In a world where people choose not to explore the traveller inside them out of fear of falling behind in their careers, where to carve out an acceptable space you change everything in yourself, Rehnumah Insan chose to experience life in her own liberating way.
Rehnumah Insan, popularly known as ‘The Travelette’, is a social media blogger and a diligent lawyer. Her presence influenced thousands of women to write, live, travel and most importantly normalise equality.
She won netizen’s hearts with her photo album ‘Around the world with my hijab’ in 2017 where she shared exquisite pictures of her adventures. Currently, she has over 83,000 followers on Facebook and is gaining more and more popularity on Instagram as well.
Rehnumah was born and raised in the UK. She graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Durham and then completed her Masters in Law from Newcastle University. Currently, she is working as a Policy Advisor for the UK Civil Service. Her hectic life, along with dedication towards social media, begs the question: does she consider content creation as a hobby or profession?
“I think it can be both. A lot of people from this generation actively want to pursue content creation alongside their careers as a way of journaling their hobbies and interests. I’m one of them,” she answered.
“I personally would be hesitant to leave my full-time career to become a social media blogger at the moment but in the future if I decided to monetise my travel blogging, I would consider making blogging a full time occupation,” she added.
Since childhood, Rehnumah has been fond of travelling. She started travelling solo and then with friends once she started university. She then discovered her passion for photography and travel blogging.
“My parents used to travel a lot. I remember looking through all their albums and staring in awe at all the beautiful places they had visited. Instead of insisting on visiting back home every year, my parents always encouraged me to explore a new country or even just a new city,” Rehnumah reminisced.
When asked about her Bangladeshi roots, she shared how her parents actively encouraged her to follow Bangali culture.
She is able to speak fluently in Bangla and read as well. Even during her wedding she was immediately drawn towards her husband due to their mutual connection with Bangladesh.
She said, “However, as I grew up, I realised my parents taught me about our culture selectively. For example, they always encouraged me to focus on education and the importance of having a career so that I could become a self-made woman, who would never have to depend on anyone else.” There are so many stigmas against women travelling and parents are unfortunately one of the major constraints. However, Rehnumah got lucky.
“Both my parents taught me that I don’t need a husband to fulfil my financial needs or dreams. I can do that myself. But I need a man who I can love and share my life with, and depend on emotionally. This made sense to me,” Rehnumah said.
“I don’t think I’ll ever stop travelling. I would not be me if I didn’t travel. I would become a reflection of something else,” the travel enthusiast added.
Becoming an influencer might be easy nowadays but very few people are as down to earth as Rehnumah. Her social media posts portray the reality of her world more and less of her sponsored contents. Although her contents are mostly travel related, she wants to explore critical issues as well.
For instance, her followers wanted her to address issues such as the stigma surrounding women travelling and conventional thoughts regarding women’s lifestyle. So, she started to engage with people in serious discussions through her Instagram stories.
“Travelling as a Muslim woman or travelling in Hijab is a very important topic for my followers, particularly for women from South Asia. I am very keen on encouraging these conversations through my posts and stories, which also helps me learn what my followers want to see from me as a blogger,” Rehnuman said.
Rehnuman has visited almost 39 countries around the world. She has recently travelled Malta after international travel restrictions were lifted in the UK.
When asked about her favourite travel experience Insan shared a story reminiscing her trip to Norway.
“I was in Bergen and it was a very windy day. As I was wearing my hijab, I could not stop it from getting blown away by the wind. I was worried it might fly off completely. So I set off to find a shop from where I could find some safety pins but since Bergen was a completely new city for me I didn’t even know where to search!” Rehnumah shared. “Then I saw this woman rush out of a jewellery store towards me. She handed over a whole set of safety pins and told me that she saw me walking for the past few minutes and could see you could use some pins for your headscarf! So there you go. Don’t let horror stories and negativity stop you from seeing the world – there are good human beings everywhere,” she added.
Insan has a verified profile on Facebook and quite a good number of followers. We asked her about the inception of her journey.
“When I first opened Instagram, I was mainly sharing bits and bobs from my life. I found it boring, so I stopped posting on Instagram altogether. I then developed an interest in travelling and after almost 2-3 years of travelling and building a portfolio I decided it was time to share my stories with everyone else- until then I was only sharing photos on Facebook but nothing with depth.” In 2017, one of her albums called ‘Around the world in my Hijab’ went viral. I wanted to know why this title was important?
“The album gave me the opportunity to show that a girl can travel around the world whilst maintaining her religion and culture. In a world where travel blogging is such a westernised concept, you can be comfortable in your own skin colour and style of clothing when travelling,” said Rehnumah.
“As a hijabi traveller, I have experienced minor forms of racism like nervous glances, change of seats etc. but nothing that has left an unpleasant memory. I’ve had more positive experiences because of my Hijab with people coming over to just talk about my faith and culture and I’m extremely glad I have been given the opportunity to do this,” she added.
When it came to discriminations against women and stigma surrounding women travelling, Rehnumah had taken a clear position, As she said,
“I think as a society and as members of a culture or religion, we like to focus too much on what women should or should not be doing instead of holding balanced discussions about both genders. And unfortunately the problem starts with parents discriminating between sons and daughters whereas in today’s day age women have better educations, better skills, better careers, better salaries,”
Addressing those parents, Rehnumah said, “Make your daughters competent and not dependent.”
Finally, we asked her for advice for the people who share her wanderlust.
“Just step outside the house. Literally, one small step and the whole world is open to you. For those who are new to travelling, start with exploring your own city and then your own country and then the rest of the world. Overcome your insecurities within your comfort zone first before you risk going into the unknown.”
“And of course do not compare your travels with others. Create your stories and albums and they’ll be the best! You know why? Because they’re yours!”