Pakistani-American travel blogger Nabila Ismail is a licensed pharmacist and an engagement marketing manager by day. She’s also the founder of Dose of Travel, a community that empowers South Asian women to travel. The multi-hyphenate talks about stumbling into the world of travel, how it helped her appreciate her South Asian roots, and the countries on her bucket list. By Adila Matra
T+L India: You mentioned that as a South Asian woman raised in a small suburb in New York, you were often embarrassed by your culture and heritage. Tell us how travel helped you change that.
Nabila Ismail: Once I started traveling, I started to experience new and beautiful cultures. I met people from all over the world, heard different languages and started learning Spanish, ate new food. I started to reflect and found that I was appreciative and fascinated by other cultures, which allowed me to find beauty in my own. I’m so grateful for my heritage now, I find it so beautiful and spend time learning more about it and embracing it.
T+L India: You are a licensed pharmacist as well as a content creator in health tech. How and when did you become a travel influencer?
T+L India: What kind of traveller are you? Do you go by a fixed itinerary?
Nabila Ismail: I’d definitely say I’m a spontaneous traveler. I like to have an overall plan or strategy, but otherwise, I just wing it. Now that I’ve been traveling for 10 years, I feel really comfortable booking a flight and then figuring out the rest later. I typically travel alone and just take a backpack. I prefer to travel for long periods of time, venture into local communities and off-the-beaten paths but I have my bouts of luxury travel too, where I stay in nice hotels, and bring a lot of luggage. So, I can do it all!
T+L India: Which has been your favourite destination so far and why?
Nabila Ismail:Ahhh, this is such a difficult question! Each destination and trip has a special place in my heart because it’s always a learning experience and I’m incredibly grateful for each one. I’d say Easter Island is the most unique and remote place I’ve been to. It was so surreal. I also really enjoyed my time in Cape Town. It’s absolutely beautiful and I could definitely live there.
T+L India: Which South Asian countries have you travelled to?
Nabila Ismail: Unfortunately, I haven’t made it over there as nearly as much as I’d like to. My number one is to go back to Pakistan to see my family but also to spend an extended amount of time in the country where my family comes from.
T+L India: From the time you began to travel until now, have you seen an increase in the number of South Asian women travellers?
Nabila Ismail: I haven’t come across many during my travels but the few that I have met have been in the last few years. I know there are South Asian travellers out there, we just haven’t crossed paths. I do think there aren’t as many though but I’m building a community to empower more South Asian women to travel more. I have a Facebook Group called South Asians Who Travel and we have nearly 1.5K members since I started it this year.
T+L India: What are your bucket list destinations?
Nabila Ismail: I really want to go to the Carnival in Brazil, I want to experience Holi in India, and otherwise, I’d love to visit Australia, New Zealand, and Croatia!
T+L India: Any interesting travel anecdote you would like to share with our readers?
Nabila Ismail: I feel really grateful that I was able to be an au pair twice. I lived with a family in Madrid, Spain for 3 months in 2013 and in 2015, I moved to wine country in Northern Italy and was an au pair there. Being able to live with a family and integrate into their lives was such a unique experience. Another one of my favourite experiences was going to Zimbabwe for one of my pharmacy rotations. I spent six weeks in Harare, Zimbabwe learning about healthcare, HIV/AIDs, and I volunteered at hospitals, and clinics, and got to learn so much. It was like studying abroad but without classes.
T+L India: What is your advice to solo women travellers?
Nabila Ismail: Prepare and have a plan before you travel. Notify your friends and family of your location. Invest in pepper spray, portable battery pack, and other tools for your safety. Make copies of your photo ID, have multiple forms of payment, and don’t keep them all in the same bag, and trust your instincts. I also recommend joining Facebook groups or travel apps to get tips from locals and expats, local news, and general advice.