7 Lessons From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

November 5, 2014
culture, gp, Solo Travel
7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling 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.

Solo women travellers aren’t rare nor hard to find. Women hold an equal stake in the solo traveling/backpacking community today.

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

I have often been asked: “Isn’t it hard to be a solo traveler with the hijab?” and “Don’t you face any challenges while traveling 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 travelers 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 traveling 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 travelers I meet on the road barely bat an eyelid about my hijab. To them, I am what I am – a fellow traveler, 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. 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.

7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

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

Perhaps it’s the traveler 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.

I have been treated with so much kindness throughout my journeys. When I was lost upon arriving in Sevilla late one night, a fellow traveler 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 traveler who would always share her bread and jam with me. In Bali, a female traveler who was in her late 40s sat down with me and imparted to me such wise words about life and love when she realised I was struggling internally.

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.

7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

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 stands for.

Instead of being a hindrance, my hijab has led to many wonderful conversations about faith, religion and humanity.

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

I have had many women travelers 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.

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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!”

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 traveling alone.

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 traveler, what more a Muslim traveler, is God’s way of answering my prayers.”

7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

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

Often, other female travelers will share stories of how they sometimes get harassed on the streets and by other male travelers. My interactions with the men I meet while traveling 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.

The 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 realized that I will touch my hijab to reassure myself that Allah is always, always close. It keeps me centered. It keeps my vision clear.

Allah is always with me.

7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

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. And, 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 realized 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 caramelized 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 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

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.

My 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 drowned it.

Traveling 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 where I’m meant to be.

7 Lessons I Learned From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

 

7 Lessons From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi photo credits: Atikah Amilina

About Atikah Amalina

Atikah AmalinaSomeone who loves to unravel life’s wonders, Atikah Amalina, is a life enthusiast who believes in the power of the mind and soul. She is passionate about inspiring and pushing others to go beyond their potential, and in eating good cakes. She writes at The Tudung Traveller.

17 thoughts on “7 Lessons From Traveling Solo as a Hijabi

  1. Avatar
    June 11, 2019
    Reply

    its always a problem if you wear a hijab when visiting non-muslim country. thanks for the tips

  2. Avatar
    Salma Miah
    September 11, 2017
    Reply

    Salaam Sisters,
    I am ready to get out of my nutshell and am very ambitious about travelling. Problem is I don’t have a travel buddy. I prefer to travel with someone or in a group. I live in New York City and am age 27. If any sister would like to plan a trip, even if its for 3 days in USA or elsehwere, kindly email me salmamiah@gmail.com.

    It would be a wonderful experience to travel with a fellow sister and unravel the beauty of life together.

  3. Avatar
    March 12, 2017
    Reply

    I thought solo hijabi traveller would be dangerous..

  4. Avatar
    Faz
    February 26, 2017
    Reply

    Oh my days! I needed to hear this. I am deciding where to go in March 2017 solo travelling and having difficulties choosing suitable places cz of ‘the hijab’. I’m looking at Europe. Can anyone suggest accordingly please. Jazakallah khair x

    • Avatar
      Aisha
      March 1, 2017
      Reply

      Hey! Me and my friend are planning to go algarve in Portugal but we’re not sure if it’s hijabi friendly. I think we will just go and see

  5. Avatar
    Malika
    January 14, 2017
    Reply

    thank you for you article. I wonder if there is any online meeting platform for muslim travellers?

  6. Avatar
    Aza Jamil
    December 19, 2016
    Reply

    salam sister,
    i am very glad that i come across your articles. it’s so eye-opening. i do will travel alone to UK (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland). sometimes i feel afraid that, what if people will treat me badly just because i’m wearing a hijab, what if they refuse to help me when i’m in need. there are so many what if , that sometime makes me want to back-off. this will be my 1st time do it solo. i did travel before but more to a group of friends or family. so the solo travel concept might be blur a bit.

    But Alhamdulillah, your article did help me build back my confidence. perhaps this is what we called the silver lining. maybe i’ll find something worth sharing..

    Thank you

  7. Avatar
    Lily Adam
    August 13, 2016
    Reply

    Glad that I read your piece. I’m going to 3 European countries all by myself. And I am kind of scared to proceed with my plan. But reading your writing, I could gather my strength and embrace the joy and hardship during my journey

  8. Avatar
    Jess
    June 18, 2016
    Reply

    Mashallah!!
    Sister, you truly inspired me!
    I will be traveling to Spain inshallah, I was anxious of how people would react in general if they saw a hijabi as I wear the hijab as well, but you gave me useful advise. Thank you <3

    • Avatar
      July 12, 2016
      Reply

      Salam Jess! I’m also thinking of travelling to Spain too! I’m 26 and have never solo travelled before! We shud meet up once in Spain. Holla back I your interested 🙂

    • Avatar
      Lina
      July 21, 2016
      Reply

      Salam. I’m planning to travel to Spain too this September. I’m so nervous about the thought of traveling solo. Cause I haven’t done it before. Though I haven’t booked my flight but I will soon. Can you please tell me your experience traveling solo in Spain? I would be so interested to know. (If you have already went there, if not maybe we should meet up there! 🙂 I’m Lina btw. Drop me email at lynaaismail@gmail.com thanks!

  9. Avatar
    Sister Fahi
    May 23, 2016
    Reply

    Assalamu’alaikum Sister.
    InshaAllah I will be travelling solo to Vienna/Salzburg next week. I wear a hijab and your blog instilled more confidence in me.

    Jazakallah khair

  10. Avatar
    uni
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    I’ve no idea how solo traveling could be for a hijab woman. But, your article gave me an insight. Thanks though. I’m thinking about traveling to South Korea as Solo traveler. I’ll appreciate your suggestion what do’s and don’t’s are and any possibilities could happen a long my trip. This will be my breakthrough since it will be my first solo traveling.
    Thanks!

  11. Avatar
    Waseefa Ebrahim
    November 5, 2015
    Reply

    Salaam!

    It was lovely to read your article as I also wear hijab and am embarking on a backpacking trip to Thailand with my best friend. Your article was awesome and definitely calmed some of my fears, I just have a few questions with regards to how you packed if you don’t mind…. I am looking for some guidance with regards to what exactly I should pack. I like to think that I wear my hijab open-mindedly so any tips or packing lists that you have would be greatly appreciated 🙂 Also how many scarves do you take?!

    Thanks!
    Wslm
    Waseefa

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