Interviews

Interview with Dame Traveler Alaa Razoky

Thanks so much for chatting with us today! Could you tell us a little about your story and what you do, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet!

Hi there, my name is Alaa Razoky. I was born in Baghdad, Iraq and before the age of five, I had already lived in three continents and four countries. Maybe my love for the world started even before I knew it. I am 44 (as of August 29th). I was a teacher for 14 years, then a real estate broker and now I do a little bit of both remotely. I wasn’t always a traveler. In my 20’s, I saved for three years to take a big international trip (about three weeks of travel). As I became more financially stable, the trips increased. The turning point was when I was 33 years old and living my best life in New York City. I told myself that if I wasn’t married by 33 and looking to start a family, I was going to truly enjoy my life and really TRAVEL THE WORLD. I left NYC, moved to CA, where my family is, and started to plan. In the fall of 2010, I went to Belize for a week, came back home for 36 hours and turned around and headed to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji for five weeks. That was the beginning of my crazy travel life. Then I decided to set a goal: seven continents before I turn 40. Even though I had hit North America, Europe and Asia already, I had to touchdown on all seven in the seven years until my 40th birthday. Let me tell you this, there hasn’t been a goal I have set that I haven’t met. Two weeks before I turned 40, I touched down in the US after spending a month in Africa. That was continent #7.

Tell us a bit more about the trip that changed your life

Africa. I love that continent so much. I spent a month in Tanzania, Zanzibar (Tanzania), Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. Aside from the amazing safaris, it was the people and their lives that touched my heart the most. I was in the land of extreme poverty and the highest rate of disease but yet I encountered the kindest, bighearted and happiest people in all my travels. It confirmed that you don’t need much to be at peace, to be content. I know they struggle daily but they smile, they enjoy barefooted dances in the streets and small gatherings among those they love and cherish the most. The farthest thing from a spoiled society but yet they know how to find a little happiness in everything that they do. They have a special gift and I don’t think this is something you can encounter unless you step foot onto this continent.

What has been your favorite destination so far and why?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer. How about a list my favorite city and /or country in every continent? Obviously that’s hard for Antarctica but I can do the rest. Here goes:

North America-New York City, USA: I have loved this city ever since I was in high school. I’m sure a lot of people fall in love with NYC even before stepping foot so I was no different than most. However, I spent my early 30’s living in the Big Apple when I was financially stable and could truly live it up in NYC. Anything you want to do you can do in New York. Best years of my life. I would not rule out moving back there sometime in the future.

South America-Buenos Aires, Argentina, known as the Paris of South America, BA has its own charm. The food is unbelievable, the people are kind, the city is beautiful and very fun. One thing you won’t see a ton of in BA is designer stores because of a tax placed on imported goods. It makes it more authentic than most cities. c) Africa-Serengeti, Tanzania-Animals, animals, animals. The number of animals you see in the Serengeti National Park is unbelievable. What’s even more wonderful is how protected this land and its inhabitants are. It’s a different side of Africa and it is amazing!

Australia-Whitsunday Islands, Australia-Imagine sailing for three days in the Great Barrier Reef amongst the Whitsunday Islands. We saw so much daily but the most spectacular sight, other than an abundance of coral underwater, was the stop we made to Whitehaven Beach. It is the WHITEST and SOFEST sand you will ever step foot on. It was pure heaven.  

Europe-Paris, France-I mean, it’s the city of love. It oozes romance, beauty, love, style and class. Yes, the French have a reputation for being rude but they’re not all like that. I have been there three times and I never get bored or sick of it. I love the language (studied nine years when I was schooled in Canada but far from fluent), the food (escargot and beef tartare), French wine and seeing a metropolitan city light up at night. I just love everything about Paris!

Asia-Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam-It’s hard to imagine that this city in a communist country that endured such brutality in the Vietnam War is as amazing as it is (be sure to learn about the war when you’re there). The food will blow you away, the city has views that are beautiful from many directions, it’s a bustling city, lots of markets and shopping but most importantly, the kindness of the Vietnamese people just warms your heart.

Through your experiences, what has travel taught you? What lessons does travel bring to those who experience it?

Travel has taught me that we are incredibly lucky and blessed in the US. When you see how others live, how little they need to get by and how they truly survive on the necessities, it is quite amazing. It has caused me to not live lavishly and constantly purchase things I don’t necessarily need. I am more humble because of this and I have chosen to help people around the world.

Have you ever faced any hard circumstances or issues as a female traveler? 

Once I was followed by a man in Italy. It was in a busy area so initially I didn’t know if it was just a coincidence or if he was really following me. I kept looking back and he was still there. I would dip into a store and as I walked out, I saw him waiting and then continue to follow me. It wasn’t until I ran into a store and pointed the guy out that the man took off running and I never saw him again. Another time La Paz, Bolivia, I was told never to hail a taxi on the street and never to walk at night. I followed those rules. Recently in Quito, Ecuador, I knew two people who had been mugged. Having this information, I decided to get rid of my purse and put my ID, credit card and money in one pocket and my cell phone in another pocket. If they didn’t see me physically carrying anything, I wasn’t of interest to them.

 Other than that, I follow warnings and guidelines while traveling in all countries.

What piece of advice would you give to women who would like to travel but are afraid to? 

It’s one of the best things I have ever done in my life. I have met tons of friends who I see occasionally, have met men that could have been potential mates, learned so much, more than a textbook could teach me, and can do what I want when I want without having to worry about someone else. If you worry about being lonely, you won’t be. The people you meet along the way will be more than happy to do things with you.

Why do you think it’s important for women, specifically, to explore the world?

I am a very independent woman and I believe that’s an important characteristic in females. If we follow the traditional path in life such as school, marriage, kids, we get so wrapped up in working and taking care of our family that we rarely have time for ourselves. I see it a lot in women who took this path. How wonderful would it be to have the freedom to travel, see the world, experience the globe for yourself before you settle into domestic life. To me, you’ll look back and be glad you did that before you made the huge commitment to do the other life events.

Fun fact

One thing I have been doing is buying gems from locations that mine them. So far, I have a tanzanite from Tanzania, a ruby from Vietnam and an emerald from Colombia. I then have them set when I return home and the result is amazing. I will send you pictures of those as well.

Also, I take all my own photos. I don’t have any formal training. Sometimes I get lucky with great shots and sometimes I don’t. I don’t journal when I travel as I feel my photos tell the stories I want to tell. With that said, I started an Instagram account @missworldwide that showcases my photos, gives a brief description and certain posts are connected to some travel writing I do for a lifestyle magazine, Nspire Magazine, located in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know where this will take me but I wanted to share my joy of traveling with others around the world and hopefully inspire women to travel solo to find themselves, find happiness and true contentment.

 

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