Freedom Song: Interviews with 2 Solo Women Travelers at Opposite ends of the Earth.

Adventure

The urge to travel and explore the world is a universal impulse. Across boundaries and barriers, beyond cultural prejudices and societal pressure, people all over the world have followed their hearts and set out on adventures that moved and challenged them like never before. Today, we interview 2 such intrepid travelers- Nazura Gulfira from Indonesia and Malia Lane, from Texas, USA. 

They come from two very different countries, each with its own share of prejudices and cultural norms, and yet both are united by a singular passion- the desire to travel and explore what they do not know. As Nazura writes, “The surprise is the biggest thing. It teaches me about a way of life that I knew nothing about before and I gain a view of what the world is like.” For Malia, the impulse to travel was born of a life-changing talk she attended at a low point in her life. She was between jobs and juggling family commitments like many of us are, and she was asked- “What would you do if you had no fear?”  When her gut replied, “Travel!”, she defied expectations from society and family and decided to pursue her dream. 

Nazura followed her heart across the UK, traveling solo from Southern England to Edinburgh, and writes that “The most interesting part was when the first time I celebrated New Year all by myself in Edinburgh, I got hugs from some total strangers I just met on the streets!” Malia took the plunge by buying an RV, a mobile home that allowed her to drive across the United States of America, from one scenic National Park to another. She says, “I’ve discovered that experiencing new places and especially getting out into nature is essential for my emotional wellbeing.  I’m never happier than when I’m surrounded by the majestic beauty of mountains, water and trees.  Meeting new people gives me the opportunity to expand my horizons that way, also, because I’ve found that RVers are some of the friendliest and most helpful people around.” 

This challenges the common perception that traveling solo is a pastime best left to men. Women should stay home and be safe, most cultures tell you. Both Malia and Nazura have had to face their fair share of these reactions. While Nazura finds them “annoying”, Malia faced her greatest resistence from her own mother. She remembers her expression of “total disgust” as she said, “You’ve done some stupid things in your life, little girl, but this is certainly the stupidest!”  She came around, though, and became one of my biggest supporters - especially when I took her on several of my trips.  At 86 years old now and not able to travel, she says those were the happiest memories of her life and I feel blessed that I was able to share those times with her.”

Nazura also talks about her mother, and how her basic rules have helped her stay safe in strange lands, “don't show your weaknesses, which in my case is my "daydream" habits, she says. And the last one, always pretend you have the ability to fight people even when you don't, which means you have to act tough when the situation calls for it.” Malia’s approach is different. She says “Don’t focus on all the negative fears and doubts that we all have sometimes.  Sure, bad things can happen, but that’s true no matter what you do or where you go or who you’re with.  I’ve found that amazing things can happen when you make up your mind to do what you want to do and miracles and angels seem to come my way to help in ways I couldn’t have anticipated at the time.”

What they both agree on however, is the sheer number of times friends and strangers alike have told them how “inspred” they were by their courage and willingness to follow their passion. Nazura is a talented photographer and a style blogger who has been featured on multiple sites and journals across the web, her travels and images a gorgeous glipmpse into the independant life she leads. Malia also writes about her road trips, accompanied by beautiful panoramas of mountains and flowers floating gently in the open breeze. Both have inspired many women to have faith in themselves and their own resources, and set out to explore the world alone.

Nazura explains this key shift in her thinking as she notes, “Born and raised in a religious family and country made me think that religion is one of the most important things in life. I used to have a negative perception of the people who didn’t have religion. So, when I lived in the UK, I met a lot of people who don’t have religion but they act better than those who have.” Malia echoes this experience when she says “Maybe it’s because of a shared sense of adventure and not having to be surrounded by the familiar all the time, but I’ve made lifelong friends during my travels and always enjoy meeting up with them later down the road when our paths cross again.”

Finally, both Malia and Nazura have one small bit of advice they want to leave you with. When asked about the old idea that you need a trust fund or generous parents/ husband to travel full-time, Malia notes that this “is the biggest concern I hear from others who would like to do what I do but feel like they need a boatload of money to pull it off.  I have never had much money in my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to really retire.” She does a series of part-time jobs and online work that helps her live her dream, far away from the desk job in the same city and same town that once was her life. Nazura says, “Solo traveling has taught me to take care of myself...  become more aware of my own limits... and open myself to people” in ways she would never have anticipated before.

As I write this, Malia is all set to move from the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to the breathtaking views of the Yellowstone National Park, while Nazura is chalking out itineraries for Tibet, Japan and Korea! As these brilliant women set forth once again to explore new horizons and defy the conventional, convenient and familiar that binds us all, let us get inspired by their stories, as we realise the only thing that really stands between us and that dream destination is the courage to go!

Malia Lane blogs at maliasmiles.com

Nazura Gulfira nazuragulfira.blogspot.com

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