Girl With Green Passport

Hi! I am Anam, born & raised in Karachi, Pakistan. I was bitten by travel bug few years ago in 2012 on my first trip abroad to Dubai along with my grad school fellows to study and research on “international retail”. It was then when I realized that if one small city so close to my home could contain such another world and so much charm, what all would be there in the whole wide world. It struck me that there is no point in sticking to one place. And so I started saving. Unfortunately for the next 2 years I was unable to materialize my wish to travel beyond Dubai because of my parent’s cultural notion; what the heck is even single female solo travel?

In 2014, I managed to get thru that barrier & a friend planted the idea of getting US visa to travel for Tomorrowworld. And that is where my adventure started. In 3 years, I’m 20 countries and 35+ cities down, while I am still perusing my full time career in advertising.

One Big Hurdle & 1 Big Dream

I am born under Pakistani passport, which ranks on the 3rd spot on Henley & Partners Visa Restriction Index 2017. Clearly the reputation my country has earned over past decade or two, no one wants to welcome us without raising a suspicious brow. What does this mean for my travel goals:

  1. Travelling will always be a pain for me, unless I immigrate to some other country and spend 5-10 years to become a citizen.
  2. I will always have to apply visas first and so my itinerary will be at the whim of immigration officials.
  3. I cannot backpack easily across popular backpacking belts in a region in one trip, since I may not get visas for all of them.
  4. Preparing for visa application will always be a time, energy and money consuming process for me.
  5. I will get detained at airports every now & then because of my green passport.

My Life In Experiences

I have resolved to count my life in the experiences I earn whenever I indulge myself in anything new or never-done-before.  Here is a chronological account of things, places, people, food, buildings, wackiness,  I’ve been, seen, eaten, done, experienced so far in my few years of travel:

» Walking at 3am by myself; experiencing a safe city first time  (Dubai)
»  Riding on the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa (Abu Dhabi)
» Visiting “At The Top” of world’s tallest building, Burk Khalifa (Dubai)

 » Trying LSD first & only time  (Sanfrancisco)
» Falling in love with every bit of Sanfrancisco
» Visiting Steve Jobs house (Palo Alto)
» Skydiving  over Nevada
» Getting a 8 min long striptease from a female at Sapphire Club (Vegas)
» Eating Texan food (Houston)
» Parasailing over Gulf of Mexico (South Padre Island)
» Camping in Dreamville, Tomorrowland (Chattahoochee)
» Experience love & community at Tomorrowland (Atlanta)
» Visiting CNN headquarters, Georgia Aquarium & Coke Museum (Atlanta)
» Feeling lost & overwhelmed in Manhattan (NYC)
» Airbnb-ing in Brooklyn (NYC)
» Visiting Saifulmuluk & Lulusar lake in 0 degrees October (Northern Pakistan)

» Travelling solo first time (Thailand & Cambodia)
» Staying at a backpacker’s hostel dorm first time (Bangkok)
» Watching one movie and many dinners alone
» Getting inked first time (Koh Samui)
» Partying with German girls at Fullmoon (Koh Phangan)
» Making friends with French boys on AngThong Tour (Koh Samui)
» Shopping at one of world’s largest street market, Chatuchat (Bangkok)
» Getting addicted to Thai food
» Getting detained for 15 minutes at Siem Reap International Airport (Cambodia)
» Feeling magical at Angkor Watt temples
» Talking to one too many strangers: backpackers, cab drivers, masseuse, monks, cafe owners
» Having SHARK STEAK (Koh Samui)
» Visiting Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Sacre Coeur (no they are too beautiful to be cliches!!)
» Discovering ‘Parisians are rude’ is just a stereotype
» Getting lost (literally) on a rainy day in Amsterdam
» Visiting Sex shops, ‘coffee shops’, red light district
» Falling in LOVE WITH EVERYTHING AMSTERDAM: people, vibe, canals, tulips
» Visiting a Guiness World Record cafe, Delirium to see 2000+ beer varieties
» Waffles, Frites & Chocolate: Indulging in Bussels
» Partying like there’s no tomorrow at TOMORROWLAND!
» Getting charmed by the medieval (Now Unesco Heritage city) Bruges
» Eating Mussels in Bruges
» Getting lost amidst the Guildhouses in Antwerp
» Shopping at one of the world’s largest & oldest: ‘Grand Bazar’ in Istanbul
» Hot-air balloon ride over Goreme valley (Turkey)
» Staying in a CAVE hotel

» Enjoying New Years at Petronas Kuala Lumpur
» Wandering the beautiful streets of KL
» Honeymooning in Bali
» Taking a SURFING lesson on Kuta Beach
» Rafting in Ayung River (Rapid level 1-3)
» Visiting temples & rice fields in East Bali
» Trying the most expensive coffee in the world, made from Civet cat poop
» Experienced the spiritual vibe in Ubud
» Scuba-diving in Nusa Dua
» First trekking experience: to Nanga Parbat view point (Pakistan)
» Travelling solo to Africa
» Doing Big 5 Safari in Masai Mara
» Visiting Masai elders in their village
» Partying in Nairobi
» Making local friends first time via couch surfing
» Learning how to cook Ugali, Sukumawiki & Kenyan style Fish
» Travelling in tiny Matatus (public buses) in Nairobi
» First time over-landing: from Kenya to Uganda
» Experiencing Kampala night life & busy dusty city life
» Visiting the magnificent Lake Victoria (world’s second largest)
» Staying in a GEO-DOME in the middle of Lake Bunyonyi (Uganda)
» Canoeing on the bewildering Lake Bunyonyi
» Bungee jumping over River Nile
» Getting almost detained on Daressalam airport
» Walking thin lanes of Stone Town (Zanzibar)
» Stuffing Bbq & Zanzibari pizza at Forodhani street food market
»  Walking amdist hundreds of Tortoise
»  Sunbathing & swimming for 7 days on the gorgeous beaches of Zanzibar
» Understanding that Hakuna Matata is not a phrase, but a way of life

How Have I Traveled to 20 Countries in Past 3 Years?

Although this is not a lot of travel, but my friends have started asking me this question. It has 2 parts:

Firstly, it may seem like I take a lot of days off, but actually I don’t. In my first fiscal year working with my current employers I took a total of 22 & in the second fiscal I took 24 working days off to travel. That is it. I have always managed to plan my trips smartly, utilizing/planning my trip around public holidays and including weekends both tails of my trip. It is smart planning, only. Still I end up being the person who is always requesting for a travel leave more than other colleagues. But I had established from the start that travel is my only motivation to earn and my employers are indeed a bunch of amazing people.

Ever since I got a taste of travel and it became my only favorite thing in the world and I started feeling a really, really strong constant itch in my feet, I started prioritizing saving over spending. Over the years I did not upgrade my life style as much as my income grew. I am the last person you would see at a Kurta store, my wardrobe contains mostly basics and staples and is never up-to-date with ongoing trends. I don’t even look at designer wear stores. I use drugstore cosmetics & have a very limited amount of it. Same for shoes. On Iphone, I am always at least 3 years behind the latest version. I decided not to buy a car. I keep a strict check on my salon trips. The only thing I get indulgent on is eating out. That too not regularly. And this is how I am able to save mostly 50% or more of what I make every month. And put it in the form of dollars in my travel fund.

Also, I spend time researching & planning on destinations I’d like to visit months in advance and book everything on my own (most of the time) rather than going to travel/tour agents; which saves me money. Also, having a partner who is enthusiastic about travelling himself and supportive of my travel goals, adds to the ease.

What Are My Travel Goals?

I want to go everywhere and see everything; in my lifetime. I am still working on my definition of everything and everywhere because there are so many ways to quantify the travel wish list; for example number of continents, countries, cities, regions, cultures, cuisines, adventures. But the 4 goals I have so far charted out are:

  • Asia
  • Europe
  • North America
  • Africa
  • South America
  • Oceania
  • Antartica
  • South America: Peru, Bolivia, Brazil
  • North & Central America: Mexico, Gautemala, USA
  • Caribbean: Cuba, Jamaica, Bahamas
  • Oceania: New Zealand, Fiji
  • Africa: Morrocco, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania
  • Asia: Myanmar, Vietnam, Japan, Philippines, China Thailand, Cambodia
  • Caucasia: Azerbaijan, Georgia
  • Scandinavia: Denmark, Iceland, Sweden
  • Central & East Europe: Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Switzerland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium
  • UK
  • Southern Europe: Italy, Spain, Croatia, Greece
  • Tomorrowland,
  • Fullmoon Party, Phangan
  • Sensation
  • Rio Carnival
  • Burning Man
  • Lantern Festival Taiwan
  • Yatch Week Croatia