“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Why do people suddenly want to pack up their bags and leave home to travel the world? What makes it so great that more and more people put this on their bucket list?
Is it the number of perfect pictures and mementoes on their fridge?
Is it the variety of cultures and cuisines that one might get to taste?
Is it the thrill of meeting new people and learning about their stories?
Or is it something even deeper?
What is it that pushes people to travel more?
Everyone knows that their answers will vary. While some may say that it is to get out of their monotonous lives, others might say it is to experience something that they may never find a home and others say that they had the itch of wanderlust beneath their skin.
I caught up with seasoned traveller, Mrs Munira Ishak, who is currently based in Dubai, about the experience of her travels. Munira had her own story where she grew up travelling and now 37 years later, she still loves to do so. Her upbringing was normal – by having a bachelor’s degree in Engineering and working in the corporate oil and gas sector in Dubai but she never left her passion for travelling behind. She became so passionate about travelling that she turned it into a career – as a Franchise Business Owner of Travel Counsellors in the UAE.
By having a rich experience stacked up and a portal to share with, Munira shares her stories about her travels.
When did it all begin?
“I was always a traveller.” Munira began her story. She started off by saying that she is originally from Sabah, East Malaysia which is now more popularly known as North Borneo. And in those days in the ‘80s, the roads were not very well built. Since Borneo was an island, her family needed to travel a lot to get to different places. Especially when they had to go from Sabah to Kuala Lumpur, as well as to Brunei, they had to travel by plane. “Guess this makes me a seasoned flyer,” she laughs.
When did you know you wanted to travel the world?
“I have never known any other way to live,” recalls Munira with a nostalgic thought. At eleven years old, her family had to move from Malaysia for various reasons. Even then, they used to travel to nearby countries. When she returned to Malaysia, her home, she could never stay in one place for longer than four years. That itch to move always remained.
First Place Travelled
Munira pointed out that her first travels had always been from Sabah to Brunei. As an infant, her small family often travelled to Brunei and those will always be counted as her first travels.
Place at the top of the bucket list.
“Italian food. I always loved eating Italian food.” Munira shares as she mentions her dream, “When I was a teenager, I dreamt that one day I would travel the streets of Rome and eat pizza, pasta and gelato.” While she still hasn’t managed to experience Rome, she did manage to go to the beautiful streets of Turin and Venice and still gobble a lot of pizza, pasta, and gelato.
Was budget ever an issue?
As most travellers often faced this issue and had to plan ways to minimise extra costs, thankfully for Munira she never really had to face this issue. “I have always sought out opportunities to travel.”
Especially before, when she was an employee, she was always careful in the jobs she picked and that maximised her travel opportunities. Furthermore, she had a well-paying professional position, so she wasn’t worried about money constraints and could travel leisurely. In fact, she doesn’t believe in spending money on material things, but on experiences and memories.
Overcoming Travelling Challenges.
Munira has travelled to many places, whether for work or leisure. It has ranged from deserts in Iraq with few amenities, to small oil towns in Malaysia. The trick is to learn how to adapt to such diverse environments. She had gained that experience with those travels and even shared a small example like managing her fluid intake to avoid finding washrooms in the middle of nowhere.
Another major challenge she had faced was when travelling to Non-English-speaking countries. People wouldn’t understand what she was trying to say and just gestures don’t help half the time. So, she would get to the hotel where she was staying and request them to have some standard instructions and restrictions written down in their local language. This would make communication with the locals much easier.
In July 2018, Munira had the first experience of her leisure solo travel to Prague, Czech Republic. So far, she has travelled to five countries as a solo traveller. But before that, for work, she used to travel solo or with one or two colleagues for work. Now, things have changed for her. She has three children and often brings them on her trips. Till now, she has visited three countries with them. Now, Munira considers herself to be a “Solo Mom Traveller”.
Most memorable trips
“It has to be my first solo trip to Prague,” Munira admitted that it seemed symbolic of her liberation of fear due to travelling solo. But her personal favourite destination as a solo traveller would be Tokyo and Prague. Despite both being cities where English was not commonly spoken, she truly enjoyed the experience they had to offer. “I might describe these two cities as a mix between rich histories and current cultures.”
Most unique cuisine
“I am not too adventurous with food as I have a slight food intolerance,” Munira explained about her allergic reaction to certain types of food but was still happy to inform us that she absolutely loves Japanese and Korean cuisine.
Munira does have a few collectables from her travels that she likes to keep as memories. They usually include fridge magnets from each place she has travelled to and from her favourite destinations, she likes to collect Hard Rock Café mementoes, mostly t-shirts and caps. She mostly likes to click more photographs of the places she has visited and revel in the experience.
Travelling akin to soul searching
“Definitely!” Munira let out strong. She says, “Being in a foreign land brings exhilaration and joy like no other. Initially, we may find it slightly discomforting not to be in a familiar place, but eventually, you start to get the ropes. Plus, the first day where you are trying to navigate towards your hotel is an adventure itself.”
For Munira, when she visits a destination, she feels that understanding the history and culture of how a country came to be is the perfect food for thought for her.
Lessons and Tips for Young Travellers
“There is a huge difference between Travel and Vacation,” says Munira. She admits that sometimes she does take a vacation to relax and enjoy the destination. But when it comes to travel, she explores everything she can. For her, one major quality to have while travelling is flexibility because not everything planned happens. There will be delayed flights, getting lost, not finding the right food. All this needs to be considered and will require a special kind of flexibility.
If you’re planning your next trip, you may like to see these simple yet practical tips by Munira:
- Pack less than needed. When you say, ‘just in case needed’, it’s a cue to leave it behind.
- Pack paracetamol, thermometer, decongestants, and band aids.
- Three pairs of shoes are not needed.
- Always prepare that trip from the airport to the hotel on arrival. You can do everything else ad hoc, but not that first
- Have a sling bag for your passport, phone, cards, and some cash.
As such, this was the experience of a seasoned traveller, who grew up travelling all her life. After building such adventures, not all travellers get a chance to share their stories. But having gotten, such an amazing adventurer her story, is something to learn from. Munira says “Thank you for thinking of me.” before signing off.
Contributor: Sanaya Parkar
About our Writing Program Student
Why fit in when we were born to stand out and do greater things? A passionate writer for whose words come naturally as ants to sweet jaggery along with design running in the veins. An avid reader, researcher as well as a learner whose dream is to change the world with each step.