The Feature

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter is Travelling the World Solo as a Niqab-Wearing Muslim Woman

Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

– Ibn Batutta

There’s something breathtaking about arriving in a new place. Feelings of enthusiasm, novelty and adventure all blend together to create a feeling that simply can’t be described. One of the many pleasures we are encouraged to enjoy as Muslims is to travel the length and breadth of the earth and see the wonders of creation. But very rarely do we see Muslim women solo backpacking across continents. There are most likely an array of reasons behind it, but whatever the case, it appears that Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter has fearlessly chosen a path that’s less trodden as a Niqab-wearing Muslim woman.

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter is a digital content creator on a mission to see every single country in the world. She avidly trots across the globe; along the way sharing stories, pictures and tips on her Instagram page and Youtube for anyone wanting to travel the world solo. TMWT had a chat with her and here’s everything she had to say:

TMWT: You have travelled to 24 countries around the world. At what age did you realise that you had been bitten by the travel bug? That travel was a passion for you?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: I realised I caught the “travel bug” after completing my study abroad program in Florence, Italy, at 19 years old. Italy’s geographical location allowed me to travel to different countries each weekend so seamlessly as if I was going to the next town! I couldn’t fathom that I was casually finding flights to countries such as Spain for 15 euros.  Since my first solo travel experience in Italy, I still have the same urge and passion for finding an affordable flight and exploring a new country.

TMWT: The two biggest factors holding Muslim women back from travelling are finance and safety. Did you ever face these limitations? And what would be your advice to Muslim women who love to travel but are hindered by these limitations?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: There has been a time where a particular hotel I dreamed of staying in or a specific excursion I wanted to experience was out of my means. But what I love about travel is that you can tailor your stay within a particular country to your budget and still have a phenomenal time. I never felt unsafe in a specific country I travel to, Alhumdulillah. I would advise Muslim women to tailor a trip around their budget. There are many resources online that will help you find affordable accommodation such as, Airbnb. You can also find fun discounted excursions and activities on Groupon. The more time you prepare for a trip, the more money you will save. Although I love travelling alone, group travel with friends, family and parents is also enjoyable. I feel safe and at peace during travelling by adding more forms of worship to my daily routine. If you can pray more voluntary salats, constantly make Du’aa for travelling mercy and don’t forget to do your morning and evening adhkar. Even though you may be far away from home, I recommend maintaining a firm connection with Allah.

“Do they then not travel through the Earth, so that their minds gain wisdom and their ears thus learn to hear?” 

– Qur’an, 22:46

TMWT: What kind of traveller are you? Are you more of a minimalist backpacker or a luxury traveller?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: I’ve had the pleasure of having an extremely tight travel budget that only permitted me to stay in a $15 a night hostel and have experienced luxurious stays at 5-star hotels. There is beauty in both.  Luxury travel offers a level of comfortability that budget and minimalist backpacker travel could never provide. But minimalist backpacker travel provides a sense of authenticity and realism to the country that is hard to find in the luxury travel space.

TMWT: How many continents have you covered in your travels, and which destinations were the most memorable?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: I have been to Asia, Africa, North America and Europe. However, my top three favourite and most memorable countries are Italy, South Korea and Morrocco. I lived in all three countries and spent a considerable amount of time diving into the culture. These countries offered me the most sense of peace, comfort and adventure.

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter

TMWT: Being a niqab-wearing Muslim woman travelling the world solo, did you ever face any pushback from your family and people within and outside the Muslim community? 

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: I never faced any pushback from my family. Of course, my spontaneous travel plans leave them a nervous wreck, haha, but they are very encouraging and inspire by my travel passion. There are not many travelling Niqab-wearing women who documented their travels on social media. So far, the feedback has been amazing; people in the Muslim community are inspired, supportive and want me to keep doing what I am doing, Alhumdulillah.

TMWT: How far do you think travelling has changed you and your view of the world?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: I always say, “each country holds a piece of you waiting to be discovered, and travelling is the key.” All 24 countries I either lived in or visited for a short period have exposed new personality traits in myself, revealed specific weaknesses or difficulties, and allowed me to reflect on the impact I have on other people’s lives. The world’s beauty reminds me that paradise is a million times more beautiful, which helps me stay grounded. Travelling helps me see the world as a global family, and we should be kind and loving to one another.

TMWT: What advice do you have for Muslim women who are considering travelling for the first time?

Kiyonah Mya Buckhalter: Go for it! Ask Allah for your safety and have fun. Don’t let the fear of being a Muslim minority stop you from enjoying a country. Keep up with your worship and let your presence in that country be a form of dawah for the community.


TMWT

TMWT is an online media platform spotlighting the stories of Muslim women of the past and present. We aim to be one of the most authoritative and informative guides to what is happening in the world of Muslim women. We hope to cover key issues, spark debates, progressive ideas and provocative topics to get the Muslim world talking. We want to set agendas and explore ideas to improve the lives and wellbeing of Muslim Women.

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