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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

A stay in the 'in-between' zone

The disruptive influence of travel should be embraced, says The National's travel editor

Parag Khanna's book Connectography. Rosemary Behan
Parag Khanna's book Connectography. Rosemary Behan

I moved out of my apartment last week, having lived in the same building in Abu Dhabi for almost 7 years. This week I've been staying with a friend who has very kindly offered me her spare room which, co-incidentally, also has room for all the toiletries I wasn't able to put in storage.

It takes at least week after you've moved out to tie up any loose ends in the UAE - maintenance clearances, utilities letters and suchlike (though in my case, I've been impressed with the speed and professionalism of Abu Dhabi Distribution Company, which has issued letters and refunds digitally and without delay). I'm glad I didn't leave vacating until the day before my flight, which would have been unbearably stressful. And while moving is stressful at any time, it's also a valuable process which, if managed and now that I've done it, has left me feeling somehow renewed.

Staying too long in the same place leads to mental stagnation and stress, and I'm convinced that the natural state for humans is to be on the move. I've seen numerous successful-but-unhappy people who have been transformed by the process of travel and think of countless others whose inflexible thinking, un-creativity and out-of-kilter opinions, borne of limited perspectives, would benefit from a good shaking-up.

Despite the uncertainty of moving from a one bedroom apartment in one of Abu Dhabi's "best" residential towers into a friend's spare room, I've really enjoyed this week, and it's illustrated so many of the benefits that the process of travel brings. I've now got a beautiful new view every morning across the old part of Mina Port, and I go to bed watching the twinkling lights of the dhow harbour. I've been parking my car in one of the last vestiges of old Abu Dhabi, at the animal feed stores near the Indian Social & Cultural Centre. As I walk home I get the sweet smell of hay combined with the earthiness of horse feed, and enjoy looking at the piles of firewood (where does it come from, I wonder?)

The ISCC has a brilliant and cheap restaurant and there's also an excellent Turkish deli nearby. Even the branch of Costa Coffee here is better than the one I had before. There's no internet or TV at my friend's house, so we spend the time talking and reading. So you see, there's no reason to stress about life on the move because it's our natural state. Keep moving and things work out; more than that, life in the "in-between" zone is fantastic.

I've just started reading Connectography: Mapping the Global Network Revolution by Parag Khanna, who last week gave a talk at The National's Future Forum. In the book Khanna talks about the increasing global connections that are being forged across borders through supply chain networks, pipelines, roads, railways, airports, the Internet and global trade, and the implications this has for people's identities and allegiances.

The massive potential of the UAE with its geographical location is clear, and the "connectography" he talks about will hopefully stop a Third World War. Yet I can't help thinking that today's modern global infrastructure is simply making tangible something much older. And that's the ancient human instinct to move forward, making connections as you go and drawing energy and momentum from the process. As I've travelled, often far from anywhere and without any Internet connection, I've experienced a sense of oceanic connectedness with the world. This is our natural state, and it is arguably something much more powerful.

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Read more:

On the move: planning a trip to Alaska

On the move: reverse culture shock in London

On the move: if you want peace, travel

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