Forget Something?

I was once in Dubai with a bunch of Swedes that I’d never met before. We were working as cabin crew and this was circa 2008. Some of the flight attendants and stewards knew each other from before and paired up immediately. The rest of us were used to being thrown together with a random mix of colleagues and thought nothing of it.

On arrival, an airport taxi van dropped us off at the hotel that our crew control had booked for us. As usual, the captain checked the whole group in, while we waited politely a bit further away. After we had been assigned our rooms and our passports returned, the pilots were quick to leave. The loudest member of the cabin crew suggested that we all go to one of the malls together for lunch, before we each go our separate ways. He knew of a good shawarma place. The rendez-vous was set at 10 minutes from that moment – be down at the lobby, or be left behind.

This was quite ordinary. You’d drop off your stuff in your room, quickly change, grab your purse and leave your room before you even had time to look out the window. Everyone was tired and speediness kept you awake. There were things to do, people! Shopping or sunbathing by the hotel pool, basically. Usually food was involved. If you ever see a mish-mashed group of people of different ages and with varying degrees of tan lines and wrinkles sitting around several tables, eating something totally decadent in a hurried manner, all the while staring at their watches, it’s probably an airline crew. Just so you know. (And yes, the dry cabin air gives you wrinkles prematurely!)

At the mall, the group’s self-proclaimed leader – a guy who’d buddied up with the purser lady, too cool for the rest of us – again suggested we all split up and meet at some food court on the top floor in half an hour. Lunch was going to be quick, too, so you should be there on time if you wanted to catch the shared taxi back to the hotel. Otherwise, you could take your own taxi and pay for it by yourself.

I separated from the group and walked around the mall, which was ridiculously big. Actually, it was just one wing of the mall and, like the Louvre, you would never have time to see it all. But there was nothing to interest me much. Some shops were selling clothes with materials and designs that looked exotic to me, very far from the European (or Western) fashion I was used to seeing. Then there were shops like Zara and Bershka, not so exotic. Suddenly, I realized it was already time to go to the food court, and, it being my first time at that mall, I had to find it first.

Oh well, I thought, if I’m late and everyone’s already gone, I’ll just have a snack and then go back to the hotel. No problem. – Wait a minute. Go back to the hotel… hmm. Which hotel was that again?

My heart skipped a beat as I realized that I didn’t know which hotel I was staying at! Oh my gosh! I took out my key card: it was blank white, no clues there. I looked at my roster, printed on a piece of paper: no hotel information there, either. And I didn’t even steal a pen!

I had just left all of my belongings in a hotel room in Dubai, of all places, and I didn’t know where that hotel room was!

In retrospect, I probably could have called the crew office in Sweden, but what time was it there anyway, and did my ancient cell phone back then even work in the UAE? I can’t remember. I do remember that this realization made me hurry up!

When I finally found the right floor and the right corner of the food court and saw some of the other crew members there, I let out a sigh of relief. Some of them had already left, but some were still there.

And then I had the best shawarma of my life. So far.

What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made while traveling?

The photos are from a different trip to Dubai – solo and circa 2005, please excuse the quality!

40 replies on “Forget Something?”

Ahh! Such hastiness. And wrinkles! Flying doesn’t seem so cool suddenly. Not to mention that it gives you a false feeling all your life will be as happening. πŸ˜‰

The first thought was of when I was in Denmark accompanying a group of students as a journalist. We visited high schools all over the country. Once I managed to miss the boat by some lake and was left all alone. Luckily I had our schedule with me and hitched a ride to our next destination to wait for the group there. It was the second biggest hill of Denmark. Luckily it was only 400 m or so hihi. (Probably a bit more, but I’m too amused to google the truth. But there was a good road leading right up there and you didn’t even realise you were in the mountains.)

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What a fun read! We were taking a car ferry one time across the English Channel back to England when our boys were very small and we were so busy getting them out of the car and away from the car deck that we didn’t take note of where we’d left it. On our return, it took awhile to track the car down as we hD gone t the wrong level. When we arrived, angry motorists were hooting their horns as they wanted to drive off and our car was blocking their way. We weren’t all that late but some people have little patience!

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Ha – great story. I could totally understand that happening! When someone else makes my reservations (rare) for group travel, sometimes I just follow along like a sheep.

My most similar experience was heading out for an evening in Beijing and not being able to get a cab home, and I had absolutely no clue where the hotel was. For almost an hour, the taxi drivers would only pick up Chinese people; even though we pushed to the curb and kept trying to get in, they refused to drive us. My daughter and I finally forced our way into the back seat of a cab and would not budge. I was smart enough to have taken the hotel business card, so I showed him the address and we made it back! I even got my bearings and showed him a shortcut at the end!

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πŸ˜‚ Nice save! I remember using business cards in taxis there, too – what a nightmare it must’ve been for you to try to get back when you can’t read the street names and no one will take you!
I’ve had a few travel experiences where I’ve followed someone like a sheep (hahah!) and I never got that much out of those trips. But sometimes it can be very relaxing, too, leaving someone else in charge!

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So easy to get caught up in the energy of the moment and forget the simplest thing… Fortunately, you got there in time! πŸ˜‰ AND even had time for that best shawarma ever, so I guess you did very well!
Nice memory and great pics’!
I only saw Dubai airport recently, by night, twice (on my way to and back from Myanmar) and already found it waaaaaayyyyyy too big for me, Duty Free shops included!

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We never had time to shop at DXB but I remember riding in a crew van to our plane and passing these eeeeenourmous airplanes operated by Emirates and others. So many of them. And I remember the very first time I went to Dubai, before this trip and others, sitting in a window seat (as a normal passenger) during landing when the plane passed so close to the skyscrapers, it seemed unreal, like a video game. Coming from a small country, it looked so alien to me! Thanks Juls for your thoughts! πŸ’–


I love reading your experiences from your flight attendant days! I know how I’d feel if I suddenly realized that I might be in trouble in an unknown country/city. I am glad you found rest of the crew in the mall! I know how big malls in the Middle East can be heheh. I had a similar incident once in my life, I was to fly to Portugal an early morning from Helsinki, and the previous night I went out with a friend who lived in Helsinki. When returning back to the hotel, my phone died, and I missed my bus stop and I was in some unknown, deserted neighborhood on a Saturday night. I walked a good deal in the cold until I finally managed to get right directions from some party-goers and reached the hotel safely! I still shudder when I think of it – I was quite reckless back then hehe. Well at least I knew what hotel it was! πŸ™‚

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Oh that could have been bad! Left out in the cold 😲 Luckily you got back safe! It’s weird how circumstances seem to accumulate, phone’s battery had just died when you need it, etc! I honestly sometimes wonder how I traveled before having a phone. I’d just arrive somewhere and if I had no hotel booked, would check out hotels on foot, for example. How old-fashioned that sounds, inconvenient and even dodgy!


Haha! That feeling of having your heart skip a beat sounded very familiar to me. It happens when a realization like yours takes place, which is a result of counting on others and taking all that for granted. I have not had the same issue you describe, but, used to doing almost everything with my husband (and him having a wallet, the phone, the key if there is one, and a sense of direction), I have been in trouble setting out all by myself and not having any of those things on me. Luckily, there have been (creative) solutions and in the end, things always seem to work out. And, they lead to an extra portion of adventure. πŸ™‚

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The second time I ever flew was right before my 21st birthday. I flew with my (now) hubby up to Virginia to meet his parents. On the return trip to the airport in Richmond (a 2+ hour drive away), we realized that we’d be pressed for time. We dropped off the rental car, dashed to our gate (which you could never do nowadays) and realized that I’d left the camera in the rental car (a borrowed camera at that). Too late to turn around, the hubby called them from the plane. Of course it wasn’t found and I lost all the photos from my 21st birthday. Then at the layover in Charlotte, I wandered off in search of gifts for my family. I didn’t know that cabin doors are closed a certain amount of time prior to departure and the hubby had to sit there begging them to hold the gate for me. I made it, but was clueless about the fact that it had been a close call!

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I bet you learned a few things from that second trip! πŸ˜„ Such a pity losing the camera and your photos. I always treasure my photos more than anything. Someone else must’ve found them and had a good time looking through them! πŸ˜²πŸ˜‚ Thanks for your thoughts, Amy!

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I once saw a flight crew in a hotel in Palma de Mallorca and thought pretty much the opposite of what you described haha πŸ˜… It’s funny because from the outside you imagine they all know each other and travel around together, having fun between flights. It’s nice to read how it really is from someone who experienced that lifestyle. πŸ‘ I can’t remember any mistakes made while travelling… I get a bit anxious before flights, so I always go early and prepare everything in advance! The only time I remember to panic a bit was when travelling as an Unaccompanied Minor, I was supposed to change flights in Zurich but the hostess just put me together with all the other kids who were being picked up in that airport. 😱 When I realized we were going to the ‘arrival’ gate my heart also skipped a beat!

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Oh no, how careless of the hostess! Did you have to find the gate yourself, though you were a supposed to get assistance? …that would make any kid panic a bit, especially at a large airport! I used to travel as an Unaccompanied Minor, too, but just in Finland and it was a short flight. But I remember one of the flight attendants introducing herself to me once, and being super nice, I even remember that her name was Ursula! (Not a common name here) Maybe that influenced me in some way, who knows πŸ™‚ Oh, sometimes the crew members do know each other and it’s not always that hectic. I think we only had 1-2 nights in Dubai, but sometimes we would stay in a luxurious hotel in Krabi, Thailand, for 6 days in a row… I did that so many times that eventually I swapped it for something else! πŸ˜€ How crazy, I’m now thinking…

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I knew I wasn’t supposed to go anywhere on my own, so I just grabbed the hostess arm and told her I was going to Geneva. πŸ˜‰ I remember her double checking the pouch I had around my neck with all my documents, she then told something to the other hostess, took me and we just started running like crazy to the gate I was supposed to be going to! I wonder if the UM system is still the same nowadays, I don’t think I see as many kids travelling alone as before. πŸ€” Hahaha that’s crazy indeed, but I guess you get so used to it that you prefer to swap something you did several times by something new (even if it’s not as luxurious). πŸ˜†

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I agree! And perhaps that’s why I don’t see as many kids travelling alone. But in the 90s I feel it was very common, I remember being with at least 4 or 5 other UM kids in the plane. ✈️

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Oh my goodness that is a stressful story. Heart stopping. Funny for me to read but not for you. I must admit I get a bit stressed about not knowing my hotel so always check my little folder the keycard comes in before I head out. And take it with me. Guess you do that too now. Thanks for sharing. Ha ha

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Thanks for your thoughts! πŸ˜€ This is something that could only happen when to me completely jet-lagged and following a group, I guess! I hope! πŸ˜€ hahah. I don’t usually take the key card’s folder with me actually, because I always think that if someone manages to steal it they might be able to find my stuff in my room – often the room number is on the folder along with the hotel’s name. Paranoid? Maybe! πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading and commenting – hope you are having a cozy Xmas!

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