In this interview, Sara Salih will give us her opinion on the difficulties that hijabis (veiled women) can encounter when they decide to travel but also on the importance of travel and how it is essential for personal growth and self-awareness.
1) Who are you ? Tell us a bit about you..
I’m Sara, I’m from London but of Arab ethnicity. I’m a writer, blogger and I share my travels and experiences with others online with the mission to spread a love for personal growth, emotional healing and self-awareness. I love using travel to make changes in myself, my thinking, my perspective and ultimately in doing so, it changes my life, so I hope to get others to do it too and enjoy it!
2) What do you do for a living & how do you manage work/travels ?
I work part-time in a field completely different to travel and writing (it’s still secret as part of a game on my social media haha), but it allows me to have long weekends away and travel as much as I can in my time off.
3) Why do you travel ? What would you say travel brings to your life ?
Aside from it being so fun to see the world and try new things and experiences with friends or alone, it’s one of the most beneficial ways to improve your life. It brings meaning to everything. When I look at God’s creation in nature, in people and even in other people’s cultures, I feel a stronger sense of imaan and closeness to Him. It reminds me why I’m even here, why I work, why I travel, why I write and do all the things I want to. It always helps me to see my true purpose especially when I’m feeling lost emotionally or mentally.
Life gets so crazy and it’s so easy to get caught up on it when we’re too focused on our problems, our every-day grind and our struggles. But when we travel, we’re giving our mind a chance to break out of that cycle and see that there’s a whole life outside of us and our little world at home. It grounds us back to reality and helps us get our real focus back. Travel has even helped me heal emotionally from depression and abuse. So when I say the benefits of travel are endless, I really mean it.
Travel is self-awareness, empowerment, emotional healing and personal growth all in one! I love it!
4) Have you ever traveled solo ? If yes, which destination did you travel to solo ? Which one was the most difficult for you & which one was the easiest & why ?
Yes! I love to travel solo. Believe it or not, my first ever destination on my own was Venice, a well-known honeymoon destination haha. But I loved being able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and it triggered all my future solo trips.
Luckily I haven’t had any difficult experiences solo yet but I would say the longer the trip, the harder it was. Seville was 5 days and I found that to be a little too much time alone, even for an introvert like me. But I still might try it again. Oh and I did get quite ill in Rome one of the nights, so I was a little worried about what would happen if I didn’t get better. But everything else has been easy alhamdulilah with His help.
5) What would you say are the advantages and inconveniences of traveling solo ?
There’s definitely more advantages than disadvantages. Firstly, you get to go on your trip whenever you choose to, without having to wait for other people to be free at the same time. You just up and go, you get to do whatever you please, waking up when you want, doing as much or as little as you want. Explore nature, skip the boring museums, eat a whole pizza and ten gelatos, and you can do so wherever you want. Complete freedom. You’re also more likely to meet people when you’re on your own which makes for a different experience.
The best part is being able to think so freely and this is where growth happens. Seeing things your way, experiencing a country through only your eyes and having the time to put your personal issues in perspective and develop your skills alone is incredible. For example, I’ve learnt how to navigate, communicate with people with complete language barriers, protect myself and get myself out of weird/sticky situations all through solo travel.
The only negative for me is nobody to help with photos or videos but that’s only important because I blog, otherwise I wouldn’t care. And of course there’s a lot of experiences that are more fun with friends but you can always go again!
6) How do you choose your accommodation while traveling ? On which criteria do you base your choice being a Muslim woman ?
I mostly want to be as central as I can, so if it's a city I'm visiting, I choose an area that's walking distance to most of the attractions or things I want to see and I choose either hotel or airbnb based on this depending on which one seems more comfortable and cheaper. If i'm travelling alone then being in a good location is important so when you get back home late in the evening, the area is still buzzing and there are lots of people still out. I feel safe in both airbnb or hotel but if I choose an airbnb I book the whole apartment rather than a private room within the home.
With hotels, I don't compromise for the sake of price. I book something fancier or higher 'stars' because I trust their service and staff will be better and safer for a solo traveller. They have a reputation and so they wouldn't allow for 'risky' things to happen if you know what I mean.
With friends, of course it's more flexible, so we can choose places that are cheaper, bigger, more secluded, whatever we want.
7) Do you feel afraid on your travels being a woman & hijabi ? What tips can you give us to deal with the fear ?
Honestly, I forget that I wear hijab to let it be a fear or barrier to what I want to do in life. It’s just a part of me just like everything else. I would never see my jeans or my shoes as obstacles to travel, hijab is the same to me. I understand that it identifies me as Muslim but I only ever realise when people mention it to me as something to consider.
Alhamdulilah so far I haven’t had any major issues when travelling but I also think that’s because I don’t focus on it. I may have had similar negative ‘situations’ to others but I forget them and don’t put much importance on them. Maybe I’ve also been lucky with the destinations I’ve been to alone so far. Ask me again in a few more years when I’ve seen more of the world 😉
As for being a woman, it’s no different to how I act and take care of myself when I’m in London so I don’t have any fear. Of course, you have to be cautious and aware of your surroundings all the time but in a natural way. And Allah is always with us – hold onto that, it’s the best tip of all.
8) What would you say the 3 challenges of a Muslim woman are while traveling ? & how would you face it ?
I know a lot of Muslim women have the issue of convincing their parents to allow them to travel either with friends or solo and all the backlash that comes with that. “What will people say?” is a very common phrase. It turns out, sometimes the parents would be happy to let you go but it’s their own fear of people’s opinions that ends up stopping you.
We have to stop caring what other people’s opinions are. As long as you aren’t doing anything wrong then you should have nothing to fear. It’s only Allah’s judgement you should care about. People are going to talk either way, and if their concerns were genuine then you wouldn’t have to fear them. So if you’re basing your whole life’s actions on the fear of judgement of people who really don’t care, you’re under their control. The choice is - take control or be controlled.
It’s more difficult when parents themselves also have limiting beliefs or think women should wait till they’re married to travel.
I break all those barriers down and argue them all with logic. It’s unreasonable for a woman to wait until she is married (when she has no clue when that will be!) in order to see the world. It’s a waste of so much time, potential, growth, opportunities for progression in different parts of life, maybe even marriage.
If the issue comes down to safety which, more often than not, it is, then that’s easily tackled, whether from our own fear and our families’. I have posts about this on my blog (https://sarasalih.com/)
9) You have been talking about the law of attraction in you IGTV, can you explain what it is in a few words & how you apply that regarding to Islam & travels ?
Love this topic so much. The Law of Attraction is a way of ‘thinking good’ in order to attract good. The idea is that whatever you want in life, if you think well of it and feel good about it and truly believe it is meant for you, particularly when you ask Allah for it in your prayers, then it will happen. I’ve seen it work time and time again. I try to apply it in every part of my life but I’ve seen it come to fruition with my travel. I got to go to the Maldives through the Law of Attraction! It’s too big concept to explain in a few words so definitely check out the videos or do your own research and try it out. When I shared it, so many people said they resonated with it and tried it out and it worked for them, even in getting a new job!
10) Tell us a story that marked you during one of your travels..
All of my travels have been special for all the things I learn and take from them. They mark distinct moments of my life and each one moulds me into a better version of myself.
But here’s a story about someone else. I met this guy in France many years ago and I don’t even remember his name but I’ll never forget him. He was so unique, strong-willed and ambitious that it really inspired me. He had this subtle force about him like he was untouched by the world’s influences and he just did his own thing.
He was of an Eastern ethnicity but moved to Paris, studied a million degrees (well, many), spoke French fluently and was making high-level changes in the world through his work by being there.
I love stories like this because it just proves that we are all one. If we allow ourselves to see our similarities rather than our differences by moving around the world (whether it’s for travel or relocating) and welcome each other with open arms – then we’re able to help each other progress, not just on a personal level but to better society and the world.
It’s exactly my mission and I want to shout it out from rooftops!
11) What advice or tips would you give for a beginner who wants to start traveling ?
Just go for it. Pick somewhere you’ve always wanted to see. Forget any excuses. Do some research. Be confident. Plan a little but improvise the rest and enjoy every second of it!