How Dubai gave me the best memories, without ever living in Dubai?

We are all chasing different dreams in our lives. The perfect partner, the perfect job, the house you can call home, that car you had on your wall when you were 16. Most people think they work for their happiness when they go to great lengths achieving THE dream. They are willing to sacrifice time away from family, harsh working conditions, in exchange for a perceived advantage. Sometimes it does worth it, but most of the time people are chasing illusions. Maybe Dubai is our illusion? The way to get to your dream itself is happiness.  The sooner you realize this, the happier you will be! In this post I am sharing with you how Dubai gave me the best memories, without ever being in Dubai?

The World Citizen was also chasing his dream; ever since a colleague from Budapest left his cubicle to work in Dubai, I knew it was possible. You don’t have to be special or wait for a promotion. Just go out and apply and after the hundredth un-responded application, an employer will reach out to schedule an interview. It’s no secret the money appealed me as well. Buying a brand new car after your second paycheck sounded unimaginable riches from my Eastern European perspective. But it was about more than the just the money. Dubai always amazed me, how they build a thriving city in the desert, making it an international hub, appealing expats despite the heatwaves, sandstorms and UAE’s vastly different culture. Every time Dubai came up, it felt I knew the place, however, I had no real-life experience visiting it I only knew it from news articles, stories of friends, senior managers who were coming from our Dubai office, and other indirect channels.


One day I felt the time has come to quit my job in Hungary, promotions did not happen to anyone despite the promises, I felt stuck doing the same job as my counterparts in the UK do, only for the fraction of the compensation. I bought a one-way ticket to London, and the global adventure started, chasing the Dubai dream! OK, so the UK was not exactly Dubai, but I knew the place well enough to take the leap with a one-way ticket. After a few employment attempts, sandwich delivery and an office job at a small UK company, I found a position at a Global Telecommunications company, who really helped me become the World Citizen! I am endlessly grateful for them to hire me! They hired the guy whose English was far from perfect, who got his degree from a university they never heard of, and most of my work experience was outside of the UK. Thank you Caroline and Alan!


Anyways, coming back to the topic of how Dubai gave me the best memories! Being in the UK, I got 25 paid vacation days, a decent salary and I lived next to a major hub airport. This can only mean cheap travels, so the World Citizen started his short and long-haul travels! Turkey, Dominican Republic, France, Norway, Kenya, South East Asian round trip, just to name a few. There were a few business travels as well, such as a conference in Bangkok!

Meanwhile, I was collecting great memories, I always knew, London is not my last stop, it is a stepping stone for an international career. After about two years, settling in perfectly, I started to see my friends are leaving London, pursuing opportunities globally. After a stellar year-end evaluation, I made it clear to my manager, I really love the company, and should the opportunity arise, I’d like to be relocated to the Dubai office, or Singapore. I was on the new jobs-newsletter, tried to get to know the Dubai guys better, and after a while, I started applying to jobs outside the company as well. It just did not want to happen. Sure enough, I loved London, being close to home is always great! But I think I had enough of the terrible weather and already achieved I wanted to achieve. Proved to myself I can build a successful life from zero in a foreign country, so it was time to move on.

One day, one of my Best Managers Ever, scheduled a meeting with me; He talked to people in the San Francisco office, and a suitable position opened up for me. He would love to support me should I decide to go for it. Well… San Francisco is pretty far from Dubai, THE dream. I never considered moving to the US, I thought I could get there anytime if I really wanted to. I discussed it with my girlfriend, and the more I learned about San Francisco and the job, the more I wanted to apply. In hind-site, it was a great decision letting Dubai go, after all, if the US turns out to be terrible, I can still apply for Dubai!

San Francisco

Welcome to San Francisco! By now I think you are starting to understand how Dubai gave me the best memories without ever setting foot in that magnificent desert! I had a new base, got new friends, who are now spread around globally, just like the friends I made in London. San Francisco is also a transit city. People come here in pursuit of their career, and while some stay, most leave in a few years. With the move to SF, new travel opportunities, thus great opportunities for memories opened up! Hello New Orleans, hello Chicago, LA, Vegas, just like in the movies!

While I enjoyed my time, I was still going to an office most of the days. So long and epic travel adventures were not feasible. I had a chat with Robbie, a sales guy also relocated from the UK office. He told me, he and his family treat this San Francisco work thing as a working vacation! They don’t live here, they are on Vacation here! Well, this changed my perception of work and life in a heartbeat! I can apply the same to my life, I do not live here, I am just on vacation! On weekdays I do my best in the office, but in the weekends the world is mine! Get in the car, and visit my mate in Monterey, go hiking in Yosemite national park, or do a wine tour in Napa Valley! Back on collecting the best memories, without being in Dubai!

Hong Kong

While I was far from finished with my travellings from my base in San Francisco, one day I got a call from a headhunter – in Hong Kong. It took 4 months to finalize the deal, but they made an offer I could not refuse. I was sad to leave my company, but Hong Kong was exciting enough for me! Food, low-cost Asia travels, next step in career, I just could not refuse! Well, again, Hong Kong is not exactly Dubai, though I got a bit closer to it! My new company got a Dubai office, and I ALMOST got hired there while they were deciding. No no no, dreams do not come true that easy. They decided I’ll be more useful in Hong Kong. Again, epic memories, I am so happy I did not get to Dubai! I already wrote about some of my adventures in Hong Kong in this article: Why do expats love Hong Kong.

Dubai already?

Not exactly. In Hong Kong, little World Citizen was born, so we have decided to take a short (ha-ha, it was 16 months ago) sabbatical, and move back home. Grandparents do deserve some time with the newborn, we needed some time off too. Not all was lost, a month later I had to go back to Hong Kong to arrange things. On the way back home I have stopped in Dubai for an interview. WOW, it was INCREDIBLE! The dream may come true, if I crush this interview, we might actually arrive? More importantly, this was the first time for me to set foot in Dubai! Confirm or bust the myths, see if things really are the way I imagined? Well, they are all true! Even better! I LOVED the city! I asked my hosts not to take me to any tourist attraction, I will have plenty of time to see those when I’ll be living there. Instead, I have seen how my friends live, where do they go shopping, to restaurants, enjoying their weekend. I was more than amazed, now it is confirmed, Dubai IS on the list to live in! The interview went well; even though it was clear it’s not a 9-5 job, more like a 9-9 job, I still wanted it for personal growth!


Unfortunately, the salary on offer shocked me, it was significantly lower than my Hong Kong package in a city where everyday life is even more expensive than Hong Kong. We did not want to end up in a situation where we live in Dubai and has to settle with a tiny apartment beyond far far away, always looking at price tags while shopping. I had to decline the offer, knowing someday, a better one will come! Until then, we are at home, rebuilding long-lost friendships, enjoying what home has to offer and still travel as much as possible. Dubai is still giving us the best memories we could not collect if we were actually living there. By the way, Dubai may have to wait, I have just submitted an application to Nairobi 🙂

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