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#HHWT Explorers: Meet Atikah, The Face Behind The Tudung Traveller

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Zarifah Azhar  •  Nov 07, 2016

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To all fellow hijabis out there, I'm sure you've heard of Atikah a.k.a. The Tudung Traveller. This amazing individual blogs about her travels and hopes to inspire others to make a change in the world. Besides travelling, Atikah also volunteers regularly both in Singapore and overseas! Read on to find out more about this inspirational traveller ❤️
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
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Someone who loves to unravel life’s wonders and give voice to the wounded, I’m known as TheTudungTravelleror Atikah Amalina. I take on life as a traveller by constantly growing, chasing new experiences and embracing new people. I believe in the power of the mind and soul, and live by Mark Twain’s advice to “‘Explore. Dream. Discover”. Having graduated from the National University of Singapore and done an exchange programme at the University of Manchester and Mauritius, I’m an educator, teaching English and Literature in a secondary school in Singapore. I write at thetudungtraveller.com but am mostly active on Instagram with the same moniker. I’m also a life enthusiast who is passionate about inspiring and pushing others to go above and beyond their potential and create positive change. I believe in being a blessing to others, and rising through lifting others. I have since founded Rainbows for Batam and the Rainbow Bake Sale, a series of community projects that bring together groups of like-minded individuals to give and gift back to the world. 
What inspired you to start The Tudung Traveller?
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 The blog was first started to document my (solo) travels, and the Instagram was a way to keep in touch with my parents and to let them know I’m still alive! It eventually took on a life of its own after my painful break-up back in 2013 when I was so far away in Manchester, and subsequent solo travel to Spain where I started sharing my reflections. I keep my writings personal, authentic and vulnerable - they are a form of therapy for me to navigate my own emotions and challenges. I write to make sense of my world, then quickly found out that many others go through similar experiences with me, so I started writing to a larger audience. It evolved into a platform to both give voice to the experiences I was going through and a way to reach out to other people who were going through the same experiences as well. I started writing about going through a difficult break-up, to the challenges of being single and picking up the pieces, to struggling with mental illnesses, to the day-to-day struggles. Different people facing different situations in life will get different messages from my writing - after all, we see the world not as it is, but as we are. The reader will get what she seeks. 
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I take the personal challenges, downfalls and darkness that I have personally experienced and learnt from, and share it through my writing. I also take the light, joys and achievements and share it too, to show that living a full life means striving to embrace the full spectrum of experiences. To show too that we do not have to be defined by our weaknesses, but can choose to be defined by our light, our strengths and the things we grow within us.
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 My messages vary, but it comes from a position of camaraderie - that we are all not alone, to be brave and kind, and that there is always light. I personally believe in using whatever blessings Allah has given for a greater purpose, so when the opportunity came to use my writing and travels for that, I seized it. We live in a world where social media can be a bane that makes us compare and feel terrible about ourselves, and I see this especially so with students, so I make it a point to use my social media platforms for good. It also becomes a way to show (Muslim) women that they can be whatever it is they want to be. They can be a woman, they can wear the tudung (hijab) and they can still be awesome and live the best life. It's amazing how important representation on social media is, especially for the Malay-Muslim women. Seeing someone similar to them going out and achieving things allows them the permission and courage to do the same thing. Hence, The Tudung Traveller became what it is today, a space that allows for vulnerability, authenticity, and courage to coincide. 
What has been the most rewarding experience for you since you started The Tudung Traveller?
 Being able to provide solace and comfort to wounded souls who are struggling quietly in their day to day lives, and to give purpose to all the curveballs and roadblocks that life has thrown at me. It still blows me away every time I get an email or a message from a virtual stranger who’s brave enough to open up to me and give affirmation for the work that I do. The Tudung Traveller has also opened up opportunities for me to take up speaking gigs, and it has been immensely rewarding to share my lessons in person in front of an audience as well, and read the audience’s reflections after that. 
If you could teleport to a new place now, where would it be and why?
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Anywhere related to untouched nature and a culture steeped in history! I’m a history and culture geek, and I recharge in nature, and oh boy, do I need a recharge!
What are 3 of your favourite destinations, and why?
 Three of my favourite places thus far are Bosnia i Herzegovina, Mauritius and Andalucia, all of which I travelled solo to! I travelled to Bosnia i Herzegovina last Ramadhan, during the June holidays, a decision I made less than 2 weeks before I flew there. My initial plan was to volunteer at a soup kitchen that feeds refugees in Calais in France, but that changed due to some personal reasons at the last minute. I knew I was already going to be in Britain anyway, so I took a look at the Europe map, told myself I wanted to have a meaningful Ramadhan, and my eyes landed on Bosnia. I booked my flight ticket from Manchester to Bosnia within 15 minutes after making that decision. Allah truly works wonders. Bosnia i Herzegovina is absolutely stunning, the people are beautiful souls and I got to experience and learn the amazing history and culture. It has got to be my best Ramadhan experience ever. I spent a month in Mauritius for an internship, but I'm not biased! It's a stunning place with so much to offer and many of my 'SubhanaAllah MashaAllah!!' moments happened there. Crystal clear seas, cotton candy coloured skies, and the perfect sunsets made me fall in love with it over and over again. I was lucky to stay in Flic en Flac, which is reputed to have the best views of the sunset in Mauritius, so I made sure to witness the sunset every single day I was there. The only time I missed a sunset was when I was too sick to leave my bed! Andalucia was a childhood dream came true. I grew up immensely fascinated in Islamic Civilisations history and would scour the library and the Internet for books on the topic. To have had the opportunity to explore Granada and Cordoba - two strongholds of one of the greatest Islamic civilisations - was, and still remains to be, my favourite experience of Europe. Andalucia is a beautiful amalgamation of East and West, and walking its streets can transport one to another era. I loved it!   
What are some of the challenges you have faced while travelling and what did you learn from it? Do you have any tips for solo female travellers?
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A whole lot! Travelling isn’t easy, especially when you’re doing it alone, but I’ve grown the most while I’m on my solo travels. I’ve written a blog post about this! It can be found here!
What are your travel must-haves?
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My handphone, a journal, a camera, and a pair of comfy walking shoes!
What volunteer project would you like to work on next?
I have a few on my hands right now! The Rainbow Bake Sale will be happening on 5 November, and the next Rainbows for Batam trip will be on 12-13 November. I will also be heading to Aceh to visit and provide support to the refugee and local communities there. Rainbows for Batam is one of a few social projects that I organise with my loved ones. It primarily involves raising funds for and interacting with orphans and disadvantaged children in a few orphanages/children homes in Batam. I started 2016 with the intention to make time at least once a month to volunteer, so I've partnered up with several local organisations, such as Free Food for All and Dignity Kitchen, and try to use whatever I have to be of service to them as well.
Which country is next on your bucket list?
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 I wish I know that answer myself! I have a habit of throwing caution to the wind and not planning my next trip until I feel like it (which is usually a month to a couple of weeks before actually going off). I don't believe in striking places off a list, per se, and prefer to let it just happen. Travel to me is in appreciating the journey. I believe in listening to where my soul wants to go. Right now, I do have a couple of things in mind, but nothing concrete yet. I guess you'll just have to follow me on my journey as I figure things out myself. I'll be posting regularly on my Instagram! 
Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that…
We all learn to be kinder and be of blessings to each other. The world desperately need more people to choose love instead of hate, to choose community above self, and to choose to embrace instead of despair.