Photo courtesy of Menna Shahin
CAIRO - 25 April 2017: Travelling has taught Menna Shahin a lot of things. It has taught her about different peoples and cultures, it has taught her to think out of the box, but most importantly, it has taught her to be completely independent.
“I think I’ve managed to convince my parents that I’m strong and independent. When my car breaks down, I have an accident, or have to have surgery, I do it all on my own. My parents still worry about me, but they can also see that I’m able to do these things on my own,” says Shahin.
At the age of 29 Shahin has travelled to more than 20 countries and 30 cities, and she documents it all on her Facebook page She-Travels. But the purpose of the blog is not just to share photos, tips and interesting destinations with the almost 140,000 followers.
“I started the Facebook page about two years ago, after I managed to convince five or six girls to go travelling on their own. I wanted to reach even more women and inspire them, so that’s why I created the page. Travelling makes a huge difference in my life, and I want other people to go explore and have amazing experiences too,” Shahin says.
“I think it’s also important to get the message across that travelling isn’t just for pleasure. When you go travelling, you become more knowledgeable, you learn to think out of the box, and you become more open-minded when you meet new people from different cultures. It’s a mistake to think that women only go travelling to take pictures and post them on social media, because there is so much more to travelling than that.”
But it’s one thing to encourage women from her own generation to explore the world on their own and quite another to convince the generation of parents to let their daughters go solo travelling.
“At first, my dad wouldn’t allow me to travel. He refused the whole idea of me travelling on my own. As a family, we had travelled once to the UAE, and that was all. So I began changing his mindset to convince him to let me [go off alone],” says Shahin.
Her first solo travel was a Euro trip to Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Italy and Spain at the age of 26. To pay for it all Shahin worked a lot and saved every penny she could. Of course, her father would never agree to finance her journeys—and Shahin wouldn’t let him, even if he had offered to. And so Shahin quickly became a master in travelling on a budget.
“I’ve done everything I could to save money while I travelled, couchsurfing for example. I still do it, even though I’m more financially secure, since it’s a good experience,” Shahin says.
The solo traveler grew up in, graduated from, and has worked in Cairo, but last June Shahin moved to Dubai where she’s working for a pharmaceutical company.
“I like the UAE a lot. It’s a different culture than Egypt, and I’m learning a lot living here. I’m living on my own, which I haven’t done before, so it’s a good experience for an Egyptian girl. I’m responsible for everything myself, so it’s totally different than from living in Cairo.”
Aside from her 9 to 5 job, Shahin works with travel agencies to arrange “girls-only” trips. This is another way of encouraging women to travel and a method of getting their parents to accept the travelling. Shahin and the agencies also hire female travel guides, who have experience with life coaching to increase the girls’ self awareness.
Today, with more than 20 stamps in her passport and an everyday life 2,400 kilometers away from her hometown, Shahin is slowly changing the mindset of her own parents as well as countless others.
“Today my family is more accepting of my travelling, my mom even encourages me to do it, so I succeeded in changing her mindset. But my dad still doesn’t, although he has accepted that my love for travel is a part of my personality. . . . I’ve already managed to change a lot of minds, and so have other women, so I think in the future it will be easier for a lot of Egyptian women to travel on their own. The next generation will be more openminded,” Shahin stresses.
Aside from independence, travelling has taught Shahin one last thing.
“I regret that I didn’t try to change my parents’ minds earlier, and so I’ve learned that in any aspect of life, you have to take action now.”
Travels and Tribulations
Next up for Menna Shahin is an adventure trip to Iceland and the Faroe Islands plus a trip to South America in the fall.
She does not have a favourite country, but Menna highlights her trip to amazing Vietnam
Follow Menna Shahin on Facebook: @SheTravelsEG