From travelling to cooking, here’s how busy NRIs unwind in the UAE


As NRIs residing in the UAE, work often takes up a significant portion of our daily lives, and we tend to find it difficult to establish some ‘me time’.

For most of us, daily work routines are fixed, whether we have a conventional 9-to-5 job, or one that involves longer hours or shifts, or even long commute times.

Circumstances and priorities, as well as family and financial statuses, may dictate our work goals and as such, these are highly subjective.

Often, our lifestyles are drastically altered to suit our work lives.

However, as mental health awareness continues to expand, so does the focus on unwinding and taking out time for yourself, no matter what type of work you’re engaged in. And whether it’s sports or fitness activities, indulging your artistic and creative sides with art, music, theatre or more, NRIs have taken to various means to ensure that they find space to grow and thrive outside the conventional routine.

We spoke to NRIs across several industries in the UAE to find out what leisure-time pursuits inspire them. Quite often, availing of one’s ‘down time’ can make for a more positive workplace experience.


Whether it’s over an extended weekend or during annual vacations, Indian expats in the UAE are increasingly drawn to travelling to new places. For Abu Dhabi-based Alistair Rego, a marketing professional working in the healthcare sector, travel is an exclusive part of his unwinding routine.

“I enjoy travelling and being an expat living in the UAE, I take advantage of every long weekend that we get in a year. I prefer taking intermittent short holidays to break free from routine every once in a while. Seeing new places, meeting new people, and trying out different types of cuisine makes my ‘down time’ all the more fun and exciting!”

Travel need not always be to a new destination, but quite often also to his home country of India, he adds. “I enjoy making frequent trips back home to visit family and friends, because it’s only three hours away by flight!”

Alistair believes the weight that concepts like ‘down time’ or ‘me time’ carry differs from person to person. “Some people prefer extended periods of down time while some are happy with just a few hours. A few hours or even a day to myself every alternate weekend is ideal. It definitely helps me feel more balanced as far as my mental health is concerned.”

Does ‘getting away from it all’ enhance his work life in any way?

“I’m grateful to be able to experience these opportunities which are largely due to being employed in this part of the world. It’s easy to forget about our privilege sometimes and not count our blessings, but I’ve always found myself so much more appreciative of life and work, on returning from my travel breaks. They help reinforce a positive mindset and a readiness to take on new work challenges.”


For Lalitha Alexander, a professional in the local construction industry, looking inward is important. Born and raised in Dubai, she has spent most of her life here. While she enjoys her job, she feels the need to “disconnect, especially digitally as a lot of my work involves being on the computer.”

She believes ‘down time’ is essential. “I swear by it because I feel it makes me more mindful and equipped to tackle anything that life throws at me.”

Mindfulness is an important part of her unwinding routine. “I cannot begin my day without meditation and yoga. I also unwind with comedy movies or clips, especially from Malayalam movies. They are outrageously hilarious. I’m a sucker for Ayurvedic and Balinese relaxation therapies and essential oils. I love playing basketball over the weekend, and indulging in some karaoke sessions!”

Taking out time for herself helps her stay “calm and centered” as the world gets “more cluttered.”

“Completely disconnecting and then coming back to work definitely makes me more focused.”


Mona Massey, Industry Educator at Nibras International School in Dubai, has lived in the city for over 25 years. While she enjoys her chosen profession, she often feels the need to “unwind, rejuvenate, and pursue my personal interests.”

“The concept of ‘down time’ is vital for me. I feel it’s important for all individuals. It does not have to be long hours; even a few minutes of it can enhance your wellbeing. I find cooking with my favourite music in the background, and watercolour painting, really therapeutic for my soul.”

She also unwinds by reading to her 5-year-old daughter, or listening to her sing.

Doing something that follows your heart gives you great joy and a sense of satisfaction, she says, adding, “It rejuvenates my spirit and motivates me to have another positive day at my workplace.”


For Dubai-based Saman Haziq, a real estate professional who has lived in the UAE for almost 12 years, there’s nothing like chalking up a few hundred kilometers on her car with long trips to popular destinations within the country, to get into “chill” mode.

“While I enjoy my job, I do feel the need to unwind. I personally find it very relaxing to go on long drives. Whenever I need a break or want to clear my mind, there’s nothing better than a leisurely drive along a scenic route. And here in the UAE, I’m really lucky to have plenty of opportunities to do this with my friends and family.

“Not only does this country have amazing places to explore, but the government also ensures our safety and provides us with the best infrastructure. Driving on the UAE roads is a real treat, especially the highways that connect to other emirates. I’ve covered most of them, especially the ones that lead to the Northern Emirates. The topography there is absolutely breathtaking and constantly changing, which I love.”

She has a couple of personal favourites when it comes to driving destinations. “Jebel Jais in Ras Al Khaimah, the highest mountain in the UAE, never fails to impress me. And during the colder months, like December to February, Al Suhub Rest House in Fujairah is just perfect. The roads are great, there are pop-up cafes along the way, and the weather adds to the experience.”

She adds, “It’s amazing how refreshed and rejuvenated I feel after these long drive breaks. It’s like all the stress, frustrations, and little things that linger in the back of my mind simply fade away. The best part is, once I get back to work, I feel re-energized and more focused, ready to tackle whatever comes my way.” – Enid Parker is a freelance writer based in Dubai


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