Q&A with a Muslim Influencer: Rehnumah Insan

Updated: Jan 8

Our guest influencer for this issue of Battuta is Rehnumah Insan ( the_travelette ), a lawyer by profession and an avid traveler and blogger. She is a skillful storyteller and photographer, and her Instagram page is a testament to those abilities. Join us as we try to learn more about the_travelette!

Rehnumah, welcome! Please feel free to introduce yourself more to our readers.

Salam everyone! I’m Rehnumah. A lawyer by profession, a traveler by passion, and currently working for the UK Civil Service. For a while traveling was all about holidays and expensive resorts and pretty dresses (I still wear the most outrageous outfits), but for three years now, traveling has completely redefined my way of life and thinking and what it means to be a Muslim Hijabi Traveller.

‘‘I’m Rehnumah. A lawyer by profession, a traveler by passion... ’’

You associate traveling with freedom and loving life. Tell us how? Is traveling an escape from reality?

When we refer to traveling as an escape from reality, we often refer to the term “escapism.” Escapism is defined as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.” Although those who use it almost always mean travel to be a form of break from daily routine and daily stresses, but for some reason, I find this term quite negative. Escapism can be a good thing if used positively, but often people can use this to disengage themselves from facing the realities of life.

Travel, for me, is an extension of the enjoyment I face in my daily life. While I’m not traveling, I enjoy many other aspects of my life, including work, spending time with family, reading, writing, and just planning my life. Using travel as a form of escapism will only serve to prolong facing problems you’re trying to avoid, and therefore you will never enjoy the true meaning of traveling.

How many countries and cities have you visited so far? Was there one specific country that catalyzed this passion for traveling, or did you always have this desire to see the world? If restrictions ease, where do you plan to travel to next?

Although I’m not exactly sure of the number, I think I’ve traveled to around 38 countries. If I ever had to pick a moment when I truly started traveling, it would be during my trip to Italy. The moment I realized that all I wanted to do was see the world! I think the fact that I learned so much during the trip and covered almost six cities made me realize how amazing one country could be – just imagine how amazing the rest of the world is! After restrictions ease, I would love to go to Egypt – which we had to cancel last year.

Is it possible to differentiate between a traveler and a tourist?

I think the biggest difference between a traveler and a tourist is that travelers will often visit places at the expense of their personal comforts, like waking up extremely early to see a certain spot, whereas tourism is maybe more about leisure. Travelers are more adventurous; they aren’t scared of getting lost or straying from their itinerary – often, they don’t follow an itinerary! But at the end of the day, there is a fine line between a traveler and a tourist, and it’s difficult to categorize who is which.

One thing that is hard to miss on your page is your love for color. Which color best reflects you?

I absolutely love color. I think colors define each and every one of the places I’ve been to. Blue takes me back to Chefchaouen, white to Santorini, and pink takes me back to Poland! I couldn’t pick just one color that describes me. It would definitely have to be all the colors. My zest and passion for life itself simply would be too difficult to be encapsulated in one color.

Beautiful outfits have graced the places you have visited. Let’s talk about your attention to detail when matching the outfits to the sites you visit. Do you travel with a lot of luggage? Are you comfortable traveling in those outfits, or do you just put them on for the pictures and change them later?

Firstly, thank you! I love dressing up, and it was a big part of my personality well before I started traveling. I also love matching outfits to the places I visit; in the same way, I like buying matching home décor or wearing the right shade of lipstick. Aesthetics is something I am very keen on.

‘‘ I love dressing up, and it was a big part of my personality well before I started traveling.’’

So when it comes to packing, outfits do take up a lot of my planning but not as much space as you may think in my luggage! Maxi dresses etc., are usually relatively thin and easily foldable. I think coats, jeans, jackets, etc., take up a lot more space, and that’s what most people wear anyways. The only time I changed my outfit was in Santorini when I woke up very early to take some photos in a red tulle skirt and then changed into a lighter skirt. Otherwise, I usually find most of my outfits very comfortable, and I always wear comfortable shoes. That’s very important.

Does traveling boost your faith? What are your thoughts on Modest Fashion? As a Hijabi, what are your travel experiences?

Yes, most definitely. Travelling has made me keener to learn more about my faith. I mean, it’s not possible to witness such beautiful creations and not marvel at the magnificence of the Creator. Praying in over 50 cities around the world, from beaches to the edge of mountains to praying Fajr with 100 hot air balloons floating around me in Cappadocia, traveling has brought me so much closer to my faith.

Modest Fashion is very important. I think for many girls, it’s often difficult to start wearing the Hijab if it means completely letting go of what they used to wear previously. Modest Fashion helps to bridge that gap and gives girls the confidence to start practicing the Hijab. I’ve never really considered my clothing to be an important aspect of traveling. It’s just the kind of clothing I like to wear and that I’m comfortable wearing. Even before I started wearing the headscarf, I used to wear outfits like this. But I can totally see why many people, especially girls, would find it encouraging to see a Hijabi traveling the world.

As a hijabi traveler, I have obviously experienced minor forms of racism like nervous glances, change of seats, etc., but nothing has left an unpleasant memory. I’ve had more positive experiences because of my Hijab with people coming over to just talk about my faith and culture, and I’m extremely glad I have been given the opportunity to do this.

Congratulations on your wedding, by the way. Masha’Allah, a traditional bride with a complete formal ceremony! How many days of festivities were involved? Marriage, like travel, is an adventure. Any tips to share? Has getting married changed your travel style, and do you recommend that couples travel more?

Thank you so much! I’m so glad you loved my wedding photos. I was so excited to share them with everyone! I had around ten events starting with the Nikaah and ending with the Walima. My parents held some in the UK, and my in-laws threw a few more in Bangladesh, so it was an amazing experience.

The one and only tip I can give is to absolutely fall in love with the person you marry, so many people underestimate the power of this. Once you have that emotional bond, you will find it so much easier to overcome all the stresses the world throws at you simply because nothing will seem more important than your partner.

I’ve definitely traveled more since getting married. My partner was fully aware of my expectations regarding traveling, and with time it’s something he’s also learned to love. Traveling with your partner, when you both share the same vision for traveling, is so fun and romantic.

Traveling with your partner alone is a habit I feel we should start prioritizing as soon as we get married. If you think about it, how much time do we actually spend with our partners away from our jobs, household responsibilities, our own hobbies, children, or even our parents? Definitely not enough!

Taking some time out, booking a lovely place away from everything is such a perfect way to reboot our minds, enjoy each other’s company without any distractions and just talk about your life! It’s such a fun and effective way to keep a relationship alive and to enjoy being a couple.

‘‘Getting lost can give you a wonderful sense of mystery and surprise that you’ll never feel when following a planned route. ’’

You suggest traveling without having any expectations and even encourage getting lost to discover a place. My question will, of course, be, have you ever actually gotten lost?

Oh, everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever had a trip where I didn’t deliberately get lost. Best way to explore any place, whether it’s a beautiful European old town, the narrow alleyways of Santorini, the medina in Marrakech, Istanbul Grand Bazaar – literally everywhere is a good place to get lost in. Ironically, traveling can teach you the beauty of getting lost.

On the way to Isle of Skye in Scotland, for example, we suddenly noticed a beautiful mountain range to our left (leading to Glen Coe). So we decided to take a small detour, took some photos in front of the mountains and were just heading back onto the motorway when all of a sudden one of us said “let’s travel a bit more into the mountains, see what we can find. That route was a complete detour but took us through the most amazing mountain range in the Scottish Highlands. We even had a small picnic next to a small waterfall on top of the hills.

Getting lost can give you a wonderful sense of mystery and surprise that you’ll never feel when following a planned route. In life, we’re always taught to plan, prepare, revise before anything. We strictly clutch to the safety net of thinking we know where our life is headed and that we are prepared for it, but in reality, life is very different.

Has traveling changed you in any way and please feel free to share any final thoughts.

Traveling has been a blessing in my life. From the outside, it may look like just one girl traveling the world in pretty dresses and seeing all these beautiful destinations, but deep down, it’s made me a better human being. It’s made me more humble, more aware of different cultures worldwide, more clued in on different traditions, and more tolerant. Often we grow up with ideologies in our head, often a result of years of gaslighting by society, so traveling has taught me to break those boundaries and to think for myself.

Travelling has also helped me hone my photography and writing skills. Hobbies are a hugely important part of life and can really help to hone someone’s personality. Travelling has given me the opportunity to blog about something I love. I really hope people learn to find that one thing in life which they enjoy doing. For me, it’s traveling and writing. For you, it could be anything. Just that one thing you look forward to doing for yourself.

Like most other people, I was taught to study hard, get a good job, get married, have kids, and repeat the process with them. I completed my Masters in Law and went immediately into the legal profession. Not once did I consider that traveling could bring out my true personality and also allow me to encourage other Asian, Muslim women (and men!) to step out of their comfort zone in confidence!

My biggest dream is to not only share my travel stories and tricks but also to encourage women to feel comfortable and confident about traveling just the way they are. But this also applies to everyone who feels they might be treated differently because of a particular characteristic. Your religion, race, color of your skin, gender, disability should never be a reason for you to lack confidence in any aspect of your life.

It was such a pleasure to learn more about you and thank you for taking the time to respond to our questions.


11 views0 comments