I keep sharing tips and tricks but I think one of the most important aspects of travel is actually what we learn. There are so many inspirational quotes out there telling us what we want to hear but actually what do we learn from travelling?
Below are my favourite 4 things I have learnt about Islam and travelling as a Muslim girl.
I became less racist
We do not live alone on this planet. I mean seriously I am sure you are aware of this but actually how many of us are really “aware”! I came from a family and a country where being different didn’t always mean better. No matter how we see it I think Greeks have that arrogance “of we gave so much to the world”. I didn’t mix with other cultures much accept for Greek and Bulgarian ethnicities. Which funnily enough was still not good for my Greek friends. Up until recently not every immigrant was welcome in Greece, even though today there is still progress. However when I moved to the UK things changed. I realised that we are part of the world and having friends from all religions, cultures and backgrounds was actually cool and fun. I had never met an African, Pakistani, American or anyone else other than Greek and English. I did live in a bubble and I know I am not the only one. Becoming a Muslim also helped with this since Islam does teach tolerance, non-racism and brotherhood. Concepts that even today are not practised by many Muslims sadly.
The TV is not always right
One family member told me a very stereotypical thing one day and when I confronted them their answer was ” I have seen them on TV, I know how they are” ! I swear I almost fell off my chair. What is shown on TV is not unbiased. In many occasions it is a twisted reality of what really it is like living in a place. The same prejudice goes for seeing all these crazy Muslims on TV shouting out “Allahu Akbar” and everyone panicking, thinking that 90% are scary. In reality majority of us are super cool individuals and “Allahu Akbar” is something we say a lot as it is a means of praising God. Because every single blessing is due fromHim.
Travelling makes us see the reality of where people live and how they behave. The curry or Turkish food doesn’t taste the same in your local restaurant as it tastes in India or Turkey even if it does say “A taste of India” or “Authentic Turkish donner” in the window. Any excuses for travel on my part 😉 But look at it this way, the experiences we learn from travelling and interacting with other cultures are invaluable in my opinion. I have friends who were Canadian and they found everything so weird and “backwards” in Europe. After their fourth trip they realised how mistaken they were and that there is no right and wrong in any culture, but more of a preference.
Travelling makes you more tolerant
Two things have contributed to me being patient; one is Islam and the other is travelling. Travelling takes you out of your comfort zone where your are in an unfamiliar territory having to find your way around. This is bound to make you more humble. Meeting other cultures gives you an understanding that living with different people is all about compromising and finding the balance between everyone’s needs. It is a great lesson and I am really appreciative of the fact that I have the ability to reflect and learn lessons. Being out ofyour usual comforts is perfect to learn more about yourself and your travel companions, after all they say “if you want to know someone travel with them”.
Became a more confident Muslim
I receive a lot of emails with questions from Muslims asking me if it is OK to visit a non-Muslim country. There is this prejudice that they are not welcome. I can say I was apprehensive when I travelled to the USfor the first time just because of all the stories I had heard. But Muslims are part of this world and we have rights like any other citizen. Travelling with a hijab and passing through security made me much more confident and content with my religion.
I have to say I was never stopped before I wore a headscarf for extra security measures but now I just joke about it. They are just doing their job. My US trip was awesome and I will definitely be returning. There is nothing worse in my opinion than not travelling simply because of prejudice and stereotypes. Start with small steps and expand your horizons slowly. I also recommend to experience different countries rather than only Muslim countries due to food or prayer facilities. People are missing out so much on the diversity of cultures and adventure, because they can’t live without meat for a few days.
Confidence is something that is build and as a Muslim traveller I did acquire a fair share. I remember the first few times when I was scared to go through immigration because of all the extra checks and how intimidated I felt. But even when I wear a scarf and when I smile first to a non Muslim fellow traveller they smile back and we have a connection, it breaks the ice momentarily. These small acts are priceless and the best example of what we Muslim stand for.
I have to say that my favourite is travelling to Greece when I wear a hijab (headscarf) and speak without an accent. The confusion on their face is priceless. 🙂