A month ago, three of my friends planned a trip to Cox’s Bazar. They decided to take a night bus. It was a pretty simple plan that should have been easily executed by any adult but I ended up not going because I had no way of explaining to my parents that I was going to travel, at night. by bus to Cox’s Bazar with three other girls even though I graduated from college with a full time job.
The above situation is not uncommon for any woman with an urge to travel living in Bangladesh. Many have had to bury their desire to travel into the unknown while others, who have the privilege of being able to go abroad, have done so as an alternative. And this is another common theme that I encountered while writing this article. Most of the parents who protected girls wishing to travel to Bangladesh easily allowed them to do so outside the country.
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Nonetheless, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be alone in nature or explore a whole new place on my own.
Afra Nawar, an engineer working for a Bangladeshi mobile financial service provider, shared her experience of traveling the country alone for the first time.
âI have traveled abroad a lot as a solo traveler, but since Covid-19 hit and international borders became prohibited, I started to travel inside the country as an alternative,â explains Afra. Her journey began after meeting hikers through social media groups who like to think outside the box in Bandarban.
âMy first trip was to Nafakhum and Amiakhum in Bandarban. The whole trail consists of various mountain lakes and you climb mountains and rocks to reach a beautiful waterfall. It takes 7-8 hours of trekking to reach Amiakhum. the first trip turned out to be ok, it made me feel comfortable and prepared me for my next ones and I ended up doing three more hikes inside Bandarban and even camped at the top of Marayan Tong on a freezing December night, which was still a whole different experience for me, “she explains.
Now most of the time people ask, “Why do women need to travel alone?” You could just travel with your family, right?
In response, Iqra L. Qamari, a junior consultant working for the Public Private Partnership Authority Bangladesh, explains: âWhen you travel with your family, more often than not you are in some form of supervision. It is liberating for me to travel alone. or with my friends where I can be myself. “
She then shared an experience. The place she is talking about is the waterfall called Hum Hum, also known to locals as Cheetah Falls, located in the Rajkandi Forest Reserve in Kamalganj, Moulvibazar District.
âThe waterfall is a five hour hike so you are ideally supposed to start at dawn. But we started the hike at 2 pm. From the two paths to the waterfall we took the scenic with small waterfalls along Of the way. On our way, the waterfalls created slides and huge puddles where we sat pretending to be in hot tubs. It was beautiful. By the time we reached the waterfall was twilight. Now in this situation, if we were with our parents, there would be explosions and they would have panicked. But, my friends and I were relaxed and we were enjoying the trip. As it was dark, we lost our way back but we still enjoyed the adventure. We thought it was a very rare experience, “recalls Iqra.
She added: “We understand very well that it was a risky situation, but it was a very memorable experience. When we found our way home, we came out of the forest with torn sandals, ant bites. fire and leeches stuck to our bodies. “
However, this is not to glorify travel within Bangladesh for women, as the adventures are not without risks and safety concerns.
âOn our overnight trip to the island of Saint-Martin, my friend and I were the only passengers on the bus. Right after getting on the bus, we both became very stressed. We were two girls traveling alone. at night. We could feel other passengers judging us and talking about us, which was quite unpleasant, “said lawyer and lawyer Anupoma Joyeeta Joyee, while recalling her first experience of traveling alone with a friend in Bangladesh.
âAt one point, when we were at a stop, after we had finished our dinner and got on the bus, one of the male passengers had his phone pointed at us. It was clear he was taking our photos. When I confronted the person he denied it and said he was actually talking on the phone He responded to my accusation with a loud voice and most of the passengers sided with the man. I realized that the more I argued, the more I would increase people’s hostility towards me and so after a while I had to resign, “she said.
Either way, this experience didn’t slow down the journey for any of them and upon reaching the resort at their destination, the duo were beyond ecstasy.
âI understand that everyone will have different degrees of difficulty on a trip to Bangladesh, especially if they are traveling alone. When we were in St. Maarten on the first day, we were so happy and satisfied with ourselves to have did this. It was an experience of a lifetime in the sense that we were always told that traveling alone as a woman in Bangladesh was not possible, but we did. feel empowered, âJoyee commented.
Now, thinking back to my broken plan for Cox’s Bazar, one part of me wishes I had taken that leap, while another part of me is fully aware of the security issues that are troubling not only my parents, but myself as well. The injustice of the situation where I have to consider so many things to embark on an adventure here is clear to me and all we can hope for is that in the near future we can all get on the buses. and trains to discover the world regardless of our gender.
Tasnim Odrika has only one personality trait and that is cats. Share ideas for new personality traits with her at [email protected]