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Recently, we got to chat with Sarah Malik, an Award-winning Australian Journalist of Pakistani heritage and Author of Safar: Muslim Women’s Stories of Travel and Transformation.
In our raw and candid Journeys LIVE session with her (which you can catch a replay here), Sarah shared many experiences, lessons, and tips that reminded us of the beauty of solo travel, which could enrich your future solo trips.
But in short, here are some lessons that we’ve learned from the well-traveled, Muslim woman author.
Journeying with Hybrid Identities
Speaking to us during her solo trip to North America, Sarah shared why she spent quite some time in the States.
“I am living the ethos of the book!” she chuckled over the screen, sitting over a backdrop of Niagara Falls, where she was currently at when talking to us.
But besides that, something deeper connected her to the United States of America: visiting the place she was born in and the house her parents lived in for quite a while in Chicago before moving to Sydney.
“Chicago felt like a mystery, and I wanted to go back to the city I was born in and rediscover what it means to have lots of slashes of American-Australian-Pakistani…”
Sarah also recounted her solo NYC experiences to the familiar slogans you’d normally hear in American TV shows like baseball, delis, etc.
“Being in America is like meeting a celebrity, you recognize it, It’s familiar but also unfamiliar,” a mixture of emotions that would truly resonate with many of those who, in particular, grew up watching Western pop culture and influenced by its language and aesthetics.
Moving With Respect and Humility – in Wherever We Go!
Her solo trip to the house where her parents lived 39 years ago made her reflect on the life she is blessed with today.
“Our ancestors do impact you and your sense of self and the opportunities that are opened to you,”
To her, this was a “humbling experience in relishing in the opportunities that she has today because of the sacrifice her parents made,” which all it did was reaffirm her to “move with respect and humility and understanding that history” when traveling solo in The U.S. with such diasporic lens.
According to us at Muslim Solo Travel, Sarah’s reflection is a timely reminder to everyone who journeys on wherever it may be, whether you’re a TCK or not, to journey with humility and respect is an essential travel manner that is timely with a lot of buzz on ‘over-tourism’, and talks with destinations closing their doors on rude tourists, like the recent one in Bali.
Travel With People Vs. Traveling Alone
While we are home and champions for the #MuslimahSoloTravelers, Sarah described the difference between traveling with people and traveling alone, and how both have their own benefits.
“With people: the travel is about the relationship, and the place is just a backdrop for the relationship. But when you’re actually solo traveling, you’re much more present in the space and experiencing the space, kind of open to situations and people that you wouldn’t normally be in.”
To her, solo travel is “an incredible opportunity that you might not have the time and space to experience again.”
Her advice to those currently traveling alone? “Relish it. Embrace it.”
Start Building Your Travel Confidence In Your Backyard
Again, it is fine not to be immediately a pro in solo travel (as no one is!), hence why she vouches verbally through our LIVE, and via her book how important it is to start traveling within your capabilities – your backyard, and it doesn’t have to be expensive.
If both of these options are not something you can do yet, then her book Safar is something you should consider reading first!
“The book is something like a rallying call, something positive because sometimes the narrative around Muslim women can get a bit down,” and she shared how the materialization of the book is a manifestation to all Muslimah out there that “you can do it too.”
How to Enjoy a Trip: Don’t Convert Back To Home Base every time!
There are many ways to enjoy and not enjoy a trip.
In New York City, Sarah realized that the best way to enjoy a trip is to stop mentally converting the price back to her home currency when buying something.
“I’ve just made peace with the fact that I can’t keep recalculating the price of that coffee or pizza to home base currency,” she shared in the Journeys LIVE.
“You have to accept the local price. Otherwise, you may drive yourself wild,” especially when traveling in a stronger currency destination.
Besides the well-known fact that NYC is one of the world’s most expensive cities, Sarah has managed to overcome this challenge by sourcing the best deals on…. the Internet!
Be it sublets or last-minute event tickets, the Internet has everything!
Challenges & Benefits of Being in New York City Solo
Another challenge in a big, diverse city like NYC is doing the stuff she usually won’t do back in her hometown, in her words: “like watch your bag and be careful with your bag.”
On the flip side of the need to always be vigilant, Sarah also finds NYC a safe city “because there are always people around”.
And being a writer herself, NYC has that draw and dynamism of a Great World City. The energy of the arts is evident throughout her solo exploration in NYC.
“It’s a place where you do kind of fall in love,” Sarah wraps up her emotion on how energetic, hybrid, intense, and overwhelming the city is. For the writer in her, there is nowhere like it in the world.
Find Your Travel Style (+ If You Love the Water in Sydney!)
All of us have our travel style; it may be adventure, slow, exploring cafes, or talking to locals.
In the case of Sarah, she admitted to how she is fond of being by the water, and she thinks that it’s one of the best (and cheap too) ways to see a city.
The Sydney local mentioned, “If you’re in Circular Quay, just grab a ferry and head down to Manly. You just get to see a city in a way that feels really vibrant”.
If you have traveled solo in Sydney, do share your experiences here in the Muslimah Solo Travelers Community Group with us!
How To Do Sydney Besides Usual! + Tip on Eid & Finding Muslim Community
Besides the usuals like the Opera House, Botanical Garden Harbour, and the beaches, she recommends venturing to the Western Suburbs.
“It’s a very vibrant part of Sydney, it’s very multicultural, very similar to Queens in New York, and you’ll see so many people of different cultures and different backgrounds.”
For the Muslimah Solo Travelers thinking of celebrating Eid in Sydney, Sarah kept it real. She said most of the events are usually private and would not be as extravagant as how it is normally reflected in the public sphere of Muslim-majority countries.
But if you wish to do so in Sydney, the two best ways are :
- Getting in touch with the mosque. Auburn Mosque is one she recommends wholeheartedly, whereby “a step inside is like being transported”. Plus, the experience of having kebabs and biryani around the area, is the best, according to her.
- Go online and look for event pages, or Facebook groups (like ours!) who can connect with you the local Muslim Community.
There you have it, some lessons and takeaways we can all implement in our future trips from our Recent Journeys LIVE session with Sarah!
*photos courtesy of Sarah Malik