Often times when someone asks me how I am doing I give the response that I am living the dream. Oftentimes that is interpreted as a negative thing, and while sometimes that is exactly what I am trying to say, most of the time it is really just something quick to say in response than an actual indicator of how I am doing. However, this last few weeks has been quite the opposite.
As I have mentioned in the past, by job often takes me to some pretty cool places. As much fun as I have had in the Philippines, Thailand, and Guam, there is nothing that could really compare to my most recent adventure. Alaska is just the perfect mix of so may of the things that I totally love. I have literally been living the dream.
On the work side of things, the flying has been amazing. I could do without the full day mission planning, but that is just part of the deal if you want to operate legally and safely. It has been incredible to get back down to flying at only 300 feet above the ground at 250 knots raging through the mountains of Alaska. I have been able to see moose and bears, and some of the most scenic views I have seen in my entire life.
On the flip side of flying, I had the opportunity to go out and explore more of Alaska in a Cessna 172 at a much slower speed and really just enjoy the wonder that is Alaska. It was a sort of pleasure cruise in the air with a great aviator who made the experience that much better. As someone who just loves everything about airplanes, it was amazing to explore this dream destination with my friend Chris, who is even more passionate about aviation.
One of the most spectacular things about flying in Alaska is the massive glaciers that are all over the place. It is truly something to behold how immense these glaciers are. They are so dynamic in their shape and color providing the bluest blues I may have ever seen, along with huge ice cliffs, and deep, sharp valleys. There really are not words good enough to describe how incredible they are.
To cap off this dream, I had the opportunity to get in some Alaskan fishing which was really the sprinkles on top of the icing on the cake. Then I got to eat the cake, because what good is cake if you can’t eat it? My first day down at the confluence of the Kenai River and Russian River started out great grabbing a couple of sockeye salmon for the first time, and then a couple of trout. Unfortunately, one of those trout snapped my brand new rod and my day was pretty much over.
With an opportunity to see the silver lining on a very, very dark cloud, we were delayed from returning to our families (which totally sucked) I was able to make another trip down to the river with a much more amazing experience. Having already literally snagged a few salmon, I returned to my favorite pastime and went after some trout.
It started out a little rough losing the first few through poor execution on my part. Thanks to a couple of crucial tips from my fishing partners, I was able to start landing some gorgeous rainbow trout and dolly vardens. I felt like a little kid reeling in the biggest fish that I have ever caught in my life. There are few things more beautiful than a stunningly colored rainbow trout in the midst of a the majestically forested Alaskan mountains.
In recent months I have come to realize how much more important pursuing my dreams and having experiences is when compared with having things or other status. That is why this trip to Alaska will always be one of my fondest memories. I don’t know that I have ever been more honest than right now when I say I was living the dream.
As I was thinking on my last post about the problem with social media. I realized that my social media feed might be part of the problem for many of you. Crash Uncle once told me that looking at my Facebook feed it looks like all I do is play ultimate frisbee and travel all over the world.
Crash Uncle is right about this. I’m more of a consumer of Facebook than I am someone who shares all the details of my life. However, it’s natural for me to share when I’m playing ultimate frisbee (since we RSVP for that on Facebook) and when I’m traveling somewhere it’s fun to take cool pictures of those places. Lately I’ve been traveling to a lot of beautiful places and so I’ve been taking pictures and sharing the beautiful pictures.
Heck, even on this blog I did a whole series of posts on my trip to Dubai. Along with Dubai, just this past year or two I’ve been to amazing places like Palm Beach, Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, Nashville and I’m heading to Miami next week. Sounds pretty amazing doesn’t it. The pictures on social media will definitely make each of those trips look pretty amazing.
I’m not going to say that I didn’t have fun on those trips. I try to make the most of whatever I’m doing, but the pictures definitely don’t tell the full story. For example, take a look at my last trip to Nashville. I was attending a conference where I was attending sessions, walking an exhibit hall, networking with people about 15-16 hours per day. These are long day where I’m often repeating the same story about my blogs over and over.
Oh yes, did I tell you that for those 15-16 hours I’m talking about healthcare IT. Yes, that’s right. I’m a nerd. I go to these amazing places and spend 15-16 hours per day in a crammed conference hall talking about the exciting topics of electronic medical records, HIPAA, and other amazing topics like ICD-10, RAC Audits, and much more. Are you jealous?
Wait. You didn’t get that part of the story on social media? It’s important to remember that there’s always more to every story regardless of what social media might tell you.
On Saturday I was cruising home from Utah after attending a conference. Heading down the I-15 I was enjoying the LDS general conference on the radio as I passed the small town of Mills, UT. As I was driving I was in the fast lane going about 80 miles per hour as I passed this truck pulling one of those mobile offices you see on construction sites. As I start to pass the truck and trailer, the tire off the trailer comes over into my lane right in front of me.
I had enough time to think “Should I swerve?” when my car nailed the tire at 80 MPH on the freeway. I can best describe the experience as my Toyota Sequoia jumping off a tire at 80 MPH. Luckily no one behind me crashed in to me and I was able to keep my car straight and not hit the truck or trailer.
Surprisingly the car actually was driving fine even though I later found out that the right front tire was flat. I pulled over to the side in front of the truck and trailer which also pulled over. The driver of the truck came up to me and asked, “Do you see that tire fly off?” I replied, “Yep. I ran over it.”
Here’s a look at the damage to the car after we’d changed out the tire.
The two guys in the truck were very nice and helped me change my tire to my spare so I could get on my way. The father was quite funny. He just kept saying stuff like, “Oh me oh my.” Luckily I was able to drive it the rest of the way home to Vegas. I did stop in Beaver and get a new tire just to be safe, but the rest of the trip was without incident.
However, when I was changing the tire the guy driving the truck told me, “I’m just glad the tire didn’t bounce up and through your window and kill you.” I’m not sure the proper response to that, but my response was, “Me too.” Turns out this was the second time it’s happened to him and he told me the first time the tire did bounce up and go through the passenger window. No injuries there, but you could tell his comment was talking from first hand experience about what’s possible.
Luckily, no one was injured in the accident. My car will hopefully get fixed (playing phone tag with the insurance company). Life continues to go on. However, the 4 hour drive after such an incident gave me a lot of time to ponder how things might have gone different. It gave me a chance to remember to appreciate life. You never know what it will bring next.
After a pretty good first night’s sleep I had a scheduled day of rest before the workshop I was teaching started. I decided to keep it pretty low key and save any real touristy things until the day after my workshop. However, I realized that they probably played ultimate frisbee in Dubai. Sure enough, after a bit of digging I found a pickup game of ultimate frisbee on the beach. Perfect right? I wanted to see the beach anyway and so why not go play some beach ultimate, meet some new people, and experience the Dubai beach.
Turns out, it was the perfect decision. I took an Uber to the beach which worked quite smooth on the hotel wifi. Sadly, my international plan on Verizon didn’t do anything for me. It was just a waste of money even though they said I’d be fine in Dubai. The Uber was really smooth though. The guy arrived really quickly and I made it to the beach in great time. I was lucky we didn’t have traffic, because some other days I was on the metro and the traffic was awful. I guess I chose the right time and direction.
The beach in Dubai was awesome. It did remind me a lot of Waikiki in Hawaii. The beach was this nice white sand and the backdrop was this concrete jungle of hotels and stores. The ultimate on the beach was fun, but I forgot that it would be blazing hot and that I’d need a few gallons of water to really enjoy it. Luckily, the other players were really nice and shared their water with me.
We played until the sun went down and got to enjoy a great sunset. There were also fun things like a camel that was giving rides to people on the beach.
Right before the sun totally set, we decided to take a little swim. I thought it would be nice to cool off in the water. Boy was I wrong. The water felt like warm bath water. Pretty amazing that it stays so warm. I was told to also watch out for jelly fish. I guess they have a bunch of them. I was glad I didn’t meet any of them. The shocking thing was how cold you felt when you got out of the water.
After disc, my new frisbee friends who came from all over the world asked if anyone wanted to go for drinks or juice. I didn’t have anything to do, so I was game for doing something. As a mormon it was pretty nice to be offered juice. I guess the Muslim influence is strong there that they’d offer a non-alcoholic option after frisbee. Plus, the juice place sold some triple layered, chocolate, caramel, and I’m not sure what else cake. I bought it and shared it with the group. I loved their observation that the American desserts are always so indulgent. Yes they are! Pretty fun to make some new friends from Germany, Canada, Russia and the Philippines in Dubai.
After my long plane ride to Dubai, I was told I could easily take the Metro from the airport to my hotel. I used the free wifi in the airport to see if that was true and to make sure I knew where I knew where I was going. By the way, I’ve found that Google Maps has done a really good job with metros/subways these days. I checked out the map and it definitely looked easy. So, I decided to be brave and try the metro to my hotel.
Before hitting the metro, I had to pass through immigration which was actually quite easy. I’m also now registered for quick entry into Dubai. Next time I go (in August) I’ll be able to just scan my passport and not have to wait in line at all. That will be nice. Although, I think I’ll have Kristine, so I’ll probably have to wait for her. I’m told the lines at immigration in Dubai can be hit or miss on how long you wait. It was pretty fast for me.
Luckily I was able to go with all checked luggage so I followed the signs to the metro. There was a nice information booth where I could buy a ticket and ask which metro I needed to take. Of course, I learned that they didn’t take American Express and so I had to use my Visa debit card which I think charged me an international fee. Lesson learned. There were a bunch of places that didn’t take American Express. I should have known that Visa is everywhere you want to be.
The metro was about the easiest metro I’ve ever done and I’ve done them in NYC, Chicago and all over Italy. All the signs were in Arabic and English, so there were no issues with reading any of the signs. It was super simple and I felt really safe. Here’s a picture of the Dubai metro station from my hotel room:
The trip on the metro to my hotel and once I was in my hotel, I would have thought I was in any big city in the US like Chicago or New York. There were a lot of really big buildings and the hotel was just like any hotel you’d find anywhere else as far as amenities. Luckily, it was a nice hotel and it only cost me like $50 a night. Of course, I was there in the hot season they tell me. Here’s some pictures from my hotel room and the street in front of my hotel:
Speaking of which, it was definitely hot. After getting to my hotel I went searching for food at about 10 PM and it was still really hot. On the edge of sweating hot at 10 PM. Pretty crazy. You’d think I’d be use to it in Las Vegas, but even Vegas doesn’t get that hot.
I walked up and down the main street in front of my hotel searching for food. There was a wide variety of food and I’m a picky eater. So, I thought I wouldn’t tempt fate that first night and I just wanted to get something quick before I went to bed. I finally chose to get some pasta and breadsticks from Pizza Hut. I figured that would be safe.
Boy was I wrong. The pasta was awful and the breadsticks were almost ok, but there was just something that wasn’t quite right. I was disappointed, but the breadsticks got me through the night.
The funny story about Pizza Hut though was that I texted the Crash Wife that the Pizza Hut had like a 24 page menu. I didn’t note that it had about 3 items on each page, but the menu was thick. I guess she told Crash Kid #1 about it and so now when anyone asks me about Dubai and he’s around he quickly informs them that the Pizza Hut had a 24 page menu. It’s always funny to see what kids glob onto.
That was night one in Dubai. I honestly felt like I could have been in any big city. I thought it would be much different, but I found that it felt almost the same. That was a surprise for me.
Next up is what I call Dubai Honolulu and Dubai Las Vegas.
As I mentioned, I was blessed to be able to travel to Dubai to teach a 3 day workshop on Electronic Health Record (EHR). Over the next week or so, I’m going to try and document the adventure for those following along at home. Plus, hopefully I can provide some advice for those who plan to travel to Dubai in the future.
Today I’m going to start off talking about my experience flying on Emirates. I was actually lucky to fly to LA on Virgin before switching to Emirates to go from LA to Dubai. I’ve always been a big fan of Virgin and they still did not disappoint. From the safety video chock full of dancers from So You Think You Can Dance (Premiere of SYTYCD is today!) to the ambiance of the plane including the live TV, it’s a great flight experience. I could see why Emirates would partner with them and Jetblue for their connecting flights.
I was super cautious and chose to fly into LAX on the early Virgin flight and so I had a 6-7 hour layover in LAX before my flight to Dubai. I should have just taken the flight that got in 3 hours early and risked missing the flight because of some delay. Turns out that LAX’s international terminal ticketing area is an awful place to wait 6 hours. The only redeeming quality was that the wifi worked well. Inside the LAX international terminal was awesome, but Emirates ticketing area didn’t open until 3 hours before the flight. That means I was stuck hanging out with hundreds of others in the ticketing area until Emirates opened up and I could get my boarding pass. Needless to say, there’s nothing fun about waiting in an airport. At least not for me.
Once I got through security I was greeted by this amazing video show on the wall of the LAX international terminal. It was the crazy vaudeville style performance projected on the wall like it was a skyscraper. I would have taken a picture or video, but I had to go and catch my flight. Plus, I needed to eat before the flight (since there was no food in the LAX international ticketing area).
While waiting for my flight to board, this massively annoying security alarm kept going off. It was so loud, I was talking to the Crash Wife on the phone and a few times I had to tell her to repeat, because I couldn’t think with the buzzer being so loud and annoying. Plus, what’s the one place you don’t want to hear an alarm go off? The airport! I saw a security guy show up and start looking around to see what set off the alarm. As you can imagine, it wasn’t comforting to hear the security alarm going off right before you board a plane.
I learned from my avgeek brother that I was flying on an Emirates Airbus A380-800. For those of us that aren’t avgeeks, it was a massive airplane with multiple floors. Thankfully I had a window seat so I could lean against the wall and sleep and had a little extra room on the side. Although, the Airbus A 380 is so massive that the wall is actually pretty far away and not ideal for leaning against so you can sleep (at least not for me). (Side Note: I still want to invent something that lets you comfortably sleep on an airplane. I think it’s probably something leaning over, but not so far that you’re uncomfortable like when you lay on the tray).
As I mentioned, I loved the cool Emirates flight attendant outfits that added to the whole experience. I’m sure they are annoying for the flight attendants, but it definitely leaves an impression. Each seat also had a pillow, blanket, and a small care package that included a mask, toothbrush and little towel. Plus, to start the flight they came around with a warm towel. I wasn’t quite sure why I’d want a warm towel at the start of the flight, but I figured I’d do like the locals were doing and wipe my face down with the warm towel. Maybe my neighbors on the flight appreciated me doing it.
A 16 hour flight can never be considered a good thing, but Emirates did it as well as you can do. Their in flight video, music, news, etc options (they call it ICE) were really quite good. I wish they had live TV, but I know they’re working on that. I think I watched at least 7-8 movies over both flights. Good thing I had a lot of movies I wanted to catch up on. I created a nice playlist of music and once or twice almost started singing and dancing along. I’m sure my fellow passengers appreciated my restraint.
I did try the in flight wifi on Emirates. It was what you’d expect on a crowded flight. They give you 10 MB of free internet and then it’s only $1 for 500 MB of internet. I splurged on the $1 internet each time. I tried my laptop and wasn’t that successful. Of course, I realized later that when you’re traveling over the North Pole there’s a satellite dead spot since the satellites orbit around the earth near the equator (thank you physics). So, I might have been trying during the dead times. Either way, my phone worked pretty well with the wifi. I could text Crash Wife (although, she was asleep for most of the flight) and get and reply to email. It makes some sense that the mobile device which uses less data would work better.
As part of Emirates in flight offering they have some cameras mounted on the plane so you can see what’s happening outside as you take off, land, or even watch below you. For much of the flight all you see is sky and clouds, but for take off and landing it’s pretty cool to see. Plus, it was cool to see outside since when I opened my window all I saw was this massive wing. I literally couldn’t see anything but wing because the wings are so big. Here’s a look at the in flight tracking and outside cameras in action including a cool picture of what it looked like landing in Dubai.
The last picture above shows our flight path to Dubai. It was a bit of a surprise to me that we didn’t fly around the world, over the US and Europe. Instead we went North over Canada, the North Pole, then Russia and then down to Dubai.
I guess I should comment on the food on the flight. Emirates still offers full meals. I guess they kind of have to feed you on a 16 hour flight. People raved about the quality of the Emirates food. I wasn’t surprised when the food was high quality airline food, but airline food nonetheless. For me as a picky eater, that meant I could force down about half of the food. Next time I’ll be bringing more snacks along with me. At least the rolls were always good. Plus, on the way back they gave us these little margherita pizzas that weren’t bad either. They did well considering they have to feed a few hundred people in a small space at 30-40k feet.
There was almost a revolt by some passengers by me when the flight attendant didn’t have vegetarian meals which they’d “specifically requested months before.” I couldn’t help but laugh at how angry they were at this awful situation. Considering it was airline food, maybe it was better that they didn’t get the food. Although, they eventually found the vegetarian meals somewhere.
I was surprised how many kids were on the flight as well. My sympathy to all those parents. Although, the kids weren’t a major issue for me. Maybe there just weren’t any around me. It was pretty nice in the Dubai Emirates terminal, they had all these kiosks with free strollers that families could use to get around the airport.
All in all, I was quite happy with the service on Emirates. It definitely is one of and possibly the best airline I’ve been on (and I’ve been on most). It’s still an airline and still a 16 hour flight, but I can only imagine how much worse the flight would have been if I was stuck on some other airline.
I’ll be heading back (with the Crash Wife I think) in August to do the same workshop again. You can be sure I’ll be booking on Emirates. This time they offered a chance to upgrade to business class for $1000. Business class has lay down seats, so I have to say that it was pretty tempting. It’s probably better that I don’t experience business class on Emirates. If I do it once, I probably won’t be able to stand going back to economy class. Better to not know what I’m missing.
I don’t know exactly why, but I’ve always wanted to travel to Dubai. I’ve heard so many amazing things about it and seen so many of the amazing things they’ve done that I’ve always wanted to see it with mine own eyes. I think I’ve probably also been heavily influenced by Amazing Race which has been there over and over throughout the years.
A few months ago I was offered the opportunity to teach a 3 day workshop on Electronic Health Records (EHR) in Dubai. I was absolutely torn on the idea. First, 3 days is a long time for any training of any kind. Did I really want to teach an EHR course that lasted 3 days? Second, it’s a long way to go to Dubai. The long way would be great if I was taking Crash Wife with me. Then, I’d have my best friend with me to share in the experience. Logistically, I just knew there was no way she was going to be able to go with me (at least this time).
I finally decided that if they’d pay me the right amount, I had to take the opportunity and go to Dubai. I also checked out the outline of the program and I realized that I really did have enough things to talk about for 3 days. I guess I should since I’ve been blogging about EHR for 10 years and published about 8000 articles on the subject. I think that fits Dubner (Freakonomics) description of an expert is someone whose spent 10,000 hours on a subject.
I’m literally waiting in the international terminal at LAX. In 30 minutes I’ll be boarding an Emirates flight to Dubai. It’s a 15 hour and 50 minute flight for those keeping track at home. This morning I took the short hour-ish flight from Las Vegas to LAX on the beautiful Virgin America airlines. The big downside is I’ve been spending all day at LAX waiting for the connecting flight. At least I had internet to keep me entertained so I could work.
Waiting at the LAX international terminal was a lot of fun. Every few minutes you get a group of flight attendants from around the world passing by. For example, the Emirates flight attendants (pictured below) just walked by:
Don’t you love the uniqueness of the world? I’m really interested to see how my flight is on Emirates. I’m told they could be the best (or at least one of the best) airlines in the world. Even my aviation loving Crash Brother said so. Although, can you ever define a 16 hour flight as good? We’ll see.
I asked how much it would cost to upgrade to business class or first class. They said that business class was usually $3-5k more and that first class was more than it. I think I might have to include that upgrade in my next trip (and yes, they already want me to do it again in August). A lay down bed on a 16 hour flight would be really nice.
I’ll be in Dubai for 5 days (1 day of traveling on each side). 1 day for rest and to adjust to the time change. 3 days doing my workshop. 1 day to check out Dubai. I have a feeling that’s not going to be enough time. We’ll see if it gives me a taste and makes me want to come back over and over or if I get the taste and feel like it’s enough.
I’ll do what I can to document the adventure. Sometimes dreams come true. I guess that’s the case for me today. Although, for some reason my dream didn’t include the 24 hour trip there and 20 hour trip back. I guess that’s the problem with dreams.
Yes, that’s been my schedule the past 4 weeks. Plus, it’s been made harder since I’ve come back to Vegas in between the 3 conferences that were away (San Antonio, Orlando, and New York City) for those keeping track at home. I have a sincere love-hate relationship with traveling. I prefer to say that I love to go places, but I hate to travel. Although, Mark Suster (a famous venture capitalist that you’ll only know if you’re nerdy like me) once said (and I’m sure he stole it from someone, but I heard it from him and so I’ll credit him), “Business travel is only sexy to those that don’t do it.”
That’s not the point of this post though. While I’m away, it’s pretty terrible for my wife. At least that’s what she tells me. She actually does an amazing job with the kids and everything else in life and I have no worries. She’s wonderful. Although, she does tell me how much she dislikes me traveling.
To be quite frank, I’m not sure if I should be excited by this news or upset by it. Seriously. One of my favorite parts of the show Mad Men is when the main character (I’m bad with names, don’t judge) goes off to California without telling his wife or his company and basically disappears for a month or two. No call. Nothing. He just disappears. Of course, this was pre-cell phone days, but he still could have called since he’s a rich NYC ad exec.
Once he comes home, there’s this amazing meeting between the main character and his wife as he enters their house. After an exchange where she asks where he’s been and he partially responds, Betty (well, at least I remembered the wife’s name, and I realized his name is Don Draper) says, “Well, the sad thing is, it hasn’t really been any different.”
Talk about a knife through the heart!
The first time I saw that I sat up straight and said, “WOOOOO!” I immediately wondered, “Is it any different for Crash Mom when I’m gone?”
I guess that’s why I say that I have mixed emotions when my wife tells me that it sucks (she might not use such a terrible word) when I’m gone. A part of me is pumping my fist as I think, “I’m not Don Draper! I actually do something of value in our house.” However, an equal part of me hates seeing my wife suffer. It’s one of the most terrible things in the world. Now you understand my love-hate relationship with travel.
The irony of this post was I was going to write about everything that went wrong while I was gone. Although, it went a different direction. I guess I’ll save that topic until the next time I travel. Hopefully that won’t be for a while.