– By: Alexandra Kinias
Saturday October 1, 2016
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. ‘ – Elizabeth Gilbert author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’
Many dream of traveling the world, but few have enough courage to trade in the security and comforts of home for a life on the road.
Omniya Fareed is a 26-year-old banker who decided to break through the pressures of Egyptian society on single women to conform, marry and settle. It’s a pressure that has deprived many from pursuing their passion and bringing their dreams to life. Instead of planning her wedding, Omniya started plotting her escape from the monotonous humdrum that comes with a 9-5 job.
Omniya realized that this was more than a desire to escape every day life. She was driven by a passion to collect a wealth of experiences, memories and adventures, and that passion overpowered social expectations and financial stability. Inspired by Amelia Earhart, Omniya took the decision four years ago to embark on the first of many journeys to come to discover the world.
“The main obstacle to sustaining my dream was money, of course. But once I was able to make a steady income through freelancing, I quit my job and I traveled full time for as long as possible.” She explained.
Before the travel even started, Omniya was having fun researching the destinations she wanted to visit.
“I learned about their culture, weather, safety instructions, and the main attractions to visit and activities to do. It was very important for me to learn and understand the culture of the place I was traveling to. I would have never known that it is considered rude to tip in Japan, and it’s these small things that can make a difference to the experience you’re having.”
After securing the finances, she packed her basic needs, booked her flights and hostels and embarked on a 48-day journey.
Omniya quickly discovered that her wanderlust was about more than simply traveling, it was about exploring the new, getting lost in exotic cities, walking around the unknown with no destination in mind, absorbing the scenery and surroundings, discovering the wonders of nature, and learning about different histories and culture – these are the things that differentiate a traveler from a tourist. And finally, she understood that difference.
She understood that to truly get the most out of her experiences, she would really personalize it and choose her itineraries based on what she wanted to discover rather than what a popular travel site wanted her to discover’. This resulted in her spending enough time in each country to really absorb the customs, the history, the food and most importantly the people. Camping in the Moroccan desert and sleeping under the stars ranked as one of her top highlights during her twenty days in the country. Backpacking through Japan for twenty-five days was yet another mesmerizing experience for the vagabond traveler. “Japan was my best trip and it was quite the learning curve as well. It was so different from anything I had ever seen before but surprisingly, aside from the transportation which was difficult to figure out, I managed to cover so many cities and islands on my own. I felt prouder than I had ever done before.”
Family members and even friends are still frowning upon Omniya’s nomadic lifestyle, yet she neither regrets her decision nor is she discouraged by the expectations of others. “Traveling has changed me for the better in so many ways. I now understand and accept things better and I have become more independent, more patient and less judgmental.”
After exploring the world for four years, Omniya has no plans to settle down any time soon. She wishes to find Egyptian female companions to travel with; a wishful desire, she knows. Recognizing how women’s choices in the Middle East vary from hers, not to mention the parental disapproval of daughters traveling alone, she has no expectations to cross paths with a female traveling partner from the region anytime soon. She understands the fear of many to travel alone to remote places, yet admits that it is blown out of proportion. She discredits the media’s exaggeration in portraying the world as a dangerous place. “You will be surprised how many people will go out of their way to help you,” she said. But in spite of that she advises women traveling on their own to be alert and trust their instincts. “If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Always be wary of your surroundings and know where you’re going. As long as you’re following basic safety instructions, you will be safe.”
Every two months Omniya flies back home to spend some time with her family. At home, she spends her time watching travel vlogs, reading travel articles and books, uploading photos to her Instagram account, updating her blog Om to the World and answering the inquiries of her followers. What the future holds for Omniya is unpredictable, which is just how she likes it. But with most of Europe and parts of Asia crossed off her list, she plans to travel extensively in South America and South East Asia in the next five years. With the wealth of information collected from her travels, writing a travel book is among her long term goals. Launching a YouTube travel channel with videos of her trips is another project that Omniya is considering, not just to document her travels, but to encourage Egyptian women to follow her path.
To read more about Omniya’s travels, follow her Facebook page, Om to the World, or snapchat omniyafareed
Edited by: Lamia Senousi