Where are you from originally, and why did you choose to leave your home to travel?
I was born and raised in a very small, peaceful town in Bangladesh, a country just east of India. I chose to leave my home to travel because I was thirsty to explore new cultures and learn new things. For me, traveling opened up new perspectives on life.
How have you designed your life to include travel as a core part of your lifestyle?
Four years ago, I started a school for children living in the slums near me in Bangladesh. These children are between 7-15 years old, and before going to the school I started, they lived a life of begging on the street or drug dealing, often battling addiction.
I was disturbed by seeing young children kicked and mistreated on the streets and I wanted to help however I could, so I started an awareness club and donation drives at my school.
In my first year, my friends and I taught five students basic academic skills, literacy, and how to make a living. Since then, over 200 students have gone through my program.
Now I am a social worker who educates orphaned street children in different communities, and traveling has become a major part of my lifestyle. I spend one third of each month traveling in remote areas of Bangladesh.
Currently, I’m researching ways to create work opportunities for my students in exchange for education. My vision is to create a sustainable education program that can be used globally.
What is one key lesson you’ve learned from living in another country?
I lived in India and in the USA for a long time. While staying in these places I got the opportunity to meet people of different classes, castes and cultures. From these diverse experiences the key lesson I learned is that a place becomes more beautiful when you realize that most people are warm and helpful.
What is your dream trip?
My dream trip would be a solo trip traveling around all the nicest remote places of India. I am not a fancy trip-taking person. I love facing tough, adventurous, real-life related challenges while traveling.
On my dream trip I want to live in the most remote villages of India. I want to live in small cottages made of straw without any technology and electricity. That way, I can enjoy both the enchanting local culture and the raw, beautiful nature at the same time.
What would you be doing if you hadn’t started traveling?
If I had not started traveling, my life would be totally different. I could have ended up as a timid housewife at the age of 23!
Can you share one thing you do to be more adventurous in your everyday life?
I am an adventure-loving person. In my everyday life, I explore a different route on the way to my destination or I talk to at least one stranger on my way to work. These small actions help me keep my adventurous nature alive every single day.
Think back to before you took your first trip abroad. What was the biggest thing holding you back, and how did you overcome it?
The first trip I took was when I was only twenty years old. I went to India to attend a camp. I was the only girl in the group and the other people were total strangers at the time. I felt very uncomfortable and scared at first, but I truly wanted to experience a different culture.
In Bangladesh where I grew up, girls are not allowed to travel alone or with strangers, so it was a big challenge for me to start. I was concerned for my safety, and I lacked confidence in whether or not I could actually reach my destination.
While I was traveling I felt the huge contrast in cultural practices between the different countries I visited. I’ll admit, I was scared. However when I started to talk to people I realized that we all are same inside, which helped me to overcome my fear of the superficial differences.
How did you explain to your parents and friends that you wanted to leave them to travel?
My parents were both very worried for me, of course, and my friends were anxious about my safety. I sat and talked with them about how traveling helps us to open up and connect with our soul. Convincing them was not easy, but I used a very open, honest approach. It worked, and I left to start my quest!
You say you were scared to travel. How did you build self-confidence?
I was very scared, true, but when I started to do small things independently (like finding the gate number at the airport or booking my own accommodations) I started to trust myself. I would even give myself compliments when I successfully did something new. This helped me overcome my fear and boost my confidence little by little until I was just fine on my own.
Esrat (aka Eve) was born & raised in Bangladesh and completed her degree in finance at the University of Dhaka. She is a Watson Scholar who dreams of a world where everyone has free access to education as well as to a better life. She is working to empower street children out of poverty by leveraging education. Today, she has reached over 200 slum students with her literacy and basic skills training, and hopes to build out a work/study-exchange model to give her students work experience. To get involved, email eve.karim[at]watsonuniversity.org
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