Meet Glory, a Puerto Rican who lives in the US, that runs the Muslim Travel Rocks blog! Why she finds Canada as the most Muslim friendly country, why she is positive about the Muslim perceptions in the US and finds president Trump uniting the nation, and how to overcome loneliness when travelling alone.
T: A short bio about yourself: 3-4 lines that best describe you, what you do for a living and so on. Where are you currently living and where are you from? Tell us more about your blog and Instagram / Facebook / YouTube.
G: Hi all, I’m Glory Ali, the founder of Muslim Travel Rocks. I am an American Muslim, born and raised in New Jersey and my roots are from Puerto Rico.
My blog aims to encourage and motivate Muslims to explore the world by connecting them to Muslim friendly destinations across the globe. My goal is to combat Islamophobia through travel and at the same time tackle the misconceptions of Islam. Muslim Travel Rocks is a place where Muslim travellers are able to seek out information on halal and Muslim friendly destinations.
Good question, I am a jack of all trades as most women are. By day I work in Finance and by night I am a Muslim travel blogger who aims at encouraging Muslims to explore the world by connecting them to Muslim friendly destinations. During the US presidential campaign, I started the travel blog Muslim Travel Rocks in order to feature America as a Muslim friendly destination.
T: Would you call yourself an avid traveller?
G: Unquestionable without a single doubt yes. I absolutely love to meet people and learn about their different cultures, beliefs and religions. I have a deep yearning see Allah’s creation and seek knowledge along my travels.
T: What inspired you to travel?
G: My passion for travel started as a child when my parents would take us on countless road trips across America. With a map and highlighter in hand, we would map out our journey. We also travelled back and forth during the summers to Puerto Rico.
Being exposed to a different culture – even though Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States – had me yearning to learn more about cultures, traditions, religions, and I wanted to see the world; so after high school I attended Travel & Tourism School. Allahumdillilah, I am now sharing my travel experience with my fellow Muslims while educating the travel industry on Muslim travel.
T: Where have you been?
G: My journey has taken me to Malaysia, Canada, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, St Thomas, 20 States in USA, Singapore, and many many trips to Puerto Rico. I’m a baby at international travelling as my main focus has been the United States.
T: Do you prefer to travel alone or with family and friends? Why?
G: Both has its pros and cons. Let’s be honest, It really depends on who you travel with. Travelling with other people can be frustrating at times. When I plan a trip with my family we discuss activities and what everyone wants to come out of the trip. I learned a long time ago not to commit to going away until you know exactly what the itinerary is.
I also enjoy travelling solo as I can be totally selfish about what I want to do. If I want to spend the entire day in your hotel room reading, I can do that. I’ve always been an independent woman and knowing that you are capable of being independent gives you a new sense of confidence and strength.
T: Do you have a full-time job? If yes, how do you find time to travel?
G: Allah (SWT) has truly blessed me enough to have a full-time job with plenty of holiday pay and floating holidays. One of the best benefits from my work is that I currently have alternating Fridays off so you can only imagine how many extend weekends I get to enjoy.
T: What was your best trip ever?
G: One year ago, my husband and I took a winter trip to Ontario Canada. Our trip was filled with snowshoeing in the mountains, ice caving (similar to rock climbing but inside a cave in the middle of winter). Neither one of us had ever skied and we had the opportunity to take lessons. The ice caving was exhilarating, scary and really challenging. Totally worth it!
T: What did you learn about yourself during your most memorable trip?
G: That I am more adventurous than I thought I was. I have been holding myself back. So this summer I’m literally taking the plunge and going skydiving. Watch out for the Youtube footage as I document that moment I have dreamt of all my life.
T: What were the locals you met like?
G: It really depends on the destination. If I am in a foreign country, people are more reserved and hesitant to engage in a conversation.
I have a trick for this. I learn a couple of basic phrases that I can say that usually softens the mood. A simple hello, thank you, in their native language makes people feel like am at least trying. Plus we get a good laugh out of it.
T: What was the funniest/strangest/most insightful thing a local said?
G: Hahaha, this is a good one. In Canada, my husband and I were attending a welcome party when a couple approached us and said: “We are soo sorry that Trump is your President but rest assure you are welcomed in Canada.” We still laugh about this but this goes to show how welcoming Canadians are.
T: What was the scariest moment?
G: Definitely ice caving in Canada. During our expedition, we climbed on rocks, climbed down into the smallest crevasse, and relied on our team to help us along the way.
At times my anxiety kicked in but our tour guide kept me going. He was the most kind and patient man. When I had doubts he encouraged me. When I was scared, he reassured and made me push through my fears.
There is no doubt that this experience was exciting, exhilarating and nerve-wracking at times. Did I tell you that I have a fear of the sensation of falling? I ended up with some bruises on my knees however, I wear my wounds proudly. I made it out alive and concur my fears.
T: What place is top of your bucket list?
G: Abu Dhabi, Egypt, Mexico, Panama, China.
T: Have you learned a language when travelling? If yes, did you take a course at home, etc.?
G: I haven’t learned any new languages. I do however always make it a point to learn the basic phrases like Hello/nice to meet you, thank you, please, my name is, where’s the restroom, how much, check please, and yes/no.
T: What’s your top travel tip?
G: Traveling really does make us a better person as it teaches us to become more tolerant of others beliefs and cultures. It also allows us to be understanding of others’ points of view and perspectives.
T: What’s your travel style: budget or luxury?
G: Budget without a doubt. I rather spend my money on sightseeing than spend it in a fancy hotel. All I need is a bed to sleep in and clean running water.
T: What do you think of the current stigma on Muslim travel? E.g. US Muslim travel ban. How we can change it?
G: While Trump’s presidential campaign divided the country, his presidency has most certainly united us. Not in the way he planned, rather in the way Allah (SWT) has decreed. We have seen an outpour of support and solidarity for Muslims. Businesses like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft have all spoken out against the travel ban. The country has unity against the travel ban. Allahumdillila, the Supreme Court recently stated that the President lacks constitutional authority to issue the Proclamation. Congress has the power to rewrite the law and the President does not.
It’s clear the people of the US have risen, resisted and is still stand together strong in solidarity.
T: Any campaigns you’ve seen so far that fight stigma on Muslims that you loved?
G: There has been many Interfaith events being held throughout the United States. People of all faiths are coming together in solidarity and support of their Muslim brother & sisters. In particular, there is a group called Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom.
The sisterhood of Muslim and Jewish Women participates in dialogue, socialization, social action projects, and in activities to expand your knowledge of each other’s practices and beliefs, forming strong friendships. These women are build bridges and fighting hate, negative stereotyping and prejudice. Their motto is “We are changing the world, one Muslim and one Jewish woman at a time!”
T: And how we can encourage more Muslims to travel?
G: The world is an amazing place waiting for you to experience. Travelling connects us to the world and is a part of Islam. The Qur’an encourages us to seek knowledge and travel. Travelling as a Muslim, both domestically and internationally, has been a gratifying experience. Expand your horizons and see the beauty that our Almighty Creator has bestowed upon us.
These days travelling has become more affordable and there are countless ways to fund your travels without breaking the bank.
T: Which country is the most Muslim-friendly?
G: Without a doubt, Canada is the most welcoming Muslim friendly country and one of the most multicultural countries in the world; in my opinion, Canadians embrace diversity. I have visited Canada and have experienced first hand how Canadian residents treat their tourists and guests.
I have to say they are most open-minded and open-heart people on Earth!
T: Have you travelled solo?
G: All the time.
T: What’s like to be a solo Muslim female traveller?
G: I enjoy solo travelling, exploring a new destination on my schedule though I do have to say that the most challenging thing for me as a solo traveller was eating alone. Thankful my friend Kareemah Ashiru from Hijabglobetter provided comforting advice and always encourages me to step out of my comfort zone. She has helped me to make more of an effort to strike up a conversation with locals and other tourists. Travelling solo has made more aware of my surroundings when I travel alone than I am when I travel with my family.
T: Was your family OK with it?
G: Allahamdulillah, my husband supports my travelling and encourages me to travel even when he’s not available to accompany me. We talk several times during the day which brings him comfort in knowing I am safe.
T: What advice you can give to other females who want to travel but don’t dare or their family is not supportive?
G: The Qur’an encourages us to seek knowledge and travel. Travelling as a Muslim, both domestically and internationally, has been a gratifying experience. Expand your horizons and see the beauty that our Almighty Creator has bestowed upon us.
T: Where would you revisit? Would you ever move to any of those cities?
G: I’ve been to Malaysia twice and can’t wait to go back. We are planning another trip to Malaysia in the next year or so.
That’s a good question [whether we would ever move]. My husband has mentioned it several times, however, I’m more resistant as my family resided in the USA. However lately, I have been more open to moving abroad. Allah knows best.
T: What can’t you travel without?
G: My prayer mat.
T: Which country has the friendliest people?
G: Canada without a question.
T: What’s the best piece of travel advice you’ve received?
G: A couple of months ago I attended a travel meetup where a gentleman made a comment that has been stuck in my head. He had moved to Italy from the USA years ago and was told by a man in a coffee shop in Italy. “You know what the difference between Americans and Europeans is? He said no but please tell me. The man in the coffee shop preceded to tell him, American live to work while us Europeans work to live.” This blow my mind. He is so right. We Americans are always on the go the goal and most people forfeit their holiday time at work because as this gentleman implied, we are to darn busy to enjoy life.
T: What’s the worst piece of travel advice you’ve received?
G: Oh this is an easy answer, “Why in the world would you travel to Muslim country”.
T: How are you documenting your trip?
G: I keep a travel journal and I also take videos and plenty of photos of all the places I travel to.
T: What’s been the best street food you’ve had?
G: I’m partial to NYC Street Food Carts. Some many variety of foods it’s hard to choose one. I don’t recall eating at a restaurant in NYC and always stopping out the street food card vendors hahaha.
T: What destination have you found to be overrated?
G: Las Vegas.
T: Thanks Glory. We hope that you can visit Malaysia soon – and we can meet for a cup of coffee!