In April 2018, I quit my job in an INGO in Nigeria due to a combination of workplace harassment, bullying and other personal circumstances. When I left my job, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but it was somewhere between higher education (yet another masters) or another job. 3 months later, I have pursued neither and I am still unsure of whether or not I want to do either. I set out from Bangladesh on April 20th 2018, bags packed with no plans on where I will go and around when I will come back. 11 weeks later, I am sitting at a lovely little café in Oaxaca, Mexico, reflecting and sharing 8 important life lessons I learnt in my 11 weeks of Solo Travelling.
1. It is ok to not have your life figured out. Truth is, no one really has their lives figured out, it just seems like they do. That’s the beauty of it though, so long as you know what you are doing at that moment, the rest will follow. Slow down, breathe, meditate and the solution will come to you by itself when you are kinder on yourself.
2. Having a long term life plan is important, it is good but it is not essential. When we plan too far ahead, we lose track of the present as we are too caught up in the minor details. And while we keep invested in planning every move, we forget to enjoy the present moment.
3. People all over the world just want to show you the best of their countries, you just have to let them. There’s good and bad people everywhere, but honestly the one thing I have learnt from travelling to around 15 countries in the last 11 weeks is that people everywhere have tried to show me the best of their country and welcomed me as warmly as possibly. Of course there are certain places like Bosnia, Mexico, Cyprus and Italy which were outstanding, but almost every single country I have been to on this trip has welcomed this Bengali girl as if she was one of their own.
4. Everyone should go solo travelling, at least once a year. Trust me on this, you will learn a LOT about yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, your inner demons, your inner beauty, you will see the whole spectrum. When you are forced to spend 24 hours a day with yourself, you learn so much about yourself that you become more aware of your strengths and weaknesses, this in turn helps you improve and become the best version of yourself.
5. Stop waiting for one moment, one person, one day or one incident to occur that changes your life and salvages your existence. Oh I cannot emphasise on this enough, like most of people, I learnt from the media about a prince charming who will come and rescue me. See the prince charming was not just some guy, it was the idea of a singular person or a singular event that would change my life forever. We wait excessively long periods in our life for a moment that will change everything, one big break, that will make everything fall into perspective. But this is not true. What I learnt, for the first time in my life is that its not one day or one moment, its actually, everyday and every moment. Every little moment, every small interaction you have in your life is culminating to form a beautiful reality, your beautiful reality. This is the true meaning of Carpe Diem.
6. Slow Down, stop and smell the flowers: I had a job before I graduated from undergrad and masters both. I was working full time while most of my peers were trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their lives. I felt proud about this, as if it was some achievement. It was not, it still is not. I rushed through life, thinking when I have stability I will feel better. Thinking a job, a relationship, a career, a degree will help me feel more fulfilled, give my life more purpose. It did not and so at age 27, I am wandering the world slowly, finally letting the world take where it wants instead of rushing through life. And honestly, I am a lot more emotionally stable. So slow down, smell the flowers, because before you know it, in the blink of an eye, it could all be taken from you and you will realise that you spent most of your life waiting for something or the other.
7. No matter where in the world you go, you will find just as many similarities as you will find differences. While some cultures are much more similar to your own, just know, we are all children of the same world and there is a lot more in common we have with other humans than we think. The trick is to actually try and find that out. I came to Mexico, with as little preconceived notion as I could, I had no expectations and no bias and I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that not only do I look Mexican, I feel Mexican too, because I sought out the similarities that helped me feel comfortable while also learning and embracing the differences.
8. It is ok to cry and have breakdowns. Society as a whole does not teach us how to process emotions properly. Every single time I have cried to my mother she has said “don’t cry” followed by something else about how I should not cry and this is just wrong. I think everyone should cry and in fact I encourage it. Because all that sadness, anger, anxiety and other negative emotions that are boiling within you needs some form of release, and if not through tears, they will find a different dangerous method of release. This may not even be within your control at this point, in many cases, especially in Bangladeshi households, I have seen this to be emotional and mental abuse and manipulation. So let those tears out, because my bet is, it will make you feel much better.
I hope this post has been useful and informative for you! If you can think of any topics you want me to write about please be sure to email me on : email@example.com. And if you like this article, please show a sister some love, head over to instagram and follow my page: @maliharoundtheworld:D
Maliha Fairooz is a 27-year-old Bangladeshi solo traveller, who has travelled to 83 countries, on a Bangladeshi passport. Through her blog www.maliharoundtheworld.com, she shares her experience of travelling as a brown, Muslim, Bangladeshi woman while simultaneously encouraging a culture of travel amongst Bangladeshi youth.