Marriage ended her dream

It was lunch time and we had just finished reciting our daily surahs (verses) from the Quraan. My Quranic teacher loved to share a piece of her past with my siblings and I whenever time allowed. This usually happened during lunch or after classes. “That is my husband, Hussein” she took out an old black and white picture from her wallet, passing it to each of us. “He is now late” she paused “I miss him so much”.  My teacher later pulled out another picture. It was a younger version of herself, probably in her mid 20’s. “That was me in Egypt. I loved to travel but once I got married that had to end.” She paused again as she reminisced “My husband didn’t like traveling and my dream was to visit Japan “.

My teacher’s words struck me. She was now in her 70s and still didn’t get to achieve her dream. Does marriage mean sacrificing your passion for the greater good of society and raising a family? Marriage should be about collaboration and working towards a similar goal, whatever that is for you and your partner. Unfortunately, more often than men, women are told over and over again “lower your expectations, stop dreaming, you are too selfish, sacrifice yourself for love, have lots of kids, settle down, stay still” etc.  Cultural and societal expectations have made us forget what marriage is: an agreement between two people. 

Is it really possible to pursue your passion while being married or raising a family? I interviewed 4 inspirational women who are embracing life to the fullest while being married and raising families. These women share their stories.

Nada

 Nada Al Nahdi is part Yemeni and part Indonesian, however, she was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. Nada has a full-time job where she works from home and backpacks solo whenever possible. She shares her travel tips, itineraries, and experiences on the platforms listed below

Instagram: @nadaalnahdi   ♦Facebook: nadaalnahditravels  ♦Twitter: @nadaalnahdi92  ♦YouTube: Nada Al Nahdi 

♦Blog: www.nadaalnahdi.com  ♦Blog in Arabic: www.ar.nadaalnahdi.com

 

What sparked your love for travel?

I found my passion for traveling after meeting my significant other. It was exactly 9 months after our engagement and 3 years from when I met him. Traveling never even crossed my mind! I never looked into traveling. I thought it was a luxury activity that only Middle to High-class people could afford.  In summer 2015, I saw a female friend of mine encouraged me to travel solo. From that time on, I haven’t looked back.

What has been the reaction from your husband and family member regarding your traveling activities?

At first, my family would fear for my safety. I remember before I traveled to Kenya, my dad and sister tried to taunt me by saying that I would be kidnapped for my organs during the safaris. I am pretty hardheaded and stubborn so their comments don’t stop me from traveling. Over time, they’ve seen how frequent I travel and built trust that I know how to look after myself while traveling. As for my fiancé at that time, we did face some issues because it is not common for an Arab female to travel independently. Just because it is not the norm in my society, does not mean I should not do so.

How do you balance travel and being married?

Our marriage does not affect my passion for traveling. I still travel like how I used to. At the beginning of the year, I list out my travel plans so he knows when I would be away. Sometimes, there are a few surprise trips that pop up out of nowhere.

What are your thoughts of societal expectations on the roles of men and women?

I strongly believe that we shouldn’t let society dictate how we live our lives. In the end, it’s our personal happiness and life. And that’s what my husband and I had to understand. Traveling is something I am very much passionate about. Taking that away from me would simply mean taking away something I love. This will have a negative impact on not only on me but on our relationship. There will always be that thought in the back of my head “he took away my passion.

Do you face criticism from people on the way you travel? 

Now that I got my family, friends, and fiancé on my side, there are still those who can’t comprehend why I don’t travel with my husband. They would judge that our relationship wouldn’t last long because we have completely different interests and I do many things independently.

Whoever said a relationship is based on mutual interests and being together 24/7? There isn’t any dummy book or rule to how a relationship should be. Personally, I believe that mutual understanding and support is the most important factor in a relationship.

How do you handle societal expectations?

Surely, a lot of people would say “why don’t you find passion in something else that’s aligned with the society” maybe I will find something that the society would approve of one day, but this is what I am currently passionate about so be it.

What advice would you give to people who are afraid to pursue their dreams for fear of being single or lonely?

I believe everyone should pursue what makes them happy. Time runs out in a blink of an eye and regret is something we want to avoid. Live your life, ignore judgments and harsh comments. As long as you are happy and not harming anyone, people will eventually come to terms because being negative can be exhausting.

 

 

Renea

Renea, also called Ayah by her Muslim friends, is from Mississippi. She currently resides in Guangzhou, China with her husband. When she’s not teaching, she’s traveling every chance she gets and collecting things along the way to sell in her upcoming shop, The Village Marketplace. She’s also writing her first fiction novel that highlights the struggles of marriage and the process to find the one as a Muslim woman of color. You can follow her journey on Instagram: @muslimblackandtraveling.

 

What sparked your love for travel?

I guess my travel aspirations began in my childhood. Being from Mississippi, we didn’t travel much, and most people can’t fathom moving to another town let alone a whole other country. However, I was always imaginative. I read lots of books, and, although many of the stories described made up, fictional towns, I’d dream of experiencing something other than the Mississippi woods and soul food. After getting my first taste of travel as an adult, when I packed up and moved to Arkansas, I became addicted to the excitement of discovering new places.

Where and How did you meet your significant other?

Perhaps my yearning for travel and something different made me attracted to the idea of being with someone who isn’t from where I’m from as well. People think that I met my husband in Egypt, but I actually met him online first. Before I left for Egypt, we were already married although we had never seen each other in person. Two months after arriving in Egypt, we finally “met”, and our connection was even better in person!

What was his reaction when he found out that you love to travel and actually pursued it?

He was so happy to discover that I yearn to travel internationally. By that time, I was taking road trips by myself almost every other day before moving to the Middle East. He didn’t like this and thought it was dangerous but loved my lack of fear. After moving abroad, he vowed to always allow me to move freely because I get major anxiety if I stay in a place too long. Every government holiday, we plan where we will travel and what we will do. We even plan years ahead for where we will settle.

Was it an issue for him that you traveled quite a bit and sometimes alone?

For solo travel, it’s similar, but I do have some limitations as a result of our relationship. That’s just a part of any marriage really. It’s give, take and compromise. For example, I wanted to visit a West African country alone this summer. He wasn’t supportive of the idea because he is from an African country and knows about the corruption firsthand. I respected that. I didn’t like it, but I respected it. We don’t really go by the obvious societal norms in our household, so I can’t really get upset the one time something is a solid no-go.

How did you manage family and societal pressures 

Because I was raised in the United States, my husband’s family doesn’t press me about working or not preparing all his meals every day or ironing his shirts. They know that I come from a place where women work really hard outside the home and are crazy independent. Nonetheless, I’m pressured about not being pregnant yet, and it comes up in every single conversation with them. Every Arab friend that I have asks me about having children in every single interaction. My other friends don’t bring it up at all, so it’s more of pressure from being in a multicultural relationship. It annoys me so much, but I just say, “In sha Allah, (By the grace of God)” with a smile.

In your opinion, what’s the key to a happy marriage?

The main thing is making sure that your bond with your spouse is strong. My husband and I are not pressed to have children right now. We’re content with the way things are, so we don’t feel stressed about what people want or think outside our relationship. More importantly, choose someone who shares similar goals and aspirations from the beginning.

What are some key attributes people should look out for when seeking a partner?

Quite often, we’re motivated to marry a certain person for things that aren’t as important as this, and we marry based upon the person’s potential rather than what they have, what they feel, what they want, right here and now. Sure. Some things change with time and life experience, but many things don’t, and you must be prepared to move on. Don’t settle on who you want to grow old with. The stress of being with someone who makes you miserable might not allow you to grow old at all!

What advice would you give to people who are afraid to pursue their dreams for fear of being single or lonely?

I know that it’s scary to be alone, especially when the world is telling us that we must be married with kids by a certain age. However, don’t allow society to guide your decisions on your life. They don’t pay your bills, and they won’t have to wake up next to him/her every morning. Don’t look for the ideal person. Matter of fact, don’t look at all. Just be open. Be open to the possibilities that he/she is that childhood friend you never paid much attention to or that charismatic tour guide that ensured your safety during that one trip, or he/she waiting for you in some remote part of the world. Be open. God never said that he/she had to be your cousin, from your neighborhood, from your race, from your income bracket, or from your country.

 

Imani

Imani, a former sports reporter, now currently a travel writer. She travels the world with her husband and adorable son. Imani discusses being a global citizen, raising a child while living abroad, and life as an African American Muslim outside the U.S. Check out her work on her website: sheisimanib.com ♦Instagram: @sheisimanib & @thetakeofftoddler

What sparked your love for travel?

Growing up, I’ve always had a love for travel. My first experiences began going to different states, visiting places like Disney or seeing out-of-town relatives. I went on my first girl’s trip to Puerto Rico and that made me want to see a lot more of the world.  But, my first experience abroad was going to London for my older brother’s wedding, which sent my wanderlust into overdrive. It wasn’t until a few years later that I made the decision to move abroad, alone.

Where and How did you meet your significant other?

I moved to Cairo, Egypt in 2015 and got a chance to embark on many solo trips to neighboring countries. I encourage women to travel solo if they feel comfortable and are less aloof because it’ll open up a real discovery of self. Cairo was also where I met my husband who was coaching American football at the American University in Cairo. The best part about the meeting was that he had already previously lived in various countries alone and was not planning on stopping the traveling train. Our foundation, as a couple is built off seeing the world, together.

As a married couple, how do you balance family and career?

Being a nomadic family, we get the opportunity to do exactly what we want. This is in regards to not working in fields of employment that we absolutely hate. By deciding to write full-time, it allows me the opportunity to be with my son without having to worry whose care he’s in outside of our home. It also helps that the places we live are very inexpensive and gives us much more room to do a lot of other things we don’t believe we’d be able to do if we were in the U.S.

Do you have children? and How have you adjusted your travel styles with your partner or your children?

Sometime after we got married, we did a 6-city tour in China then moved to Poland where our son was born. After leaving Poland we headed back to Egypt and are now based in China. Our son has traveled, internationally since he was 7 weeks old, so we like to say that he’s a “global citizen” and not meant for just one corner of the world.

Should women seeking a significant other change her ambition, travel dreams to seem more ready for marriage?

Due to the fact that my husband and I had a passion for travel, prior to meeting him, I believe that we equally respect it as a unit. I don’t think any person should entertain marriage to someone who doesn’t support their personal passions; whatever they may be. We don’t look at travel as a novelty, but a necessity which is why we continue to live it out loud.

What are some key attributes people should look out for when seeking a partner?

I think that when someone is looking for a life partner they should find someone who gives them balance. It’s not always important to be with someone that likes everything you like, but more so someone who has the same values for life. It is also important to be with someone who’s actively walking their talk, meaning someone who’s doing and living the life they say they want or actively working towards that. Lastly, I believe it’s important to not rush the journey of finding a partner just simply to not be alone because even though you have someone in your life doesn’t automatically mean they’re going to enhance it.

 

Amanda

Amanda Mouttaki is a freelance food and travel writer and the voice behind the website MarocMama.com. She lives in Marrakech, Morocco with her husband and three sons. She and her husband own Marrakech Food Tours and she loves eating and writing about great food from around the world.

What sparked your love for travel?

I grew up in a really small town in northern Wisconsin. It was so small that there weren’t even 50 people in my graduating class. While some people love this type of life I couldn’t wait to leave but didn’t know how, so my way of traveling and exploring the world was through books. I read all the time and my favorite books took place around the world. It was truly how I first traveled. My first international trip happened when I was 16 and my high school art class went to Greece and Turkey. I immediately knew I loved to travel and needed to do more of it!

Where and How did you meet your significant other?

After this trip I continued to travel as much and as far as I could. I lived in Germany for a short time, I also went to Morocco which is where I met my husband. Our meeting was quite serendipitous and I immediately knew, before we had even said one word to each other, that he would be my husband. He also felt the same but due to visas and immigration and of course a long distance, it took us over a year to be together.

What was his reaction when he found out that you love to travel and actually pursued it?

While some couples may have problems when it comes to travel, we didn’t. I met him while traveling and due to us having family on two continents travel would always be a part of our lives. In the early days of our marriage, I didn’t travel a lot; mostly because we had two small children right away and were struggling to just pay the day to day bills. We always took small trips around the local areas we were living in. It wasn’t until we moved back to Morocco and my career took a bit of a turn that I really began traveling in earnest.

Was it an issue for him that you traveled quite a bit and sometimes alone?

I had worked in corporate America for most of my career but when we moved to Morocco I was working online and transitioning to do more freelance food and travel writing. I was invited on trips and organizing my own for stories. At first, this was really new to him and he didn’t understand it; he thought I was traveling just for fun. So I took him on one of my press trips and he quickly saw how much work was really involved and began to understand better. From that point on I mostly traveled alone and it wasn’t an issue.

As a married couple, how do you communicate your travel plans with your partner?

At the beginning of my traveling, I would always run things by him ahead of time, work out plans etc. But as everyone was more used to my traveling it became less about discussing and more about stating my travel plans. This might sound harsh but I always go back to the notion that if I were a man that traveled for my work, chances are good if my work needed me to travel I would go and it wouldn’t be up for discussion. So that’s the same line I take in my travels.

How did you handle societal pressures that expect women to raise the kids? 

There is a HUGE double standard when it comes to women who travel for their work and men who do. For men, there are no questions. You travel, you travel. Someone else picks up the slack at home and you carry on. If you’re a woman and especially a mom, then there is so much extra baggage. Questions like “how can you leave your kids,” or “who takes care of your family when you’re gone?” Questions men are NEVER asked. This certainly isn’t just a Muslim thing; I know lots of other women that travel for work who deal with the same thing but I do think it’s magnified even more as a Muslim woman.

What are your thoughts of societal expectations on the roles of men and women?

I was never going to be the stereotypical woman/mom/wife. It’s just not who I am nor who I want to be. If my husband weren’t on board with me having a career, being a partner and making it work, our marriage wouldn’t work. I wouldn’t be willing to stay in a relationship that forced me to give up my career and passion. This isn’t to say I always get what I want or what’s ideal – not at all.

Do you think women can have it all (the career, ambition, and a family) or there needs to be compromises made?

Our two older children are 12 and 15 and we now have an 8-month-old son. This has put the brakes on my travel in a huge way. It’s also something that I struggle with as I fear to lose a lot of what I’ve worked to build. I don’t think women can have it all at the same time. I think there are seasons of life and sometimes we have to accept we can’t have everything we want at that current time. But these things must be decided between partners and not what others outside the relationship have to say.

What do you say when people challenge you by saying women shouldn’t travel without a Mahram?

I personally don’t believe in the idea of only ever traveling with a mahram and have met some criticism for this. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been raised as a die-hard individualistic American woman. I choose to have a partner but if I didn’t have him I know that I would be fully capable of caring for myself and my children both physically and financially. Sadly, I think that the idea of needing a mahram to travel or man to care for you (as a woman) is what puts many women around the world in desperate and dependent situations with few options.

What advice would you give to people who are afraid to pursue their dreams for fear of being single or lonely?

My best advice is that if you can’t be happy alone than you’ll never be happy with a partner. You need to find happiness with yourself before you are in a good place to be with someone. If you are fully embracing a life you love then I believe the right person will come to you but changing who you are or what your dreams are to be more appealing as a marriage partner will only lead to unhappiness down the road.

 

Being true to yourself is a form of rebellion in a society that expects us to conform. 

Ladies and gentlemen remember to stay true to yourself. Pay attention to people that bring the best in you and seek similar values in a potential partner. Marriage shouldn’t be the end of your dream. I hope the rich experiences of these women have inspired you. Feel free to share your thoughts and your stories in the comment section below.

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Marriage her dreams

 

 

 

 

 

2019-02-19T07:27:10+00:00February 12th, 2019|HGT Explorers|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. damecacao February 17, 2019 at 3:43 am - Reply

    This is beautiful! Thank you so much for giving a voice to extraordinary women.

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