Time is a wave. You either swim with it or let it wash over you completely. I’m sitting at Gate A3 in the International Terminal of JFK Airport on maybe the hottest afternoon of the summer, doing a little bit of both. On the one hand, I did agree to go on this trip to Abu Dhabi months ago—someone said “Fast and Furious” or maybe just “Tyrese” and I blurted out, “I’ll do it.” But on the other hand, I am just sitting here, and the minutes keep ticking by, and something that once seemed so far away is now just moments from happening. I’m about to go to a city—no, a country, wait no, an entire region of the world—that I’ve never been to for the sole purpose of riding in fast cars and spending six days like I’m Brian O’Connor or Dom Toretto while hanging out with Roman Pierce. Well, Tyrese. But aren’t they the same thing?

It’s not like I’ve never traveled before—I’ve been around, big time—but this time it feels different. It is 14 hours or so to Abu Dhabi, a fact that’s definitely hanging over me. I don’t sleep well on planes so this is basically a guarantee that I’m going to be awake for more than 24 hours straight. But I don’t know if it’s totally that, just those nerves. I think it really has to do with the notion that I really don’t know anything about Abu Dhabi, and my imagination is being mostly informed with an ingrained preconception of the Middle East. Should I be this scared? Is this a fear-for-your-life situation, or am I overreacting out of obliviousness? It really doesn’t help that no one else at Gate A3 looks like me, a feeling that I, a white 26-year-old male, don’t experience often.