As a child growing up in the eighties, I never really enjoyed traveling. I preferred to stay at home and play with my toys or read books for leisure instead. Traveling often made me physically sick due to motion sensitivity, and I also got nervous at the thought of changing dwellings and being around strange new people.
Nevertheless, after school resumed past the annual summer vacations every year, I would wistfully listen to some of my school mates describe their vacations in exotic-sounding foreign destinations that they had visited. I had reached the age of 8-9 without ever having been on a plane.
All that has changed now. Unlike most young people, who want to fully experience life’s adventures before settling down, I had always wanted to get married and start a family first, while young, and then travel the world (with them). I am fortunate that my plans matched those that Allah had for me.
Nevertheless, when my two older children were babies, I wouldn’t dare travel anywhere with them. Just thinking about it stressed me out, but I did know that that phase wouldn’t last forever. I knew that one day, they’d be out of diapers and off my lap. And I dreamt of going off on a plane (with them) once that day arrived.
And our first destination together, insha’Allah, would be the house of Allah!
A Burdensome Necessity, or Welcome Break?
Traveling has changed a lot since my childhood, in a good way. Now, we have so many tools that can help us make the most of any trip. Be it a short or long getaway, for business or pleasure, on a budget or luxurious – now travelers can easily avail many resources that can help them make the most of their journey.
More importantly, using these tools and resources to plan your trip beforehand can save you a lot of trouble and hassle that can add to the stress and fatigue incurred during traveling. Some great examples of these tools are:
Google Maps, to help you navigate your location and movement (on your smartphone); reliable travel websites that allow you to explore the tourist-to-do’s of any destination in advance; plastic money that allows you to shop and book via debit card (internationally); and app-based taxi services that allow you to summon an affordable ride within minutes (in other countries).
However, let’s be real. When traveling is done as an enforced obligation, it is usually not enjoyable. Many husbands and wives usually say goodbye to leisure traveling almost as soon as their honeymoon is over. It is then back to school, the office job, the domestic routine, having babies, and fulfilling other obligations. Between studies, careers, and raising a family, they have little spare time to enjoy themselves as a family, let alone get any exclusive “me time”.
Date nights have to be meticulously scheduled between work and school commitments. As for traveling, it is merely squeezed in as an unwanted but necessary part of making annual trips “back home”, which usually involve staying at parents’ or in-laws’ homes. Mostly, these trips include a chaotic family wedding or two, which are obligatory to attend, like it or not.
Where to Stay?
Nowadays, hotels and airbnb have made staying anywhere so easy. You can plan ahead by exploring your options online, according to your budget, and even book a property in advance using a debit card.
When I was growing up, however, this was not the case. Only expensive hotels and guest houses existed, and the food they offered was not good. Also, cultural dictates prevented a traveler from staying at any dwelling besides a relative’s or friend’s home whenever they visited a foreign city or country. This was because staying at a hotel in a city where a relative or acquaintance lived was not just too expensive, but would also be perceived as a rude affront and snub to the latter, spoiling the relationship.
However, since the traveling bug bit me a few years ago, I realized that there is no basis in Islamic Shari’ah for this obligation viz. being obligated to stay at a relative’s home when visiting a city. This is all the more true if the host family does not respect or agree with your religious beliefs and privacy needs, such as observing prayers, maintaining hijab from non-mahram, and sticking to dietary laws (viz. eating only halal food).
Furthermore, staying at someone’s house as a non-paying guest totally kills your independence as a traveler. You are bound to abide by your host family’s schedule and resources, preventing you from exploring the city as and how you wish.
How can you truly enjoy traveling like this?
Therefore, I would like to suggest that if a family truly wants to enjoy a trip, they should shed their self-obligated cultural burdens first, and then plan a trip according to their budget. Keep an open mind and try to make the journey as purposeful and light as possible. You can travel somewhere even for two days, if you are low on money and time. All it needs is a little “thinking outside the box”!
The Best Destination: Allah’s House
Going for umrah is one of the best ways of combining the joys of traveling with spirituality and devout worship. It is perhaps the only journey that a Muslim undertakes, besides Hajj of course, in which each and every step they take, every cent of money they spend, and every ounce of fatigue that they endure, is a means of earning ongoing rewards.
One returns spiritually rejuvenated and totally de-stressed as a result of the break they get from their regular worldly pursuits, routine, and occupation.
The same can be said for other leisurely travels: stop perceiving them as an expense and a risk-ridden endeavor. Go for short hops to nearby, unexplored places, even if for just a weekend. Enjoy food from local vendors. Stay at a remote village or farmhouse, go on morning hikes, grab a bike, climb trees, pick fruits off trees, ride an animal, light a bonfire, row a boat, or trek up a hill.
Just take off and have some fun!