Browsing the cool Instagram Feed of Yasmin Ali, a brave 20-something from Minnesota make you feel the feels. There is something so graceful in the way she captures the life around her, the cobblestone road of European towns, the majestic mountains and valleys. She has been travelling and camping solo in many parts of America and Europe, combining her talent of photography with equally eloquent writing in her “Letter From” series. Count me one of her big fans, and you’ll see why when you peruse her website “Oh, Jasmin Travels” and Instagram.
Do you have a support group that helps you to achieve your dream of travelling the world?
Yes! Friends and family have proven to be the root of my support teams. My family surprised me with being super okay with my dream to travel the world, despite their fear of me being a single Muslim woman. But, my family is comprised of well-travelled people who have an understanding of its importance.
Also, with the fact that my family is spread out across the world, it’s less scary visiting a location knowing that you have family in that country (as the situation in most of Europe), or a next-door country.
What is the most essential part of planning your trip?
Making sure I have accommodation, transportation and safety figured out. Whenever I touch down in a location, I first use public transit to get to my hotel, and that process alone teaches me a lot about the city and also ensures me that I have a “safe spot.”
What do you do during the trip to make it more a mindful journey?
To be open! – I like to make some itinerary to make sure I don’t miss out on things I want to do or is unique to the location, but sometimes, plans don’t always go your way. In that, there’s something special about getting carried away somewhere or finding a new location you want to explore by accident.
Have you had any encounters of unexpected kindness and how did you pay-it-forward?
I am always experiencing kindness from strangers whenever I’m lost or in need. Once in Iceland, a stranger helped me wrap up my tent (couldn’t fit back in its case) after I’d been struggling in the wind for close to 20 minutes. He came to help me figure out how to do it, which we both failed, but he continued to help me until I was on my way out.
I always remember to do those things now for others, especially travellers, up until the minute they are 100% fine again!
What is your view of Muslim women travellers as the group that can combat Islamophobia and promote more intercultural understanding?
One of the biggest misconceptions for Muslim women is that we cannot travel, let alone travelling solo.
I believe that by Muslim women travelling more, especially to visit “hot spots” or even places where the Muslim population is almost non-existent, will play as some awareness factor that yes, we can travel, and yes we do travel! I had many people ask me about how my faith plays into me travelling, and it made them more interested when I took the time to answer their questions and misconceptions.
And Muslim women from Asia and the Middle East have very different type of travelling styles and even their clothing styles, so it will generate understanding to the world that, though Muslims, we are not all the same and that people don’t need to be afraid of us.
How do you deal with disappointment and hurdles during your travel?
I make a lot of prayers/duas when I travel because I am aware that I’m leaving my comfort and exploring God’s lands. I am emotional when I travel as it is, but when I face disappointments or sadness, I take the time to stop and first thank Allah SWT that I made it this far, and kind of reboot myself to finish strong.
In Copenhagen once, I tried to ride a bike, and I ended up injuring my ankle at the beginning of the ride. It prevented me from spending my last day productively in the city, for which, I had quite a list to explore and to do. It took me a while, but I accepted what happened, and I had learnt to put my health first. I rested and slowly got back into the swing of things, knowing that this all happened for a reason.
Usually, at the end, it makes a great story!
Thanks and safe travels, Yasmin!
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.