When it comes to travel, I’m pretty cheap. That doesn’t mean I stay in a youth hostel every night; my 20’s are far behind me. These days, I like a nice bed and a private bathroom. What I don’t like, however, is spending a fortune on expensive tours. WHY do I need a $100 guide for a hike I can do myself? We live in the modern age, right? Can’t I do everything myself with Google Maps and Google Translate! Private tours are for rich people! Well, that’s kind of true and kinda not. By and large, I’d much rather wander around a city on my own than join a group and follow someone with a yellow flag, stopping for shopping at “my friend’s leather factory.” You know what I mean? I’m a do-it-yourselfer! But there are experiences that you just can’t do on your own. Like – dune bashing in Dubai!
At $95/person, a Desert Safari in Dubai is a bit out of my travel budget. I almost talk myself out of it, in fact, until I remember that time in New Zealand when I didn’t splurge for the $100 Lord of the Rings tour! I’m not going to let frugality talk me out of a cool experience ever again! Our Desert Safari starts by us climbing into an SUV and driving an hour out into the desert. Before I know it, our vehicle is hauling up a sand dune, cresting the peak, and descending rapidly down the other side – woohoo — a practice they call “dune bashing”. Sort of like snow-boarding with a 1-ton vehicle, dune bashing is actually pretty fun! As I watch some of the other SUVs get stuck in the sand, I can’t help getting caught up in the adrenaline and competition of the moment, thinking, “Eat Silica Baby!”.
After an hour of surfing the sand, we stop at a nearby camel farm. It’s more of a selfie opportunity than anything else, as the camels all look pretty bored with the visitors. But hey, it’s not every day you find yourself in the middle of a Middle Eastern desert, feeding dromedaries at a camel farm. Here’s a carrot, buddy.
Eventually we arrive at an oasis, our one-stop shop for desert experiences. A gathering of huts huddle around a broad square where a huge, buffet dinner has been laid out for us on long tables. In the center of the square is a stage where a series of belly dancers are displaying their skills. In the nearby huts, you can smoke a hookah, or have your hands and arms henna-ed, or buy local bangles and jewelry to buy. Just outside of the square, you can spend a few extra bucks to ride a camel in a lazy circle, which I most certainly do.
Is it cheesy? You betcha. Do I enjoy it? Thoroughly! It’s corny. It’s trite. It’s NOT at all an authentic experience. But I love it! Wow.
(When it comes to money, what’s the right balance between being practical and being a cheapskate? Have you ever regretted the money you splurged on a trip? Can you even remember the money you spent on travel? What sticks in the memory is the experience, not the savings. Where in your home life are you holding perhaps a tad too close to your purse? Is time to cut the strings – at least a little?)