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#HHWT Explorers: Meet Azzah, The Inspiring Malaysian Author Behind Nota Perempuan Backpacker


Sharifah Nawwarah •  Aug 31, 2017


An avid lover of travelling, Azzah writes about her adventures on her Facebook page and has even written a book on her travels! Read on to find out what inspired her to publish a book, her favourite travel destinations, must-know tips for solo female travellers and more ☺️

1. Tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Azzah Abdul Rahman, born in Negeri Sembilan and well-raised by my educator parents. I have a diploma, an advanced diploma, and a bachelor degree in Computer Science and Multimedia from local universities, but not interested to work in that area anymore. Now I am a Certified Professional Trainer / Coach in Creative Writing, an Idea Consultant, and a self-published author. So far I have written 21 books including ebooks and anthologies and travelled to 24 countries. Currently working hard to increase those numbers! 2. What motivated you to start ‘Nota Perempuan Backpacker’?
Travelling is in my family’s DNA. My parents often brought me and my siblings (an elder sister and a younger brother) to travel around Malaysia since we were kids. Since I am their only children who is unmarried (yet), I always got the opportunities to accompany them travelling overseas. On April 2012, my mom told me she really wanted to see London and Paris. So, my parents and I flew to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and London together by ourselves with a very little help from a travel agency. That was the first time I made our own travel itineraries and I found it is so addictive! About six months after that, my writing guru, Abdul Latip Talib (Pak Latip) offered me to travel to Egypt to do research about the late Imam Hasan Al-Banna, a world-famous religious Islamic scholar. He wanted to write a historical novel about the figure, and he asked me to write the travelogue of our trip. On March 2013, we went to Turkey for a historical tour of Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, a great Turkish Islamic scholar, and again he asked me to write the travelogue. Sadly, I did not manage to fulfil his requests. I do not have a reason why, because it will only be excuses. Years passed by, city by city, my memory is getting filled with my own travel stories. Until one day, I asked myself, what if I died before I could write all those precious memories whereas they contain so much lessons that can benefit other people? That was when I started the Facebook Page. I named it ‘Nota Perempuan Backpacker’ because it was actually intended to be a collection of my travel notes that I could compile into a book later. And then, one post titled ‘Tip Umrah Untuk Muslimah’ became viral and inviting thousands of fans to the page until today. 3. What inspired you to write your book titled ‘Nota Perempuan Backpacker’?
Before I wrote Nota Perempuan Backpacker (the book), in 2016 I published an e-book entitled Kota Ini Lebih Romantis Daripada Paris: Catatan Semusim Bermukim Di Istanbul - a compilation of my experience as a foreign student who studied Turkish Language at Istanbul University in summer 2014. But I got feedback from readers that they prefer physical book. Then, I still remember Pak Latip’s request to write about our journey to Egypt and Turkey. I felt that I must publish at least one physical travel book that represents my personal experiences - what I saw, what I heard, my thoughts. Not just a list of travel tips and tricks that people can Google, with a bunch of my own selfies. And I was a committee of Perhimpunan 1000 Penulis during Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair 2017, which Trinity - a super famous Indonesian travel writer was one of the panelists. Meeting her was one of my dream and I thought I must grab this chance by preparing something special for her as an appreciation because she inspires me a lot in travel writing via The Naked Traveler series. So I decided to force myself to write Nota Perempuan Backpacker (NPB) and it must be published before Trinity arrived in Kuala Lumpur.
The concept is different from most of Malay travelogue books that were written by my fellow travellers. The book is a compilation of travel anecdotes - not only about one journey in one country, but different journeys in 12 different countries that I have visited since 1999. I also inserted a lot of large-sized travel photos taken by myself in a full-colour printing to meet the market demand. My dream came true. I personally met Trinity in PWTC Kuala Lumpur and successfully handed her the newly printed book. I am the happiest writer in the world! ? 4. How do you balance travelling and working?
I am self employed, hence that is a huge advantage for me. I can allocate time to work and travel as I wish! Please do not hate me for that ? However, as a writer, travelling is actually a job. When I travel, I observe new things, learn new cultures, do unique activities, live life like a local. Those experiences later become my writing content! I now have a new ambition, to be a literary agent for Malaysian writers. I plan to participate in International Contents and Rights Festivals, and sell Malaysian content to the world. I want to kill two birds with one stone. Okay, that is an English idiom. I am not a tyrant traveler ? 5. If you could teleport to a new place now, where would it be and why? Istanbul! I have a love and hate relationship with the magnificent city. But I always felt like I belong there!
In one day, I can sit down calmly drinking çay (Turkish tea), listening to street musicians playing harmonica, while watching seagulls from the banks of Bosphorus Strait, and then fighting over a seat in the tramvay on my way back home. Magical, isn’t it? ? 6. Name one country that’s at the top of your travel bucket list!
Spain! I have been wanting to visit Alhambra since 2013. I am obsessed with Islamic historical buildings although I did so bad in History subject at school. But why I have not been there though I like it so much? No answer, no excuse. Just, not yet. 7. Amidst all the chaos in the the world right now, could you tell us an insider tip or two for Muslims who’d like to travel but are afraid to?
Two tips on being a brave Muslims traveller:
  • Tell yourself that Islamophobia is not a country. It is just a perception of some people who lack of knowledge about Islam dan Muslims. I have been slightly attacked by several elderlies in South Korea, but I told myself that they are only one or two from thousands of nice Koreans that I have met along my journey. Do not fight back. Just keep calm and stay cool, because we are our religion’s ambassador. As Rasulullah said, “You do not do evil to those who do evil to you. But you deal with them with forgiveness and kindness.”
  • Some people told me, they afraid to travel because they do not want to die far from their families. As Muslims, we must tightly believe in qada’ and qadar. We believe that death could come anytime, anywhere. Even when we are sleeping deeply on our comfortable bed in our cozy room. Allah asked us to travel not to burden us with hardships, but for us to sharpen our thoughts, strengthen our iman and taqwa towards Him.
8. What’s your favourite travel photo and why?
I was trying to get the best pose for this photo in Nami Island, when the little boy ran towards the bookshelf and took a book to read, leaving his family behind. Such an uplifting scene! Everytime I looked at this photo, I pray that Malaysian children also love books like this kid. I really wish the young people of my homeland to appreciate books and be knowledgeable as much as possible. Even they could not afford to travel, they can always travel via stories in books. 9. Any tips for solo female travellers?
  • Get your family’s consent first. Their prayer will protect you all along.
  • Learn how to look confident even though you're lost or facing a scammer.
  • Do not easily trust a local although they sound very kind. Those who approach you first are most likely a scammer.
  • Avoid to be outside at night.
  • Avoid dark alleys and stay away from red light districts.
  • Always keep your family up to date. Send locations and photos. Make video calls.
  • Keep close to Allah. Do only things He likes and avoid what He hates. He is The Ultimate Protector.
10. Do you have any advice for writers who’d like to write a book on travelling?
There are 5 things to keep in mind before writing a travelogue book:
  • Know your market. What type of travelogue that readers want to read, not only what you want to write.
  • Even the travel stories are your own experience, try not to highlight everything is only about you. Do not write to brag, but to share. Be a giver, not a taker.
  • Insert a lot of photos and make sure all of it are originally yours. Do not steal photos from Google or other people’s social media. Be a writer of integrity.
  • Avoid writing emotionally. There are some countries filled with annoying citizens, but it's not our right to judge them generally through a single perspective. Just lower the angry tone by turning the bad experiences into a lesson you have learned.
  • Write in a language that your audience can easily understand. Remember, we write not to show that we are smart, but to help the readers become equally smart.
11. Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that…
… eventhough I wrote in my book, “Dunia tidak semakin aman. Utopia selamanya cuma angan-angan,” yet as a human, I do have little hope. For us to celebrate similarities and respect differences. We can always be better. You can follow Azzah and her adventures on her social media accounts here: Facebook | Instagram