Taking up the next spot for our blog series 'Why Every Woman Should Travel Solo' is Five Foot Traveller, Anis Ibrahim. A veteran with words, Anis will be making an appearance at the Asian Women's Empowerment (AWE) Conference this November, where she will be giving a workshop on what she does best – writing.
First she was a lawyer. Then she became a journalist. Now she's a freelance travel writer. Standing at 5 feet flat, this little lady is one big shot in the penned world. Her articles have appeared in the New Sunday Times, Travel Times and Quill Magazine, and was a speaker for travel writing for the Malaysian International Tourism Bloggers Conference and Awards 2013.
Forever searching for great ideas and inspiration, Anis believes the world is full of incredible people who all have their own stories to tell. As for her own stories, Anis chronicles her travels on her blog Five Foot Traveller with wit and humour (and some sound advice thrown in here and there).
Occupation: Freelance writer
Interesting facts about yourself (bad habits are welcome): This is a little weird, but I hate blue pens and I collect notebooks. I currently have 10 unused notebooks, waiting to be filled in.
3 things you won't leave home without: My iPhone, a pen (always black) and my wallet.
'Travel' smells like: Fresh mountain air – no smog, no smoke.
Guilty travel pleasure: I buy earrings in every country I go to, so I have dozens of pairs. They’re my personal souvenirs and I love it that whenever I wear them, I have a little piece of Myanmar or Russia or Turkey with me.
The pages of my life
I’ve got to give my late grandfather and his National Geographic magazines credit for how it all began. My grandfather was an avid reader and he used to have tons of magazines and books in his house. Many school holidays were spent reading his copies of National Geographic and LIFE magazines. All those wonderful photos! Then when I was 12, my parents brought my brothers and I on a road trip to New Zealand. We rented a car and drove all over the country. It was such an amazing trip and it made me want to explore whole world.
What kept me...
Was probably the uncertainty and fear I felt before I started travelling solo. I started forming ideas in my head about travelling alone some 13 years ago, thanks to Paul Theroux. I knew I wanted to travel solo but wasn’t sure how to start until the day I realised that maybe it would help if I went to a place I’d been to before. So that was what I did, the first time I travelled solo, I went to New Zealand.
If I had travelled with friends back then, I wouldn’t have had as much fun as I did. Also, I wouldn’t have made as many new friends as I did, because I would have been hanging out with my travel companions.
Darkest before dawn
To tell you the truth, there were no real scary or weird experiences. There was only the slight chill up my spine when I realised while I was in Kaikoura that I’d been walking alone along the coast for two hours. Plus it was winter and it was slowly getting dark. Nothing happened and I bumped into another girl eventually, but I should have paid more attention to the time.
I didn’t wear expensive jewellery or clothes which make me stand out, and while I did go out alone at night a few times, I certainly didn’t walk in dark, unlit areas by myself. Secondly, I always trusted my instincts about a place or a person – if someone made me uncomfortable, I left immediately.
Danger is everywhere – even at home, you’re not totally safe. Yes, the world is a large, dangerous place but seriously, the world is also full of kind people. I have met so many wonderful people who have helped me along my way and I’ll always be grateful to them. If you’re intent on staying home just because you think it’s dangerous outside, you’re wasting the opportunity to learn about humanity, about yourself and the world and to enjoy what the world has to offer.
"It is not dangerous if you know how to look after yourself."
I have changed, definitely
I’m more confident of myself, I adapt pretty well to difficult situations and I’m very comfortable striking up a conversation with strangers.
Greatest challenge of them all
That would be the overland trip I did from Russia to Malaysia last year. I did everything myself, and apart from 10 days in Ulaanbaatar and Beijing, I was alone throughout the two months. The challenge was ‘living’ with myself – I love my own company and I’m very comfortable travelling alone, but there were times when I had to remind myself, ‘Look, you silly girl, if you screw up and if something bad happens, you’ve got no-one else to lean on.’ That was both uplifting and a little scary.
The ultimate voyage
If I were to choose just one – I would do the Trans-Siberian Railway from east to west, i.e., from Vladivostok to Moscow, then from Moscow I’ll go south through Central Asia, then Pakistan, then via the Karakoram Highway to Xinjiang in China, take the Silk Route and go back down south.
"Just do it. Plan, be safe, look after yourself, but just do it."
Has Anis inspired you yet? Let us know what you think of her solo beginning in the comment box below.