It is not everyday you can see a hijabi cycling with a full camping gear and a backpack, wearing a huge smile. An inspiration to many, Violet Biru has been pedalling around since early 2016, starting with New Zealand and then riding across China, Central Asia, Turkey and Europe. She is also an avid hiker and photographer! You can follow her updates at her Instagram and her blog “Basikal Merah”.
Do you have a support group that helps you to achieve your dream of traveling the world?
I don’t have any special support group but I am really grateful for the team at The Basikal who helped me a lot in my preparation and planning for my cycling adventure. The Basikal is a bicycle workshop at Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I volunteered there, and I was lucky to get a lot of advice and tips on maintenance, route-planning and cycling tours.
A friend of mine, SK Lah also had helped me a lot. As an expert bicycle traveler who had cycled from Norway to Malaysia, he provided me a lot of tips and he always follows up on my travels.
My biggest supporters, of course, are my family members who never cease to rally me to achieve my dream.
In addition to my family, I am grateful for the never-ending support from my followers on Instagram and Facebook in terms of moral or financial support. To me, this is amazing because I have never met them, but it doesn’t stop them to support me continuously.
What is the most essential part of planning your trip?
I always make sure that I know what I would want to achieve from my trip. However, to be honest, what I want can change from time to time as I become more flexible after months of traveling.
I find that it is better not to be so rigid because things sometimes just.. happen. Right now, I as focus more on less populated areas, rare or off-the-beaten paths, the planning has become much easier.
What do you on the trip to make it more a mindful travel?
Because my trip is indefinite and I don’t know where it will conclude, I love to be immersed in the life of the locals. Thus, if I have the time I would try to stay in one place, get a temporary job or volunteer for a cause.
For me, slowing down during the travel makes it more mindful.
My journey here is not just about visiting interesting places, but also getting priceless experience and learning things that I can apply later in my life. For example, I am keen to learn about permaculture*, so usually I will take a job or volunteer task related to this subject.
* Permaculture is a system of agricultural and social design principles centered around simulating or directly utilizing the patterns and features observed in natural ecosystems. (Wikipedia)
Have you had any encounters of unexpected kindness and how did you pay-it-forward?
When you travel with a bicycle, you get much closer to the locals, so eventually I had many encounters with kind souls, regardless their gender, race and religion.
I remember when in Paris I was very anxious to be in the city due to news about scams. However, something happened to me: a lady stopped me while I was walking to ask me if I needed help but I quickly ran away. She caught up with me and explained that she wanted to help as I was alone and more so as I was a woman in a big city.
The same story of kindness happened to me when I was in Central Asia. The locals there invited me to come to their house and have tea and bread. It is a simple meal, but a big gesture.
Experiences like these make me realize that most of the things we’ve heard might not be true, and we need to give a chance to ourselves to see them first without submitting to our preconception. Like all Iranians whom I met were really concerned about me traveling alone.
What I can do to repay their kindness is to share my real observations with others so their prejudice might change.
What is your view of Muslim women travelers as the group that can combat Islamophobia and promote more intercultural understanding?
To be honest, throughout the my travel I never met with people who are Islamophobic.
I got the same treatment as any other traveler. In fact many asked me why I wear hijab and I took every opportunity to explain about Islam to the curious Non-Muslims.
How do you deal with disappointment and hurdles during your travel?
Whenever I had problems, I will return to seek peace in God and make lots of prayers. Then I refer to my family and friends for the advice.
Alhamdulillah I have a lot of support from many people to help me going through my problems.
Thanks and safe travels, Violet!
This interview was done by Wan Nurul Hanani.
About Hanani: Inspired by her parents who wrestled their way out of a very rural area to obtain national scholarships and to have a high-flying career, Hanani believes that everything is possible once you set your mind into it. She has embarked on solo travels and treks to Peru, Iran, New Zealand, Turkey, Morocco and other countries since 2009. Her love of mountains has taken her to the likes of Mount Yong Belar, Mount Semeru to Annapurna Base Camp on which she proudly donned the traditional baju kurung or kebaya.