A Look Back at Muslim Solo Travel’s 2023: Southeast Asia + Meet Ups & More!

2023 was a rollercoaster – but the good kind.

At MST, we believe in journaling and doing reflective practices. Hence, this article will look back on what 2023 was like. The twists, the turns, and the many discoveries we encountered.

To understand our humble beginnings, check out this 2022 reflection, from blogger to community.

That said, here is a gist of the events, highlights at MST, and so much more.

Teaser: Didn’t expect this year would be concentrated in Southeast Asia but we plan, Allah has better plans khayr alhamdullilah

Jan – Mar: Journeys with the Muslimah Solo Travelers continued.. with Gia, Syifa & Yara

In January, we talked about Indonesia with Gia, and the differences between the many islands. Gia made me wonder about Lombok, and end up visiting it…

In February, we chatted with Syifa about her solo travel journeys in Southeast Asia. Airport and passport mishaps, we kept it real in this one.

March, during Ramadhan, we chatted with Yara, an Egyptian MSTer who is familiar with the laws and customs of the place, how to spend Ramadhan there, and Spain as she continues her PhD back and forth in between.

Are you keen to share your journeys as a Muslimah Solo Traveler like these ladies who have done it? Feel free to send an email to community@muslimsolotravel.com

April – May: Eid in Java, Learning about Halal Travel in Lombok and Meeting Muslim Changemakers in GMW Bali

Eid in Java, particularly the Largest Southeast Asia mosque, was an eye-opener.

Then, contrasting to an experience in Bali, Indonesia, is a multitude of colors, as Gia mentioned in the Journeys session. More on Bali below.

Lombok – The Island of 1001 Mosques

But first, Lombok, Bali’s neighbor.

A traditional mosque in Lombok

Never have I ever seen an island with musolla side by side. The adhaan echoed throughout the whole island.

While the community has first-hand knowledge of Lombok, stay tuned as we roll out Lombok and other Indonesian articles in the upcoming months.

I also did a silent 4-day own retreat in Lombok. This was one of the most pivotal moments in my life (and in MST’s).

Would you be keen for a retreat/tour experience in Lombok? Join our waitlist here if you are 🙂

GMW Bali – Meeting Global Muslim Leaders in Bali Island

This was a personal-ish professional trip to GMW Bali. But as Muslim Solo Travel is within the #HalalEconomy, GMW Bali was a pivotal moment in the baby growth of MST as it gets to know founders and strivers within the same and overlapping circles.

As we are big believers in searching for knowledge through travel (as Islam recommends), I learned a lot of things from Muslim leaders who have made it, those who are in the same boat as me, as an accidental founder.

Who knew you could get barakah even in a place where the majority of the population is non-Muslim?

Of course – at MST, we are also big believers in grabbing travel opportunities over anything else hahaha. At the same time, this was it to understand the recency of Bali’s reputation as a popular bucket list destination.

MST’s Pick: Lombok, anytime > Bali because we are pro #HalalTravel. No hard feelings to Bali. You can make it Muslim-friendly but do manage your expectations. Read about the Bali surfing experience here.

May – New Roots in Kuala Lumpur & Attending Conventional Travel + Halal Travel Events.

MST finally has a Base HQ – Yippie Alhamdulillah! – I was living the #digitalnomad life in the earlier year.

After much experimenting and perhaps rude realization in treading the rollercoaster of travelpreneurship, I decided to make Kuala Lumpur MST’s base HQ a week before this travel event took place in KL.

Travel Meet Asia in Kuala Lumpur

First ever travel lanyard pass since choosing KL as a base.

As a Renounced Conventional Travel Journalist turned Halal Travel Community Lead, attending a normal travel event after… two years.. was kinda weird. It’s like I no longer belong in this section of the industry, but I’m also kinda in it, and of course, super grateful this industry led me to Halal Travel.

Here, I deepened my knowledge of Halal Travel from Fazal Bahardeen of Halal Trip, speaking for TMA here, who is also the organizer of the following..

Panelist in Halal in Travel Global Summit

MST was lucky enough to be part of HITGS, which Crescentrating organized.

What an exciting session as we bounce back and forth on Muslimahs’ many differing views on solo travel.

You can re-watch the Empowering Muslim Female Travelers: Overcoming Challenges and Creating Opportunities Panel session.

June – July: Journeys with Muslimah Solo Travelers continues… Ruhee, Fathin & Kiyonah

June, we featured Ruhee (replay here), who talked about New Zealand, India and a bit of Melbourne. I met Ruhee in Bali so the barakah, definitely there.

July was Fathin (replay here), who knows Taiwan like the back of her hand. Bubble tea, anyone?

August, Kiyonah shared her experiences in Colombia, South Korea, and Malaysia. She also dished what she knows best as a New Yorker, especially how to spend Ramadhan in NYC! Catch the replay here

August – GMWx Brunei & Singapore Meet Ups

GMWx Brunei

The barakah effect of Bali, Subhanallah, led me to Brunei.

In Brunei, I represented MST for the topic Intersectionality of Purpose, Business and Social Impact, met HRH Princess (with humility, told her about my lineage – travel is about discovering lineages), and the barakah effect tripled because…

In Brunei, I learned about the local Muslim-friendly tourism industry in Kampung Ayer and….

Brunei Meet-Up Happened!

On the very last day that I was supposed to fly out from Brunei.

Totally serendipitous. Ah- the beauty of travel.

But this made us learn a lot about Bruneian Muslimah Solo Travelers. And reaffirmed that part of solo travel is meeting up with local folks – bonus if they’re Muslims!

Again, lots to share about Brunei. Upcoming in the website, so just be here, everyday for the drop 😉

Singapore Meet Up + Have Halal Will Travel’s Deep Dive + Singapore NATAS

I had no idea the Singapore NATAS travel fair was happening, but I found out about it as I was in Singapore for HHWT’s Deep Dive!

So what do you do when you figured you have three birds to kill? You try your best to kill three of them, as kiasu (Singaporean mindset hehe #muchlove) as you can be while in Merlion land.

And, of course, I took the opportunity to meet up with MSTers based in Singapore for an afternoon day out at Kampung Glam. 🙂

Watch the reel and read about it here

September – October: Islamic Tourism Month in Malaysia, MIHAS Fair, MATTA Fair & Malaysia Meet Up & Journeys with Sarah

We had a Journeys session where we chatted with Sarah Malik, on her book Safar that featured Muslim women and their travel stories all over the world.

It was literally a session for me more I feel, as one of my dreams is to publish a book (and this website is just the start in sha Allah). Talking to someone who’s done it first is a good step!

And then things went full swing.

Malaysia had its #ITM23 month, and we’re so grateful to be part of it as one of their Media partners.

This is a massive milestone for MST.

As Malaysia is a winner when it comes to Women-friendly destinations, covering the month-long tourism event, plus sharing it with our Community through our media platforms, alhamdulillah.

Also, MST attended MIHAS and MATTA Fairs, where I made a cameo on Muslim-friendly Philippines on their national TV here.

The best part of #ITM23 was our Malaysia Meet Up in Kuala Lumpur’s first mosque, Masjid Jamek during Malaysia Day. It literally can’t get any more serendipitous than this. Watch and read the recap here.

Mid-October – Water time & Discovering Solo Sport: SUP

Downtime. Because I didn’t manage to breathe previously.

A business also needs to breathe so we don’t fall into the trap of hustle culture.

And as we embody the true spirit of #MuslimSoloTravel, I think I went overboard with exploring the waters this month.

I kayaked in Cherating (literally learned on the go and the trainer was so worried lol), did SUP in Putrajaya and Kuching, and reconvened with the healing powers of the Borneo Rainforest. Water is my power charger.

What’s your charger? You might find out as you embark on a solo trip!

Are you adventurous enough to adventure into Borneo Rainforest with fellow Muslimah Solo Travelers? Join the waitlist here if Borneo’s Rainforest is your dreams.

November – Thailand & Swiss Roadshow Travel Panel in Kuala Lumpur

Thailand was more of a ‘reconnection with the mission of Muslim Solo Travel’ trip, which I realized later on.

I purposely put the business on halt this time because I felt something within me was calling my attention. And I knew, it came from Allah. As Muslims, Allah > dunya.

And before we can fill other people’s cups, our cups must be full first!

At the same time, Allahuakhbar, news on the war in Gaza broke out, just one week after I decided I would pause everything till December. May Allah brings peace to them, and to us all in this world…

While I am not ready to divulge all the the reasons why, maybe one day in my future book you will know!

Back to Thailand. I came here for myself (validated the trip via a championship happening lol), actually. Not for MST, but once you’ve put on the lens of Halal Travel, I guess there is no going back.

P/s: Going to Bangkok soon? Check out our recommended Muslim-friendly Hotels in Bangkok here (a toughie!).

Somehow, I learned a lot about the tourism business in Thailand. Saw the haram side of it too, and it reaffirmed in me why Muslim Solo Travel exists.

Don’t get me wrong. Still, there’s beauty too in Thailand, like the Muslim communities I met in the most contrasting places like Pattaya.

Speaking of Thailand, we’re in the midst of finalizing our Treasurable Thailand Women-Only Experience. Here are some of the photos.

Join the waitlist if you’re keen to experience Thailand, beyond the typical.

Muslim-friendly Travel Panel Speaker for Switzerland Roadshow.

At MST, sometimes I feel like we’re also travel activists. With the existence of our community, Tourism Boards are slowly starting to realize, “Oh, there’s this type of traveler. We should also make them feel welcomed”.

I was part of the Muslim-friendly Travel Panel Speaker for the Switzerland Tourism Roadshow in November. In this intimate session, we learned from the needs, the limitations, and the understanding of tour guides, travel, and hospitality folks in Switzerland. And I addressed our needs and expectations as Muslimah Solo Travelers.

Super thankful for the ability to be part of this. Change starts with dialogue. And dialogue is the media. We are, a travel media too, not the conventional kind.

December – Community Reached 700! & Announcing our first-ever retreat, The Traveler’s Mindset

Unlike our open social media like Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook Page, our Community Facebook Group is private. Everyone talks to each other respectfully, cheers on each other’s solo travel journeys and help each other out with the “no-judgment” mindset.

And I am super thankful and grateful for everyone who are part of the Community.

On December 28th, the MSTers Community reached 700!

This is a significant milestone for us because (1) we are ruthless in screening people who enter the community. To uphold our values of being respectable, kind, no-judgment, and, of course, Women-only, it took us a year-ish to reach 700 people.

In a world of fast, fast, fast, we’re not here to be the biggest, the loudest if our travels (and stories) are not meaningful and positively impactful.

We’re here to do things the right way, with barakah, regardless of the ever-changing algorithm.

It’s about the journey, not the end destination (aka metrics in media language).

Only the beginning! Ft. Upcoming Traveler’s Mindset Retreat in Malaysia

Subhanallah.

Sometime after Thailand, I felt a sense of metamorphosis.

MST is growing into her next phase, and I knew it requires a different kind of headspace to head in the direction she is entering.

Not through motions of life, but with a sense of purpose and 360-degree, all-encompassing alignment. Again, I am just here to facilitate it all, together with our Community’s loving solo travel stories.

Talking online is a 70% Energy boost. But meeting offline, that’s beyond 100%, supercharged level.

With that said, next year (aka in two weeks’ time), we are hosting our first-ever retreat, The Traveler’s Mindset, alhamdulillah. Together with Balancing Bridges, whom I met in Spain in 2022 (talk about the barakah effect again).

Our dream at MST is huge. And The Traveler’s Mindset Retreat in Malaysia. Is. Just. The. Beginning.

Wrapping up this 2023 recap..

From the bottom of my #MuslimSoloTravel heart (which I rediscovered in Thailand), two things:

(1) If you are in Malaysia sometime January 13-14, 2024 and would like to experience a different kind of travel-personal-discovery experience, join us in The Traveler’s Mindset Retreat here where we will focus on a journey to Travel Back To YOU! Or, you could share this with those you think are keen on joining.

(2) If you believe in what we do, want to solo travel, crazy about solo travel, or want to travel with us and experience the world (when it’s time!), Join our #MuslimahSoloTravelers Community here and together, we can impact the Travel industry, with more barakah (blessings), in sha Allah.

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