The lady behind Passport & Plates, Sally Elbassir tells us more of her travels as an Arab-American solo female traveller and the rewarding experiences that she has had along the way 😊 Read on to find out her favourite travel destinations, must-know tips and more!
Tell us a little bit about yourself😁
Hi, I’m Sally, the Arab-American Muslim foodie traveler behind Passport & Plates. I was born in Ireland and grew up in the U.S., but I’m ethnically Arab, so I consider myself of a bit of a “multicultural mutt.” I speak three languages, and when I’m not traveling or blogging, you’ll find me whipping up some random concoction in the kitchen, clumsily dancing salsa and tango, or curled up with my cat and favourite book.
What inspired you to start Passport & Plates, travel the world and share your experiences?
After spending 6 months traveling post college graduation, I remember stumbling upon this concept of “digital nomads” (back in 2012). I vowed that one day I’d figure out how to be location independent. A couple of years later, my quarter-life crisis was in full swing and my lack of success in finding my dream job led to me creating it!
I took my first solo trip in August 2015 and have been blogging ever since. I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection between culture and food and want to share that knowledge with others – especially those that are under budget constraints like me! Additionally, I’m the only Arab-American Muslim solo female travel blogger out there. My goal is to inspire young Muslim women to get out there and explore!
What has been the most rewarding experience you’ve had while visiting all the different countries you’ve been to?
I LOVE opportunities to connect with locals, above all else. It’s one of the hardest things to do on the road, but I find it so rewarding to be able to sit down and just talk to people and really understand what makes them tick. I’m a firm believer that the best education comes from traveling and connecting with people with a completely different lifestyle because it really forces me to think about life’s ideologies from a different viewpoint.
One of my favourite is experiences was when I volunteered as an English conversationalist in Spain. Not only was I able to witness the growth and progress of students of all ages, but I also learned a great deal from them as well. I made so many great friends I still keep in touch with today.
If you had an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours, what would your itinerary look like?
What a question! It would definitely include a LOT of eating and I would 100% splurge on a stylish hotel with a great view – as a budget traveler, this is a luxury I often miss out on! I don’t think my itinerary would be to a specific destination, but ideally it would include a day spent with locals, a visit to nature, and some street food and cooking adventures!
What are 3 of your favourite destinations, and why?
Spain is where I went on my first solo trip, so it forever holds a special place in my heart. The people are incredibly friendly, the food is amazingly delicious (especially in San Sebastian) and sites are beautiful and wide ranging. One day you could be exploring the ancient Moorish Alhambra and on another, the ultra-modern architecture of Bilbao.
I don’t often leave a place thinking I didn’t have enough time there, but that’s exactly how I felt in Chile. I was there for a couple of weeks to study Spanish, but it was truly love at first site. The sleepy city of Santiago stole my heart, and I left two weeks later, vowing to one day return to explore the glaciers of Patagonia, the beaches of Valparaiso, and the desert of Atacama. I haven’t been back since I left in 2012, but Inshallah I hope to very soon.
If you ever watch a movie that takes place in “the Middle East,” it often includes twisting alleyways filled with shops, beautiful melodies playing in bazaars, and hundreds of people communing in a square. To me, Morocco is the microcosm of some of my favourite aspects of Arab culture. Plus, the country is incredibly diverse and vast in landscape, language and food. I don’t think I would ever get bored here!
What are some of the things you look out for before planning a trip?
Since I now have the luxury to slow travel, I typically look at a few itineraries before I plan a trip so I can gauge how long to spend in different parts of a new country without feeling rushed. If I’m traveling to several locations within the country, I typically look up the bus / rail system to make sure I can actually get from point A to point B, C, and D.
Call me Type A, but the one thing I always do is book cancellable accommodation before the trip. I like the security of knowing I have somewhere to rest for each night, but the flexibility of being able to change my itinerary at a moment’s notice.
What are your must-haves when visiting any country?
While I’d like to think I’ve mastered the art of packing lightly, I’m by no means a minimalist. My toiletries bag is always the heaviest part of my suitcase! However my camera, phone and laptop are must haves so I can document all the adventures for my readers!
Do you have any tips for making new connections while travelling?
Funnily enough, I wrote a post on how to make friends while traveling solo to answer this question for my readers! I would have to say that social media and free walking tours are my go-to resources.
Joining travel groups online makes it incredibly easy to find a new friend around the world and walking tours are always filled with solo travellers looking to socialise. Solo does not have to mean alone!
What’s your favourite travel photo and why?
This photo is undoubtedly breathtaking, namely because there are so few photos of a snow-covered Cappadocia. However, my favourite part of this photo is that I was standing behind the camera in the coldest weather I’ve ever experienced in my life. I’m from Southern California, where it’s warm most days in the year, and I was not handling the weather well at all. It reminds me that behind the prettiest photos, there is a whole lot of effort that goes into crafting the “perfect” photo (or social media persona). I try to “keep it real” as much as possible.
Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that…
One day, we all stop focusing on judging each other by our differences and learn to accept that as humans, we all want the same thing: happiness, dignity, and security.