Three years ago, Omniya Fareed Shafik was working a steady job at a bank in her native Dubai. But banking wasn’t for her, and neither was staying put. So last year, she decided to quit, pack her bags, and travel the world on her own.
Not everyone was thrilled with her decision. As a 26-year-old single Arab woman, Shafik said that in her culture, some people in her life still think that she’s wasting her time travelling when she should be putting down roots.
“When I first started, almost no one got it and no one was ok with it,” she told INSIDER. “And I still get comments and backlash.”
So far, Shafik has yet to meet another Arab woman like herself who maintains this nomadic lifestyle.
“Most people are just married I guess, or their parents aren’t really ok with it, especially the girls,” she said.
That hasn’t stopped her from visiting Russia, South Korea, Japan, Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, and much of Europe, including Prague, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Norway, and chronicling her adventures on Instagram.
Shafik left banking behind and works as a freelance writer, taking jobs in the locations she visits and occasionally returning to Dubai to save up for the next adventure.
'The whole process of travelling and meeting people and trying new stuff out and being outside your comfort zone - that's what makes me happy,' she told INSIDER.
One of Shafik's favourite experiences thus far has been in Morocco, camping out in the middle of the desert for 2 nights.
Her travels haven't always been so blissful, but she said the best way to get better at organising trips is to gain experience by simply going out and doing it.
'I'm not really good with planning at all,' she said. 'So it was a bit confusing figuring stuff out on my own for the first time and just travelling to a whole new world - different traditions, different cultures, different everything. But now, it's a piece of cake. The more you travel and learn about things and people and cultures, the more it gets easier.'
Shafik faced judgment and criticism from people in her life who thought she should settle down, but she didn't let keep her from pursuing her passion for exploration and discovery.
'You reach a certain age and you get married,' she said, describing their expectations. 'You don't just freelance. You need to have a stable job.'
Shafik cites these notions as possible reasons why she has yet to encounter another Arab woman like herself on her trips, someone who has chosen to schedule work around travel instead of the other way around.
'I've met a lot of Arab boys but...I haven't really seen any Arab girls who just freelance and follow this lifestyle,' she said.
Still, she doesn't let her singularity or other people's doubts deter her. She's currently travelling through Japan, and hopes to visit Peru later this year.
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