How many countries have you visited and what 2 stand out to you the most?
I have traveled to 15 countries! Wow, counting that was hard. I would say that Japan definitely stood out, the people are friendly and the society in general is super orderly (trains are quiet, folks mind their own business).
Singapore was an absolute marvel, but I would like to contrast Japan with Morocco, where everything is beautiful, however society functions in a completely different and more chaotic manner. Getting in a car almost feels like a constant death wish, it is not for the faint heart.
Most people who travel a lot can point to one trip where the travel bug bit. When did you get it?
Ah man, my first time flying, I immediately caught the travel bug. I was travelling to Columbus, Ohio to visit my auntie. Getting on that plane, experiencing a different city (although it was Ohio lol) was just thrilling. I kept wanting to see more outside the lines of my own neighborhood and city.
Your wedding is coming up, congratulations! Of all the places you’ve been, where would you do your honeymoon?
Thank you! I’m excited. Our first choice was to do a Southeast Asia tour, Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. Singapore is an absolute marvel, and Malaysia has everything Hawaii does, for 20% of the cost. Since the outbreak of the virus, we had to reschedule. We are now touring Europe instead (Amsterdam, Prague, Santorini, Athens, Rome, Florene, Venice, and Paris). A little less relaxing and more adventure. I think it will be a blast.
A question many people want to know but probably afraid to ask, how can you afford to travel so much?
I literally try to think of my life in terms of plane tickets. For example, when I am looking to purchase a pair of shoes, if it costs $200, I tell myself “that is a flight to LA for an experience.” Which prevents me from spending that money fruitlessly. But also, Nipsey Hussle says “I’ve been grindin all my life” which I feel like speaks to my reality. I have always held a job throughout college, I apply for every scholarship that I am eligible for, I find ways to make money on the side using my talents and things I am good at. I look at all of that as travel money. So saving a lot, and finding opportunities to have experiences. I think as I get older, I place more value on experiences than material goods, and this has allowed me to see the world.
What’s the annoying part about traveling that people don’t get to see on Instagram?
Haha man! I think all of the in between stuff, like having to hike 3 miles to get a beautiful view, or the crowds at tourist spots, or attempts to steal your stuff, or the price tag on some of these popular desserts. This is dependent on the country though. For example, when I was in Istanbul, one thing I didn’t share was the amount of beggars. Now I’m not saying I hate poor people, no, don’t read this and think that. But when you’re followed for like 15 blocks after saying you don’t have money, it can be annoying and feel unsafe. On the flip side, I have zero urge to ever visit Thailand again. The people were awesome, the food was great, but that heat and humidity combined with the smog and street food aroma just wasn’t for me. I think I got heat exhaustion for several days while there. There is like literally nothing you can do to beat it, aside from staying inside.
Where have you been more than once? What drew you back for a second visit?
I have been to Japan twice, one of my best friends lives there and his family always welcomes me with open arms, so I love visiting Japan (make international friends!!). Other than Japan, in the US, I love visiting NYC and LA, two big cities that have their own flavors. I try to get out to both cities at least once a year when time permits.
Some people travel just for the food. What country had the best food in your opinion?
Man I’m not a huge foodie, but I will say that I am a picky eater. When I think of countries with the best food, two come to mind: UAE & Japan. I love me a Mediterranean cuisine, and in the UAE it was always fresh. Also, being Muslim, I never had to question anything I was eating while there. Japan just introduced me to how amazing Asian cuisine could be. I’m not talking about the sushi (not a huge fan), or ramen (don’t like it), but the other noodle dishes, the curry’s, the Japanese BBQ, the DESSERTS. I loved eating when I was in Japan.
Where have you been where you weren’t very impressed?
My wife would probably hate me for this but aside from the Great Wall, China wasn’t my favorite place. But if I had to choose between visiting Thailand and China, I would probably go back to Shanghai. The students there are super familiar with American culture and are so welcoming. The young generation makes China an attractive place to be in the future. I just wasn’t impressed during my first visit to where I was eager to go back.
You land in a new city, and you’re in a taxi headed to your hotel. What’s usually going through your mind as you look out the window and take it all in?
This depends on the city. In Morocco, I was like “bro did this dude really just try to rob me before I even stepped foot into Casablanca?” Some random guy put my bags in the car for me then aggressively attempted to tell me I had to pay him for services I didn’t ask for – weird encounter.
I am thinking back to the drive from Kuala Lumpur airport into the city, it was about a 45-50 minute drive with beautiful scenery, and the entire time I am like “wow, this is beautiful, the world is beautiful, and there are amazing people around the world that are doing amazing things.” I am a Civil Engineer so naturally I am always checking out different buildings and infrastructure systems and how they’re designed and set up. It is always fascinating to me how around the world infrastructure can look so different while still serving its main purpose.
What’s next for you? What’s still on your bucket list?
I really want to take advantage of traveling with my wife in the next few years. She has some places she wants to see, and she hasn’t traveled as much as I, so I am excited to play the role of tour guide. I would say though, the ultimate bucket list item is to make Hajj with both my parents and my wife.