There was a time in my life where I couldn't wait to get out of my country and experience a new world. I do not hate my country; in fact, I love it here, but I was yearning to meet different people, see different sights (not shopping malls) and try out different things.
I used to hate summer holidays because my family did not travel. It's been one of my wishes to fly to Europe, particularly London and Paris, since many of my friends have spoken highly of these cities.
The magical moment happened when my siblings suggested that we take a month's break from the UAE and travel to four countries: Austria, Switzerland, England and France (now you know why I haven't blogged for so long). Before I left, I had high expectations based on the flowery guidebooks I came across, online pictures and other travellers' tales.
I was not disappointed.
In Austria, I found the country's history and culture fascinating. We went to a few palaces and were amazed at how the country has been able to preserve its past. My favourite place is the Sisi Museum at the Imperial Palace, where there was a giant room that showcased a comprehensive range of tableware and other utensils used at the Imperial Court.
When we left Austria to go to Switzerland by train, I was stunned by the views I got to witness on the way. Switzerland is heaven on Earth. When we arrived at Interlaken, I couldn't believe my eyes - the snowy mountains, waterfalls, flowers, the exquisite colour of the water and the small villages scattered all over the place. Best of all, everyone we met friendly and social.
It was raining when we landed in London, but we were so happy to be in that type of weather. Of course, we had our ups and downs in all the countries, particularly with language and cultural barriers, which is normal when visiting a new country.
We came across some rude people. Some areas were smelly and dirty, with a lack of public toilets, which we didn't expect.
Not all the countries lived up to my expectations. But, as I learnt, expectations can be dangerous. I guess at times, the higher your expectations, the greater the chance you'll be disappointed.
I also learnt not to get overwhelmed by other travellers' experiences and stories. There's something special about experiencing things yourself.
But I really discovered how much I love my own country. It is clean, the people are respectful towards women and I really missed being home.
Asmaa Al Hameli co-writes the My Year at The National blog, where this piece was originally published. Visit the blog to read the full version