302. 7 Lessons I Learnt Travelling Solo as a Hijabi

As much as I am not a big fan of the term ‘hijabi’, I cannot deny the fact that in a highly visual world, what I wear plays a big part in how people perceive me. 11203688_10152902789507081_8536241123112446633_nWomen (solo) travellers aren’t rare nor hard to find. Women hold an equal stake in the solo travelling/backpacking community today.

A hijab-ed solo traveller though is a whole different matter.

I have often been asked: “Isn’t it hard to be a solo traveller with the hijab?” and “Don’t you face any challenges while travelling around, especially in the West?”

My answer has always been the same: Not really.

Perhaps I’ve not really given it much thought prior to this. Truth be told, I’ve never seen myself as any different from the other women travellers I meet on my travels.

But you know what? I AM different.

It took a while for me to appreciate the situation I’m in and the unique learning opportunities I’ve had.

So here are 7 lessons I’ve learnt from travelling solo as a hijabi.

1. The way other people treat you depends a lot on how you show up.

People will naturally mirror your actions. I have learnt that if you are open, friendly and genuine, then other people will treat you the same way. I don’t make my hijab an issue, so they don’t make it an issue. Most of the time, the travellers I meet on the road barely bat an eyelid about my hijab. To them, I am what I am – a fellow traveller, trying to figure things out as I go along.

I have learnt that I need to teach people how to treat me, by doing exactly how I would like to be treated.

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When you greet others with a smile, with an open posture and with a glint in your eyes, you invite others to treat you the same way.

When you close yourself off to others, well, people are too caught up in their own lives to bother prying their way in.

2. The world isn’t the terribly scary place it’s portrayed to be.

Perhaps it’s the traveller mentality – we’re all in this together, so let me help you as much as I can because God knows I might need the same kind of help in the future – that makes it so easy and a lot less scary.

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I have been treated with so much kindness throughout my journey.

When I was lost upon arriving in Sevilla late one night, a fellow traveller from South Africa offered to navigate and accompany me to my hostel, and he insisted on nothing in return. In Vienna, I shared a room with a Romanian traveller who would always share with me her bread and jam. In Bali, a female traveller who was in her late forties sat down with me and imparted to me such wise words about life and love when she realised I was struggling internally

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My faith in humanity constantly gets restored when I travel solo.

The world is filled with beautiful souls. All we have to do is to keep our eyes and heart open to them.

3. Other people are genuinely curious about Islam and it is up to us Muslims to be open about sharing our faith.

The hijab is a very real symbol of my faith, and people often get curious. Especially in today’s media-saturated world, it is not surprising how little people actually know about what Islam truly stand for. Instead of being a hindrance, my hijab has led to many wonderful conversations about faith, religion and humanity.

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In the common spaces of hostels, I have shared about Islam with people from different walks of life and of different faiths. Each time, I walk away with a renewed conviction of my faith and a stronger desire to keep learning about it. It has also made me realise the importance of open dialogue. We are, after all, all humans to begin with.

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I have had many women travellers ask me to teach them how to wear the hijab, and I’d gladly oblige. The wonder in their eyes the very first time they try on the hijab is something I will always hold dear to my heart.

4. The Muslim sisterhood (& brotherhood) is real.

The hijab is like a sorority ring – it’s a physical symbol that screams “Hey, we’re family! Whaddup girl!”

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Whenever I meet a fellow Muslim sister on the street, the smile is instant. If we pass by each other, the salaam will be said. My travels have been made a lot easier because of fellow Muslims, male and female, who are so giving of their help when they know I am travelling alone.

IMG_0415 I have had heavily discounted (if not free) meals at sit-down restaurants given to me without my asking, random shopkeepers would hand me snacks as I pass their stalls, and I have been shown to my hostels many a times by kind Muslim sisters whom I meet while navigating my way from the bus or train stations.

A shopkeeper once told me, “Being allowed to help a traveller, what more a Muslim traveller, is God’s way of answering my prayers.”

5. The hijab protects the woman, and is a reminder that Allah is always close.

Often, other female travellers will share stories of how they sometimes get harassed on the streets and by other male travellers. My interactions with the men I meet while travelling have overwhelmingly been respectful. Some occasionally get cheeky but, hey, I appreciate that’s all done in good fun with no malicious intent.

Wearing the hijab means that I don’t get persuaded to engage in activities I may otherwise regret. I steer away from activities such as pub crawling or having a night out in the streets that could lead to undesirable consequences. It sends out a clear signal to others that I’m not to be messed with. 😛

IMG_3637The hijab also acts as a subconscious reminder to me that I am never alone. In moments of despair, of doubt and also in moments of joy, I’ve realised that I will touch my hijab to reassure myself that Allah is always, always close.

It keeps me centred. It keeps my vision clear. Allah is always with me.

6. We are not defined by our circumstances, but how we act within the circumstances.

Admittedly it’s not all rainbows and butterflies on the road. I have had occurrences when ignorant people scoff at me about my hijab.

In Sevilla, an elderly man came up to me while I was walking alone in the national park. He spoke in Spanish, pointed to my hijab and gestured to me to take it off. Taken aback, I quickly recovered and smiled at him. I shook my head, tried to smile as genuinely as possible and walked away.

I was riled up about it initially, and kept harping on the incident as I continued my walk. I started to doubt the journey and my capacity as a Muslim. Should I have fought back? Should I have said something? But I quickly realised that I shouldn’t make that one incident affect my entire trip or my opinion of people. I shrugged it off, said a prayer for the man, and decided that I was going to enjoy my trip to the fullest anyway.

A couple of minutes later, while exploring a fair that was happening nearby, another man gestured to me, held out his hand, gave me a handful of caramelised nuts and then waved me away with the kindest of smiles.

 

These back to back incidents were a powerful reminder – you cannot control how things end or how others treat you, but you can sure control how you treat yourself and how you react in the face of undesirable situations.

7. I am more than my hijab. 

Lastly, and a lesson very close to my heart. I have learnt and embraced the fact that I am a person, with my own quirks and interests, with a mind and a personality to live for.

IMG_4262My hijab is my obligation to God and an ode to my faith, something I do so willingly from the heart, but it by no means strips me of my person and my ability to give back to the world.

The hijab has added value and dimensions to my identity, not drown it.

Travelling solo allowed me to learn so much about myself. It has opened up doors of insight that had me appreciate the complex being that I am, as I navigate through this world.

I may not know exactly where I’m going, but I’m exactly at where I’m meant to be.

Lots of love,

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—— Originally published at WanderingWonderers.

Feel free to share this with your friends if you found this helpful, or if you know anyone out there who could use the push! 🙂 10855115_10152992289037081_8417327154509125969_oThis Sunday, join me and Ustazah Su’aidah as we share the very things that are close to our hearts. It’ll be an intimate session, with lots of love & positive vibes, inshaAllah! Ustazah Su’aidah & I go wayyyy back, so I’m really humbled & excited to be doing this alongside her! Thank you The Turkish Cloth for this wonderful opportunity! Besides our sharing session, there’ll be a bazaar happening with a whole range of products, from shawls & dresses to Wayan Retreat Wellness Spa! Entrance is free and shopping vouchers will be given to all attendees!

Ever since my last #tudungtravels trip to Korea, I’ve been so inspired to share my heart & passion with others. Will you join me?
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20 thoughts on “302. 7 Lessons I Learnt Travelling Solo as a Hijabi

  1. Assalamualaikum i must say kudos and salute to you being independent traveling alone.Mashallah your article on hijab its inspiring insha allah may it open my heart to accept being a hijabi in time to come.You made me realised it wasnt so bad afterall traveling alone. Keep up dear! Waiting for another entry from you.😊👍✌🏼️

    Regards
    Hyda

    • Waalaikumsalam! Wahh alhamdulillah! Thank you so much for your kind, kind words! It means a lot to me. ❤ I hope my words continue to benefit you in times to come. 🙂

      xx
      Atikah

  2. Salaam sis Atika! Raihanah here! @raihanahhhalim 🙂

    Thank you for this post. I was just thinking of how it’s like being an independent Muslimah traveller.

    Alhamdulillah.

  3. Salaam 🙂 I’ve also done solo trips in a hijab so I really feel I can relate to everything you’ve said! Thanks so much for sharing – I hope more people get inspired to travel too.

    Take care and have many wonderful, blessed adventures! Ramadan Kareem 🙂

    • Salaam! MashaAllah, that’s so awesome to know other hijabis who have done solo travel! Keep safe, and may Allah bless you abundantly! Ramadhan mubarak! ❤

      xx
      Atikah

  4. I can see you radiate loving energy that even shows in your photos. My guess is people are responding to your love. You probably heard of a couple of the mean(and tragic) things that happened to people in the States, in their houses of worship. What could have been an event that caused division became a way for people from different faiths and ethnicities to come together and say we choose love to drive away hate. The world is finally changing and more accepting of all the different types of people and how they express themselves. Namaste!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! I agree with you, and have been filled with so much love and hope when I see people standing up for humanity and love. I do hope that the world will continue to change and be more accepting of differences!

      Namaste! ❤

      Atikah

  5. Salaam! I love travelling and solo travel have always been on my bucket list. I’ve put off the idea ever since I don the hijab as I was worried about how people would receive me. I found your post very inspiring and it gave me the courage to plan for a trip by myself one day.

    Thank you!

  6. Reblogged this on Raise your sights. and commented:

    Reposting this piece I wrote 2 years ago for PinkPangea.com, as I work on new writing for the blog now. (Yes, new writing coming your way!)

    2 years on, and still as relevant as ever. ❤

    Feel free to share the love to anyone who may need to read this as well! xx

    Travel and writing – 2 things I sorely miss, but I shall choose to live in the moment.

  7. Pingback: #HHWT Explorers: Meet Atikah, The Face Behind The Tudung Traveller | Travel Guides For Muslim Travellers | Have Halal, Will Travel

  8. Pingback: #HHWT Explorers: Meet Atikah, The Face Behind The Tudung Traveller – A Nice Holiday

  9. Pingback: Meet Atikah of 'The Tudung Traveller', the hijabi globetrotter smashing stereotypes • Muslyfe

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