Late one evening I typed the words ‘Muslim female travel blogs’ into Google and read through the results. It didn’t even take me until the end of my cup of tea, to come to the realisation that this was a majorly underrepresented sector in the travel industry. Even the ones I did find fulfilled a different sector than the one I was searching for. Halal holidays for hijabis is a wonderful thing but not quite what I was aiming for. Being Muslim plays one major part of my identity but I’m a complex mix of overlapping cultures and experiences.
I was born and raised in the UK in one of those southern satellite towns just outside London. I’m a proud Brit who loves to moan about the weather and loves a proper cup of tea. However I’m also ethnically Pakistani, part of the 1.17 million Pakistanis residing in the UK. With that there comes all the experiences and intricacies associated with that part of me.
Not satisfied with mixing two cultures. I decided 5 years ago aged 35 to pack my bags and have an adventure in Istanbul. It’s not really the done thing in my community but luckily I come from a strong and supportive family who understood my need to experience something new. I’m here now teaching in an English language kindergarten, traveling and living the Ex pat life.
It saddened me that I couldn’t find anything that represented me or the many Muslim or WOC that I knew that traveled. It started me really thinking of the images that we see all over Instagram and other social media. What narratives are repeated and what are ignored.
I follow many of the Facebook travel pages for women and started to notice that a new and interesting conversation was occurring about representation. Many WOC were starting to vocalise the lack of representation or the lack of understanding of fears or differing experiences that WOC have while traveling or during their Ex pat experience.
It seemed I wasn’t the only one who noticed the shift in the narrative. I found my self in discussion on numerous occasions with both white women and WOC, where we discussed who had become the poster child of female travel. It seems these days travel has a face and it’s the face of a 20 something slim, beautiful blonde woman with perfectly tousled hair in a boho chic dress. The dress is perfect, the girl is perfect and the photo is perfect. I’m not criticising these women or taking anything away from their experiences, what I do have an issue with, is why their stories and experiences are pushed forward and become the only narrative we see?
How many women are bombarded with these images and end up feeling overweight, old, the wrong colour, less confident as they don’t fit into the image of beauty that has seeped into the travel industry? Travel shouldn’t be about being bombarded with the same images we deal with in fashion magazines, movies and adverts but it’s headed that way. What happened to the safe place where we could be free to be who we are? Therefore WE need to bring it back to being about shared experiences and diversity. It should be about the experiences not the stylised photoshoot.
As a 40 + Muslim WOC I started this blog because I felt that the only way to change the narrative is to re write it yourself. If we feel ignored or under represented then we need to make our presence felt. If we want to inspire and encourage others we must lead the way and if we want to discuss and exchange we need to open up the dialogue.
I’m hoping that my stories will fill you with laughter, make you think and analyse what you know and see, that they help you understand and support more diverse voices and above all I hope that I play a small part of bringing out the desire in any of my readers to break out of their comfort zone, to travel, to try new things and to over come their fears.
I hope that this blog brings you tales of my traveling adventures, my expat experiences and splash of gender and colour politics.
I’m not writing this blog with the aim of targeting just Muslim women or WOC. I’m hoping what we will talk about here opens up the dialogue between us all on how it is to be a WOC traveling or living the ex pat life. Only with better dialogue and understanding can we create allies in each other. As women we need to understand and support each other on our paths.
I’m so excited to share my journey and my experiences with you all. My first travel blog post will be coming shortly. I will be writing about my trip a few weeks ago to Cappadocia in Turkey. So until then goodbye and happy dreaming.