Author: Bungee Girl Media
One thing that is very wrong with the way travel is advertised to the public is the one-sided perspective that you get. How often do you see a depiction of what it is like to travel from the perspective of people from all walks of life? Ask yourself, do you REALLY know what it is like to travel for a mom with kids, a disabled person, a black or brown person, a gay or trans person? What about someone suffering with depression or is morbidly obese? Everyone has a story and their travel experiences will vary based on who they are and where they go? In our continued effort to bring authenticity back to the travel industry and provide wholesome travel inspiration for women, we see the value in providing a diverse set of stories. We believe the more we acknowledge our differences and provide representation across the board, the more human we will all appear to each other. So, next up in our SHE TRAVELS blog series is the story of a woman who’s helping us see that there is more to her than her hijab.
Meet Houda…..She Travels to prove that as woman this world is ours to discover too!
It isn’t farfetched to consider that the experiences of a Muslim woman might be different from others when traveling given it’s 2017 and islamophobia is at an all-time high. However, why do we so easily rush to this judgment? When you’re standing on a long line waiting to enter the Palace of Versailles, do you ever ask yourself what might be the religions practiced by the people standing around you? You probably don’t. But when you see a Muslim woman there’s probably a few things that cross your mind: “Is she allowed to travel or did she need permission”, “Does she want to cover her head or body”, “Does she feel oppressed”, “Does she even want to practice Islam”. For many, it is the presence of her hijab that either makes you feel a sense of empathy because you assume she’s having a difficult experience as Muslim woman in our society today or you feel a sense of fear. Bravo to those of us who don’t even bat an eye and consider nothing of the sort. But too often people consider one or more of the extremes. Houda’s story, as a strong and fearless spirit, who loves to travel shows that her experience isn’t much different than many others and should help us all see that there’s so much more to her than her hijab.
Houda, an English teacher in her hometown of Marrakech, Morocco, found a passion for traveling and wants to inspire women to not be afraid to venture. “Traveling is really important and impactful because it means more open-mindedness, more freedom, more tolerance and understanding of others.” Outside of Morocco, Houda has visited several locations in Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey and Sweden with London and Bali equally her favorite. “London is such a huge and diverse city, one never sees or learns enough when there. Bali on the other hand is something of another world. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It’s green everywhere you go, and coming from Africa that’s something to be in awe of. The scenery is to die for, and the Balinese people are so kind and cheerful.” Traveling as a Muslim woman hasn’t been much of a challenge for Houda as many people would assume. Before setting off on many of her travels, an incident would occur and hatred towards Muslims would soar (or as the media would want us to believe) that would cause Houda to worry about how she will be treated. But most often her experiences were uneventful and more positive than not.
“So far, there has only been one incident in Montreal, Canada where a lady talked to me and my family disrespectfully just because 3 of us were wearing Hijabs. It was really hot that summer and everybody was feeling uncomfortable because of the heat. So, this lady comes out of the supermarket into the parking lot where we were standing and before going inside her car tells us that it would better for us to just take off our Hijabs since it was intolerably hot. We told her that it was none of her business. She then continued to say that she is against our religion and I quote “islamo-terrorist”! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing”.
Other than that, in the dozen other cities Houda visited, she never experienced any racist or Islamophobic comments or even looks that would make her feel uncomfortable. On the contrary, people would initiate conversations with her on the train or the bus and make small talk. In London, where she went to a summer school last year, two of her classmates, both Italian girls, came up to her on separate occasions and asked in the politest way about her religion and why she chose to wear a Hijab. Another classmate, a well-known judge in Italy told her how her encounter with Houda changed her ideas about religious people.
Now, by no means are we trying to downplay the experiences that many Muslim women may experience when traveling. There is still so much hatred and prejudice that many Muslim women and their families unfortunately experience. But Houda’s story is quite refreshing and sheds light on the subconscious insensitivities and over-empathetic impulses many are prone to exhibit when meeting or being around Muslim female travelers. Houda does acknowledge there is a bit of adjusting that needs to take place to accommodate some of her needs which can pose challenges like finding a place to pray or looking for Halal food. But who doesn’t need to adapt or adjust while traveling based on their unique circumstances?
Besides finding a travel buddy, nothing has ever held Houda back from traveling and she’s determined to continue to travel to as many places as she can, spreading vibes of tolerance and acceptance wherever she goes. “I want to break out of this bubble called “A Man’s World”, and prove to everyone that this world is ours to share and to enjoy, not to dominate one another. I think the reason a lot of people around the world are close minded is because they don’t travel. When a person, or even a society, doesn’t know what lies behind its borders, it makes sense how very limited their ideas might be as well.”
Houda’s influence is starting right at home in Marrakech as she is passionate about helping and inspiring others which is why she started teaching. As someone who can also speak English and French fluently and is conversational in Spanish and German, Houda is determined to help others, especially women discover the world around them. Some of the great advice she gave for solo female travelers visiting her hometown of Marrakech includes: Checking out the old architecture and handicrafts in Jamaa El Fna square, taking a walk in the narrow streets of the Medina to enjoy the smell of vintage goods. If you want to enjoy some peace and quiet while being in the Medina, Houda recommends you visit Le Jardin Secret. For more peace and quiet and a sight of palm trees everywhere, take a cart to Les Palmerais which you won’t regret it. For the natural scenery close to Marrakech, head to the country. As a caution, expect a lot of catcalling once downtown, especially from street vendors. The best thing to do is pretend you didn’t hear anything, as responding to it won’t make any difference, it’s a matter of mindset.
Houda is the perfect image of what Bungee Girl is all about. A woman who sticks to her true values but is open to exploring the world, learning and accepting our human differences and wants to empower and support other women. If at the very least, we hope her story and perspective has opened your horizons. We should all be checking ourselves more often and be aware of our own innocent ignorance. We should all seek to learn about the experiences of people who are different from us whether it is through travel or during your regular routines. We should all think twice before making the hijab or other religious customs one of the first things we bring up when meeting a Muslim woman even if we meant it in a polite way (although desiring to learn about someone else’s faith is a beautiful thing to do). We should all want to see people from all walks of life experiencing the wonders of travel even if it means they need do it in a different or unique way. Travel is equally beneficial and empowering for us all so we want to promote that inclusive environment. We’re keeping it real and fighting against the relentless fakeness seen too often in travel blogging and instead want to bring you genuine content.
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