Why I decided to move back to Dubai and Fly

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This was a magazine submission from a couple years ago. With all the current challenges in the aviation world during this pandemic and many hanging up their wings for good, it's nice to look back and be grateful for the beautiful memories we'll carry with us moving forward. I've always believed that everything happens for a reason and that our life path continues to take us into a destination of self-discovery.

Fresh Croissants

DUBAI, U.A.E. - It’s 7 in the morning and sunshine rolls through the draped silk curtains of my luxurious suite in the heart of Downtown Dubai. The aroma of freshly brewed gahwa, strong Arabic coffee, arouses my senses and mentally revs my mood up for the day ahead. Calmed by the whistling cool breeze reminiscent of sweet Toronto summers, there’s no better place than home for a quick energy boost before my next adventure.


Just having landed from Fort Lauderdale a few hours ago, I start my day feeling blessed for my mini-vacation while technically still on-duty. Smiling at my reflection, my fresh golden glow boasts of the time spent soaking up the sunrays in South Beach Miami, as I indulged on savory Mahi-Mahi fish tacos and refreshing virgin piña coladas.

Mexican Meal

The butterflies in my stomach still flutter as I remember just the past weekend, watching the romantic sunrise and sunset from Mauritius Island, and sleeping to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. I can still feel the adrenaline rush from fearlessly diving with the infamous whale sharks in the sleepy town of Oslob, Cebu a few days before, and the fun of satisfying my inner child earlier this month, shamelessly taking selfies with Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, and Cinderella at Orlando’s Walt Disney World. And come to think of it, it’s only been January!

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The past year and a half feels like a dream. From hiking to the top of Table Mountain and observing spectacular aerial views of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula, to watching the African Blackfoot penguins thrive in their habitat at Boulder’s Beach along Cape of Good Hope, to snorkeling with the colourful fishes of Maya Bay’s crystal clear waters in Koh Phi Phi Island, to climbing up the 272 steps of Batu Caves amidst the notorious monkey greeters, to learning to surf the wild seawaters of Bali, to taking a tuk tuk ride to the richest Hindu Temple in the world in Trivandrum, to being blessed by the holy Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome, to flying to Toronto and talking with the Canadian press about our latest onboard luxury products and services as an Emirates Brand Ambassador – are merely the highlights of my whirlwind of adventures since I donned the iconic red hat as an Emirates Cabin Crew.


Let’s rewind to where it all started: Back in Toronto, I was living the ideal life of a young happy-go-lucky Filipino-Canadian artist, actively writing for fashion and lifestyle magazines, while working as a Commercial Model. As a Broadcast Journalism Graduate, years of hard work in university paid off when I saw the pride on my mother’s face reading the printed copy of my first-ever magazine publication. Little did I know, that would be my last memory of her, as my perfect world suddenly turned upside down.


It’s said our strength is measured by our reaction to tragedy and events that are beyond our control. In wake of this tragic event, I mustered the strength and inner courage to fight and survive - for her. I was filled with the motivation to start a new chapter and live the life she once imagined. To see the world and places we only talked about visiting together – to fulfill my Mother’s dream. The universe whispered and I had to follow my heart towards the direction of the familiar. Somehow, a childhood memory of flying with Emirates and watching the pearly-white and warm smiles of the cabin crew stuck with me. I could already picture spending half my days at 40,000 feet in the skies, and it felt like the perfect escape..


Walking into that open call with no expectations was my greatest risk and one of the best decisions of my life. It’s been a pleasure being reunited with my first home and place of birth, Dubai. Off-duty, you can catch me starting the day with a morning run along the emerald waters of the Arabian Gulf with the majestic view of the Burj Al Arab, or playfully dune-bashing across the golden deserts before sunset, or playing Alice in Wonderland in the blooming beauty of Miracle Garden, or escaping the scorching heat by skiing indoors, or temporarily escaping the cosmopolitan life and delving into the labyrinth of history and myriad of traditional souks in Old Dubai. When feeling touristy, I either take a quick drive to Abu Dhabi to marvel at the beauty of Sheikh Zayed Mosque, its modern Islamic architectural masterpiece - or simply catch a short flight to personally witness many of the wonders of the world, such as my recent quintessential camel ride to the great pyramids of Giza.

Dubai sunset
Dubai desert sunset

As much as the layovers at one of Emirates’ 150 exciting destinations are highly admired by many cabin crew, the flight is where the magic of the overall travel experience begins. Every flight is like a box of assorted chocolates filled with sweet surprises! Emirates prides itself in its cultural diversity with crew over 160 nationalities. Being a mix of Filipino-Spanish heritage, born in Dubai and raised in Toronto, it’s amazing to connect with other multicultural crew and hear their interesting life stories.

In this never-ending journey of self-discovery, every flight is an opportunity to form a connection – to inspire and be inspired, whether by a colleague who fills up her suitcase with canned goods to donate to Dhaka’s poorest communities, a 90-year old passenger on a mission to provide books and school supplies for the children in her hometown in Mindanao, or a cancer survivor going on a world trip to fulfill a life-long dream. Every new experience propels you to live in the here and now, and continuously evolve for the better.


DREAMING OF SUNSETS by MJ Agra is an inspirational blog on Lifestyle, Food & Drink, and Destinations.