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Chit Chat session with travel blogger Rabia Aftab

  1. When did you start travelling? Which was the first country you traveled?

I started travelling in 2015 to be exact, when I could really afford my little travels. Before that, all my travels were family vacations. The first country I traveled on my own was Thailand and it made me see life differently; I cherish these important experiences.

2. What about money, because that is a big concern when traveling abroad.

Well, stressing on the cost while traveling is something we all do. Most people don’t even search for flight details or hotel prices because of a preconceived notion that it has to be expensive and unaffordable. However, I started saving to travel. Let’s just say, I would work hard and save for 3 months and at times even 6 months so I could afford a trip by myself.

3. Was it easy to get up and go, being a solo traveler and a girl from Pakistan?

It wasn’t easy, but it was not too difficult either. The real convincing had to be done within myself, and initially I did not announce it to the world. Once I stepped outside on my own, things started feeling easier and less convoluted.

4. Tell us about visa issues, are they real for those with a Pakistani passport?

I wish I could sugar coat the answer to this, but I have a Pakistani passport and yes, Visa issues are real. I have never faced an issue in getting visas, but the documentation, the embassy visits and interviews (given nervously) are a hassle. Then there is a waiting period for your passport, not knowing if you have gotten the visa gets annoying at times. But let me tell you, all these issues are temporary and once you start traveling and your passport is full of stamps, visas on the same Pakistani passport gets easier.

  1. How many countries have you traveled?

I have done 35 countries on my own so far, but for me the count doesn’t matter. As long as I get to experience and explore the difference and variety in culture, people, architecture, etc. I want to keep going.

6. Which country/city is your favorite and why?

Every time somebody asks me this question, I pause and think, but honestly there isn’t one I can pinpoint. Every city or country I love has a different energy, a different vibe to it. I love places that have a positive feel to them, are culturally rich, have a distinct architecture and friendly people of course. Few places I have really liked are Spain, Croatia, Vietnam and can I read out from my list? 😉.

7. Does traveling make you a better person? What things did you learn from traveling that you couldn’t have learnt if you never did?

Traveling has taught me to be thankful, to be flexible and to let things go. Not everyone in the world is like you or thinks like you and we all are different, but everyone adds value to this life – this world. You meet so many people and learn so much from them and then you have a new starting point to think and improve. Traveling has really given perspective to a lot of things in my life. Many days do not go as planned, some days are rough but traveling has taught me patience. It makes me realize that just like all good things, all bad things also come to an end. Traveling has taught me to continuously learn and become a better person.

8. How is the food scene around the world compared to Pakistan and your home city Karachi?

I love Pakistani food and there is no comparison to it. You can never have enough of the barbecues, Niharis and scrumptious Biryanis. However, every country has a distinct food palette and a different specialty in their cuisine. Being a Pakistani, I love the fact that I can step into any eatery and enjoy a good meal without hogging down water or asking for more spice. Food makes me happy, so I love to discover variety of food. For example, there is no comparison to the Pho you get in Vietnam and the Fish you get in Cyprus, so my mind remembers these tastes distinctly.

9. Have you toured around the country?

Not as much as I should have. I have been to many cities in Pakistan, but a trip to the North is still due. Every time I hear from someone about their experience from up North, I feel I am missing out. It is on my bucket list.

10. Did you play any part in clearing misconceptions about Pakistan while you were abroad?

It often comes as a surprise to people abroad when they find out I am from Pakistan. The sad reality is that half of them haven’t previously met anyone from Pakistan and few only know the negatives. Many people did not even know the geographic location of Pakistan! The biggest misconception they have is that women in Pakistan are not allowed to go out or do anything on their own, so when I meet them they are surprised by the fact that I am not only from Pakistan but also traveling on my own. Unfortunately, people in this world see us from the lens of the media, so as travelers it is our duty to show them the positive side of Pakistan.

11. What kind of a traveler are you? The insta-conscious one or the go-getter, adventurous one?

I would call myself an adventurous traveler. I like challenging myself and I believe traveling should be a growth experience.

12. Give us some packing tips – 5 essentials that should be on a travelers luggage.

  • Light clothes
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Rain jacket or umbrella
  • Basic Toiletry
  • First Aid kit

13. On a scale of 1-10, how much would you suggest solo traveling to girls in Pakistan?

Solo traveling is great. I would suggest girls to travel and get out of their comfort zones, if they are not comfortable traveling solo then go with friends but travel wherever you can and whenever you can!

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