In front of the Dolmabahçe palace in Istanbul with my sister.

If you belong to a typical Desi household, your parents probably get a panic attack if you mention the desire to travel alone or with friends. In fact, in my early twenties, even a trip to Lahore would cause an FBI level investigation by my folks- and that majorly sucked as I suffer(ed) from major wanderlust.

It was so unfair to see women from all over the world have the liberty to take an all-friends trips to New York, Dubai or even Karachi whereas, being a Desi girl, it would require me to sit through a metaphorical lie detecting machine and still have my sis chaperone me to a slumber party.

The lack of mobility that so many sub-continental women suffer from is frustrating; especially when you are a curious soul who craves mental stimulation. As a result of this social pressure, so many girls are told that they can do whatever they want “Once they’re married”

But what if you’re an aspiring anthropologist, a travel writer or an aspiring travel-show host? What then? Do you enter faux wedlock with a male friend in order to get a boarding pass?

Do you resort to lying and scamming in order to afford something as spiritual and pure as travel?!??

art credit: @thepakistanimarthastewart

Unfortunately, these “taboos” have been fed into our parents’ and their parents’ generations for centuries. But in 2017, I don’t think there is any room for such antiquated clichés. To become a global citizen of the world with exposure and insight, you’ve just got to travel!

It will open your mind, make you more compassionate, improve your social skills and make you a more interesting human being in general. And I truly believe that if there’s a will, there’s a way. There are ways your can ease the “blow” of breaking your travel desires to your parents like I did when I convinced them to let me travel during my uni days. Here are some ways you can do it too:

  • Find an international Program of your interest

When I was 21, I was lucky to have the international student internship program AIESEC visit my university and give an orientation. They acquainted us with their overseas exchange programs in countries around the globe. I grabbed the opportunity by the horns and successfully made it through two of the interviews. Thankfully, I was also accepted for English language teaching position in Turkey. I was thrilled and my parents who would’ve otherwise never let me go, believed that it was a good learning opportunity for me and gave me the golden nod of approval (which did not come without a bag full of desi paranoias but at least I got to live and work in Turkey!!) AISEC holds orientations at different universities around Pakistan. Be on the lookout for those!

  • Develop a skillset that allows travel

The world has shrunken into a bubble and we live in a global sharing economy. If you have an inclination towards graphic design, writing, photography or even science and math or web development, develop that skill as it will open doors for opportunities for work around the world. Websites such as Upwork  and Toptal will help you find excellent opportunities for work with fat pay-checks.  A friend of mine works as a content writer for a Canada based company and earns in dollars. This combined with the remote nature of work allows her to travel. Let your talent take you places.

  • Join Travelling Groups Locally

Travel should not just be restricted for overseas destinations. Also, if you find that flying out might be a big leap for now, start with exploring the beauty of our own country. Many groups such as Go Travel and Caravan hold tours in beautiful locations around Pakistan. They also boast a variety of trained mountaineers and climbers who ensure your safety if you want to travel up north. Plus, it’d be easier to convince your parents if you go in a group and will also save cost.

  • Sign up on couch-surfers and host a foreigner at your place

Ok, this isn’t a direct approach but I’ve found that if you host a foreigner at your place, it may open your parent’s minds to how independent and free 21st century millennials are. They’d see that the world is progressing, so they don’t have to keep you locked up like Rapunzal waiting for Ranjha in a tower (or vice versa). This technique is more evolutionary in nature and will work depending on the level of open-mindedness of your parents. Moreover, having friends in different parts of the world means that you would have someone to sponsor your trip plus host you. 

  • Make a power point presentation

So, if by some rare stroke of luck, your parents are more logical and liberal than usual Desi parents, make a power point presentation to explain to them why you want to travel. (Exploration, enlightenment, networking opportunities, mental and emotional growth) Complete with logistics of with whom, why and where it would be. Write down the list of pros and cons to help them understand why this is so important to you.

  • Save up, save up, save up

While you obviously need money to travel, you also need money to have a level of control over your life decisions. Once you’ve saved up enough and are financially independent, you could move into a place of your own and have autonomy over your choices and finally become the real life-adult and desi version of Dora or Durdana the explorer without having to give explanations to anyone.

If nothing else works out do a dharna, or just get married.

I’m just kidding, obvs.

Travelling should be really important to you and you must be willing to fight for it because this it that one experience that is worth every struggle. Also, take support from friends who believe in your goals. Be persistent, be relentless and do not give up.

Disclaimer: Be ready for a lot of emotional cajoling by your parents who would hurl star plus-esque accusations at you. “Haye mujhe chhorh ke jaa rahi ho!” and “Shaadi kab karni hai??”

But you shouldn’t care, develop an iron will and keep marching towards the direction of your dreams.

May the force be with you.

Love and courage,


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