First are always special, whether it is the first time you tried some new food or whether it is the first time you traveled to a new place. And for someone like me who enjoys traveling and eating, nothing could be better than an international trip. Yes, you’ve been living under a rock, if you don’t know that I was on my first international trip and that too, to the USA!
In fact, I’m writing this from my room in New York and just about to leave for the airport to head back home. By the time you’re reading this, I’d be back in Hyderabad, mostly preparing for another trip!
This blog post will be a short one where I share a quick overview of my first international trip. I’ll have more detailed ones about my food and travel explorations along with tips and guides for first-time international travelers in separate blog posts coming soon.
Why Was I In The USA?
I’m sure this would be the first question that many of you might have. Especially for people who’re following me on Instagram, this might have come as a surprise. I had just returned from my Lucknow to Hyderabad road trip and was flying to the USA the next day.
Well, the reason I was traveling to the USA was to attend a conference in Chicago. I was attending KubeCon NA in Chicago where I was also speaking at a project meeting. Along with that, I was also speaking at Cloud Native Rejekts which took place a few days in advance.
So yes, that precisely was the reason why was I traveling to the USA. And if you didn’t guess it already, it was a work trip. But you know, how could this trip not be about food and travel as well?
Planning My First International Trip
While the plan to attend the conference was sealed early this year, I was tight-lipped about it until the immigration officer at JFK told me “Welcome to the USA.” The reason was fairly simple, it was a conference-related trip plus there are so many variables that are outside my control. Hence I didn’t want to tell everyone that I was traveling and then something went wrong and I couldn’t travel.
The Conference Leg – Chicago
KubeCon was from 6-9 November in Chicago and Cloud Native Rejekts was from 4-5 November in Chicago too. Hence, the plan was to leave Hyderabad on the 2nd and reach Chicago on the 3rd to be able to attend/speak at Rejekts and attend the Kubecon.
Most of the time was pretty much spent at the conference. From morning 7 until 6 in the evening. So the only time I had was on the 4th/5th and the evenings of all the other days to explore Chicago. (And I guess I did a good job). You’ll know more about it in the upcoming blog posts. If you cannot wait, do check out my Instagram highlights.
The Leisure Leg – New York
How could I not explore when I was on my first international trip? Well, I did make room for it. I was accompanied by a relative on the first leg of the trip from Hyderabad to JFK via Dubai and hence I didn’t fly directly to Chicago. I used the same route for return as well for ease. And this is where I tweaked the itinerary a little bit to make room for some leisure and fun. My leaves at work were also approved so I was on a mini-vacation post KubeCon in New York!
I spent an extra day in Chicago followed by a few days in New York before heading back to Hyderabad. How could I not visit THE CITY in the world? I spent a few days in New York visiting some of the famous places and eating different food. I’ll also have a few dedicated blog posts on New York coming soon too!
The Layover – Dubai
All my flights were via Dubai as I didn’t have many direct options from Hyderabad to Chicago. So during my return leg, I did have a few hours of layover in Dubai. And how could I not go out of the airport to explore?
So I visited a few places in Dubai and ate some Mediterranean food too. I used the Dubai Metro to go around to visit places. It was during the same time as the Dubai Air Show was taking place, but neither did I have passes for it nor the time, else I would have surely visited it. I’ll talk more about this leg in a separate blog post too.
And the most exciting part of this entire trip was that I got to fly on AirBus A380! Yes, the largest aircraft in the world. All the people who know me, know how passionate I am about aircrafts, and flying on an A380 was on my bucket list which finally was ticked off on my first international trip.
USA Return Maharaj 😅
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to 2023 than my first international trip. Visiting the USA as the first international destination is a dream for many and I’m fortunate that I was given an opportunity to experience this. It was a trip with a lot of firsts, the first time I flew on Emirates, my first time on an Airbus A380, my first time doing immigration, and the first time I got a stamp on my passport!
While many of you feel this could/should have happened earlier, I’m happy that it happened. I am grateful to everyone who was involved in making this trip happen. However, I’ll not discount the efforts that I’ve put in to make this trip a reality.
As I head back home, I’m carrying not only a hard disk full of photos, a bag full of chocolates and goodies but also a heart full of memories and gratitude. I won’t lie but I was teary-eyed when I was looking at the NYC skyline from the Statue of Liberty as I was like “It’s happening 🙂”
Thanks a lot for reading this blog post and being a part of this journey. Stay tuned for exciting posts on food, travel tips from my first international trip, and much more. Do follow me at @Atulmaharaj on Twitter, DM @Atulmaharaj on Instagram, or Get In Touch.