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Here’s What It’s Really Like To Travel For Work At HHWT

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Faruq Senin  •  Apr 17, 2019

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The HHWT team travels a lot for work and every day we're just so blessed to be given the opportunity to travel or to write about travel and the best part is sharing it with the Muslim community! Credit: Giphy But through it all, we've also had the chance to learn a lot about different cultures and about Muslims all over the world. And we're really happy that our work has enabled Muslim travellers everywhere to enjoy more immersive experiences when they travel. We also feel really privileged that we can be ambassadors of peace and bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims 🤗 Here's what it's like to be travelling for work at HHWT and what we've learnt so far:
1. Being appreciative and showing gratitude
As cliché as it sounds, travelling really does help you see the world and through different lenses. We'll admit, there's so much planning that goes into our trips that sometimes, the joy of travelling doesn't really kick in until we're there at the location. Our schedules are so packed that it's easy to miss the moment because we're "working". But through more trips, we've learnt to appreciate the little things and be in the moment no matter how short the time is. Experiencing the beautyof Mt Fuji

"During our Japan trip last year, we went on day trips and one the most amazing places we went to was Mt Fuji. I’ve been to Mt Fuji before this but I’ve never felt closer to the mountain until this time. The feeling was indescribable as everything was perfect. I could see the peak of Mt Fuji clearly, the sun was on point and it made our job so much easier - we could take awesome photos and share it with you guys. All I was reminded of at that moment was the beauty of Allah's creations. I remember feeling so lucky and thankful to be able to witness this magical sight 😍"

-Faruq

Seeing stars in New Zealand

"One night, we were walking towards our hotel in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park when someone looked up and pointed a beautiful cluster of stars above us. We’re all city kids from Malaysia and Singapore, so we’ve never seen that many stars in our lives! It was a funny sight, watching our team dragging our heavy luggage with our heads up while continuously saying, “Oh my goddd” or “Wowww”.
Credit: giphy This was basically our expression the entire time Just when you think New Zealand is scenic and beautiful in the day, wait till you see its beauty after sundown. It’s magical and till today, I’m grateful to have had this experience!" -Cheng Sim
Support of the community We're also really really thankful for having such strong support from the community and we're blessed to be able to share our resources. The HHWT readers (that's you!) have been nothing but amazing and kind souls.
[We had a lot of responses from our Instagram followers when we asked for insider tips for Bangkok.] Every time we ask for recommendations before going on our trips or even while we're there, the next moment we'll find our Instagram inbox flooded with DMs. You might not know this but you help us more than you can ever imagine - from knowing what to feature to the insider spots. Without your help and support, the team wouldn't be able to do as much so, THANK YOU!
2. Being exposed to the diversity of Muslims around the world
One of the things that we're also blessed to experience when we travel is the diversity of Muslims around the world. It's amazing how Islam reaches far and wide and we get to witness how Muslims of different cultures practise their faiths. Islammight be practised differently around the world, but we're all Muslims
"When we were in Dubai, it was really fascinating to see how Emiratis (who are predominantly from the Maliki school of thought) practise Islam and how their culture is interwoven with Islamic practices. When we attended a tour of Jumeirah Mosque, our guide demonstrated how they take wudhu’, which had some differences to our way of taking it. For example, while we usually wash each body part three times, they vary between one to three times depending on which part). In addition, while women usually wear black outerwear and headscarf (called an abaya and shela) for religious reasons, the full-face covering (niqab) or face mask (burqa)is associated more with cultural reasons and were traditionally worn to protect their faces from the desert sand or as a sign of being married or taken. It was good reminder that Islam is a religion rich in terms of diversity, both in terms of followers as well as practices - which is to be expected given that Muslims make up almost two billion of the population! The important thing is to always remember to celebrate ourdiversity and let it be a factor of our strength, rather than something divides us." -Atiqah
A Hong Kong Muslim who sells halal versions of traditional snacks
"When we were in Hong Kong, we had the opportunity of meeting and interviewing Martin Khan, a local Muslim who is the co-owner of Chrisly Cafe. The bakery offers halal versions of Hong Kong snacks like egg tarts and pineapple buns. The reason why he started Chrisly was because he wanted a traditional Hong Kong bakery that his family can buy, take home and enjoy. What amazed us the most was that it took him almost a year to perfect the art of making these halal snacks (without lard) and he said that even non-Muslims couldn't tell the difference! He also told us that it feels special to be a Muslim in Hong Kong because people would be really curious. They would want to talk and ask questions, and even ask if he knew how to speak Cantonese! Even though he's born in Hong Kong, a lot of locals mistake him for a foreigner and they are curious about how he came to settle in Hong Kong 😅" -Suzana, Elaine, Fatehah, Zarifah
[P.S. Readmore about Martin's storyin our interview!] Islam in Xi'an fascinated us
"One of the highlights of our trip to Xi’an was finding a Muslim Quarter. We were pleasantly surprised by how lively it is and it's filled with so many delicious halal local treats. But more than that, we loved the warmth, energy and friendliness of the local Muslims which made us feel right at home! Even though they didn't speak English, they welcomed us with open arms 😊"
"We also had the opportunity of visiting one of China’s oldest mosques – the Xi’an Great Mosque. The mosque was constructed to honour the founders of Islam in China and it dates back 1300 years. As we stepped into the compound, we were blown away by the mix of Chinese calligraphy and Arabic scriptures that adorned the structures around the mosque. It’s so beautiful to see that Islam transcends race, as reflected by this mosque and the Muslims in Xi’an. It’s things like these that inspire us to travel more and find Islamic heritage in the unlikeliest of places ❤️" -Fatehah & Zarifah
3. Fostering peace between Muslim and non-Muslims
If there's one thing that we're honoured to be able to do while travelling, it's to spread the beauty ofIslam to non-Muslims. One of HHWT's aims is to achieve peace between people of all faiths, nationalities and races and we believe that by travelling, Muslims can be ambassadors of peace. This never felt so real until we started travelling for work and we learnt just how important our job really is in spreading dakwah ❤️ It's even more important that we share the beauty of Islam in a time of much hate and extremism in the world today.Introducing Islam to a Venezuelan in Japan
"Luqman and I met a Venezuelan girl, Kiki, when we were in Nikko, Japan. She was solo travelling after working in Japan for 3 weeks and initially, she had asked us for bus directions so we helped her out. Then, we bumped into each other again and she wanted to join us for lunch. So, during lunch, we got to explain to her what halal meant (I found a Spanish explanation on Wikipedia for this 😅) and what our job entails. She was also curious when we "disappeared" for a while to do our prayers at the restaurant, so we explained to her that we need to pray 5 times a day. It was superheartening as we were probably one of the only few Muslims she's ever met and it was amazing that we got to share more about Islam with her." -Faruq
Our New Zealand guide's first time in a mosque
"We visited the Ponsonby Mosque in Auckland and it was really heartening that our local guide, Ben (second from right) felt welcomed at the mosque. It was his first time in a mosque and the experience pleasantly surprised him. He’s always been interested to find out what it’s like inside a mosque but he never got the chance to visit one. The mosque made him feel comfortable and he told us that he intends to bring his family back there for one of their open houses to learn more, especially since Auckland is such a multicultural city. It's amazing how a simple visit to the mosque might seem so natural to us but for someone who doesn't know much about Islam, it might be slightly intimidating. We're so happy that this visit softened Ben's heart and made him want to learn more about Islam! It feels great to be breaking down barriers between Muslims and non-Muslims, one step at a time ❤️" -Suzana, Elaine, Cheng Sim, Luqman
[P.S. Find out more about the Ponsonby Mosque and read about how it promotes interfaith relations here.] Learning kindness from Taiwanese locals in Alishan
"I was in Taiwan and the mayor of a town in Alishan had asked me to hop on his bike so he could bring me to watch the sunset and we both couldn’t understand the language but he mimed it. It was really heartwarming that he made the gesture even though we both don’t speak the same language. I truly never expected the Taiwanese people to be really friendly but they exceeded my expectations and everywhere I went in Alishan, I was greeted with such kindness. It didn't matter to them that I was in hijab or that I looked different from them. One important thing that being in Alishan taught me was that we should explore the world without judgment or stereotypes especially when it's our job to spread peace between Muslims and non-Muslims." -Khaliesah
[P.S. Read more about Khaliesah's experience in our 4D3N Muslim-friendly Alishan itinerary.]
4. Having perseverance and grit
A lot of you probably only see the glamorous side of our job. We've all gotten comments from our friends and family telling us how lucky we are to traveland how "easy" our job is. While we're really blessed to be able to travel for work, the amount of effort that we have to put in is tremendous. Our day can start as early as 5-6am and we don't get back until 10-11pm. Sometimes we have to wake up earlier or stay later just to get that shot we need, or to catch that first train to somewhere far.
There's also a lot of multi-tasking involved when we're on the job - from taking plenty of photos to planning Instagram stories, filming multiple shots for videos, replying our followers on Instagram and more.
We're on our toes all day and we snap dozens of photos and take multiple video cuts before getting the perfect shot you see in our articles and videos. It's not only the things we do but we're also affected by unfavourable weather conditions such as the unbearable heat during summer in some countries we travelled to.
"We travelled to Spain and Japan's Kansai regionin summer last year and we thought that it wouldn’t be so bad because it’s always hot and humid weather in Singapore and Malaysia. But we were so wrong! It was between 35-39°Cand we were outdoors most of the time! Thank God for portable fans (we carried this during our mini hike) and UNIQLO’s AIRism for making it more bearable. Although it was more challenging, we were determined to do our best because the community is relying on us for guides to travel to these destinations. Every single message and encouragement we received kept us going!" -Suzana
As the heat can really get to us, we've also learnt to take better care of ourselves during trips such as drinking more water or taking breaks as and when we can. It's also not just the heat that affects our performance - a heavy downpour or extremely cold weather can also ruin the opportunity for us to take the shots we need for our articles and videos.  Our job does get really exhausting at times but we persevere because we know it will help other Muslim travellers and one thing that really encourages us is the overwhelming support of the community and we know we can't let you guys down ☺️
[Some of the kind messages we get from our followers when we're on media trips which keep us going!]One highlight that we really lookforward to on our trips is replying to YOUR messages. These messages are what keeps us going!
5. Getting out of our comfort zones
When we travel for leisure, it's not always that we'd do something out of our comfort zone. But when we're on work trips, it's the perfect chance for us to go out of our comfort zones and try something that we'd otherwise won't do. Bungy-jumping experience in New Zealand  https://www.instagram.com/p/BuV0OnSFzGj/
"Ask any HHWT team member and they would probably remember me muttering about bungy jumping since the day we received our New Zealand itinerary. I’m not afraid of heights but somehow the thought of jumping off the bridge made me really nervous. I remember my legs shaking as the AJ Hackett staff was tying the cord to my legs and I asked Elaine, “Why am I doing this again?”. She replied, “For HHWT.” And that made me walk to the edge of the bungy pod because I knew I had to jump. So many fellow travellers are looking forward to bungy jumping in New Zealand and they were counting on us to share our experience and tips. And now, I really want to try the Nevis Swing in Queenstown!!!" -Suzana
Skydiving even though I'm afraid ofheights
"The truth is, I’m afraid of heights. When our team had to do tandem skydiving in New Zealand, I was nervous as hell. Despite what we felt, we want to share this experience with our readers. When the day finally arrived, it was terrifying seeing my colleagues jumping out of the plane at 16,000 feet. When it was my turn, my legs gave way and I just went for it (being strapped to my skydiving instructor also means I had no choice). After 60 seconds of freefall, the parachute opened, and I was greeted with an unbelievable bird's-eye view of Auckland. It was stunning and surreal - I’d kick myself if I didn’t step out of my comfort zone. Will I do it again? Maybe. Was it the most life-changing experience? Yes, it’s definitely one of them!" -Cheng Sim
6. Lots of planning and coordination
"Since we work to get as much content as possible for the readers, we have to experience as much as we can in a limited time frame, i.e., do twice as much as the average traveller and at the same time film, photograph and note down as much detail as possible - and to achieve that, it requires a lot ofplanning and coordination. Planning by the minute, planning a back-up plan, and planning a back-up plan for the back-up plan becomes essential to ensure minimal hiccups during the trip. And we need to make sure everyone is up to date too, so there’s a lot of coordination between our Malaysia and Singapore office. It sounds exhausting and hectic, and it definitely is! But the satisfaction of being able to share details and information about these amazing places to our readers is priceless 🤗" -Iyesha
Doing thorough checks on halal status
"Before visiting a destination, our team does extremely thorough checks as we search for halal/Muslim-friendly food. In some situations, we have the tourism organizations helping us with on-ground research and this is when we are able to uncover even more food options! It’s also an opportunity for us to share with them what halal means and the concerns that we have when we are looking for Muslim-friendly options - eg. no cross-contamination of food, no alcohol, etc." -Suzana
7. Things will go wrong when you least expect it
But that said, even though we plan so much for our work trips, we've learnt that things will probably go wrong when we least expect it. Sometimes, our whole itinerary might be affected andwe'd need to forgo a certain important activity or the weather just isn't in our favour (eg. heavy rain) or perhaps an eatery that we want to cover just happens to suddenly close on that day. But through it all, we've learnt to anticipate these issues and have back-up plans so that we can stay on top of things when the worst happens. Encountering flight glitches 
"Prior to travelling for work, I had never encountered any serious flight delays or glitches but it all had to happen during 2 of my work trips. The first one was during my flight to Jeju. We were already in Jeju's airspace and the pilots tried several times to land but they couldn't because the wind was just too strong. It was pretty nerve-racking as I had never experienced something like this and at some point, I really feared for my life as we could feel the plane swaying because of the wind.
After a few failed attempts to land in Jeju, the flight had to make a detour to Busan as the plane needed to refuel. After around 2 hours, we flew back to Jeju and tried to land again. But it was onlysuccessful after the second or third try. All the passengers in the plane immediately started clapping when the plane landed and there was a sense of euphoria. We were supposed to reach Jeju around 1pm but we ended up reaching after 6pm. It was my first work trip and it caught me a little off-guard but what I learnt from the experience was to anticipate any problems and to stay calm." -Faruq
[P.S. Despite the unforeseen circumstance on the first day, we had loads on fun in Jeju! Read all about our experience in our 4D3N Muslim-friendly Jeju itinerary.] Unexpected flight delays
"We were taking a connecting flight from Spain to Amsterdam before our flight home but our flight was delayed due to an earlier flight. When we reached Schiphol Airport, we had already missed the boarding time and we had to get to our gate as fast as we could. The gates were so far away and we were carrying very heavy bags because of our equipment. We were so afraid that we would miss our flight but we tried our best and ran as fast as we could. That was probably the craziest sprint through the airport in mylife but we made it in the end!" -Suzana
8. Learning how to respect other cultures
Travelling has exposed us to many different cultures over the world and sometimes, they may not be what we're used to, especially when visiting places of worship of other religions. But the important thing we've learnt is to respect these customs and educate ourselves on why they are done so that we can a better understanding. Respecting Buddhist rituals in Thailand
"Thailand is a Buddhist-majority country, and Thai Buddhist temples are a huge part of their vibrant culture. When we were in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, we noticed that there were plenty of worshippers and monks praying in the temples. Even though we don’t practise Buddhism, we needed to show our respect for their religion. We had to be aware and not get in the way of worshippers praying, take off our shoes in certain spaces, be silent at times, make sure our toes aren’t pointed towards statues of Buddha, and we couldn't point our fingers at the statues. Occasionally, we'd even receive blessings from monks (for some who are uncomfortable with it, you may politely ask to be excused from receiving a blessing). What I've got from this experience is thatif we want others to be respectful of our religion, we must learn to not just tolerate other religions, but also respect and acknowledge that just because we practise different faiths, doesn’t mean we can’t live in peace together." -Iyesha
Respecting the etiquette of a Japanese tea ceremony
"When we were in Himeji, Japan, we had the opportunity to experience a Japanese tea ceremony. This is actually one of the important practices in Japanese culture and the etiquette and rituals are very important. It's more than just drinking tea - it actually represents purity, respect and harmony. There's a lot of bowing involved as bowing is a sign of respect in Japanese culture - the Japanese bow to say "thank you", "sorry" etc. and it's so ingrained in their culture. It's really fascinating to have immersed ourselves in a tea ceremony and one of the things we've learnt is to keep an open mind and put ourselves in the shoes of the Japanese to try and understand why the tea ceremony is so important to them. It is with this understanding that we can learn to better appreciate other cultures." -Suzana
We hope that you have gotten a better idea of what it's liketo travel for work in HHWT. It's no doubt that we've definitely learnt a lot from travelling for work and we'll strive to continue learning and provide the best for you, our readers! At the same time, we're also thankful for the support that you've given us all these years and we wouldn't have reached this far without you ❤️  So, do continue supporting us and we look forward to bringing you to more places!