rather unexpectedly and didn’t want to stray around too long. I must continue! Yasmin had a flight to Egypt around the same time I had my scheduled flight to Romania, in the stupid hours of the night/early morning, so we shared an Uber ride there together.
Now, one of the most common questions I get during my travels is:
“Dan, how do you know so many people, almost everywhere in the world?”
Alongside comments similar to this:
“I can’t travel like you because I don’t know people all over the world like you.”
Simply put, all of these people I know are people that I have met in the past years of travels and I have kept in touch with them (not all of them, of course) via social media apps. Many of them I met while volunteering. I met quite a lot while backpacking. Lots of them are friends of friends. Some of them I met in rather peculiar ways.
Interesting fact: the only reason I keep a Facebook is to keep in touch with all of these people I meet, otherwise I wouldn’t have one. The friends I made in Costa Rica, my very first solo trip, forced me to make an account! I’m glad they did.
These travel buddies always come through when I’m in a strange land. There is always someone there I know who is around and that wants to meet. Yasmin and Katie saw my predicament in Dubai (via FB) and invited me over to Qatar.
But as far as Romania goes, or Eastern Europe for that matter, I don’t know a single soul that lives there (I think) and instead will be backpacking freely through the country, as much as my heart’s content.
Let’s see what Romania has to offer! It will probably be good.