Maria Soomro has traveled solo around the country since the pandemic began. This 30 year old from Karachi traveled the country and is interesting to see that in the current scenario of women feeling unsafe all over Pakistan, she managed to hitchhike across Pakistan alone. She uses Instagram and Youtube to provide instructions on how to travel solo as a woman and records her travels.
Maria was working in the banking sector after completing her education. Her job allowed her to avail 40 days of annual leave which she utilized for traveling. However, Maria felt incomplete, as if something’s still left to be done.
Last year, while doing a stable job in the banking sector, Maria Soomro decided to act on her gut instinct and leave behind the routine of her daily life to follow her dream of hitchhiking across and the stereotypes in our society.
The thought of spending time doing what she genuinely loved rather than sitting behind a desk made Soomro realize that it’s high time to make her dreams come true.
“I opted to turn the documenting of my travels, which I had been doing since 2015 on Instagram (@MariaSoomro_) and eponymous YouTube channel, into my full-time job.”
“I wasn’t fully able to immerse myself in enjoyment or the experience,” she told Arab News over the phone while traveling through Gilgit-Baltistan. “When I travel, I go to remote villages, off-the-beaten-path type places and get to know the locals, actually spend some time understanding where I am and who I am surrounded by. Five or 15 days don’t allow for that.”
Soomro started off with her hitchhiking journey in March 2020 during the pandemic. Women who have hitchhiked has been very rare in our country in the past but women today are totally different than the ones before in terms of social independence which a great change.
She shares that her hitchhiking adventure has allowed her to meet over 300 people and she maintains, contact through social media with all of them.
“The more people you meet the more stories you hear and the more people you can share your own story with.” she said.
Earlier last year, girls were feeling unsafe in Pakistan, especially since the rape cases had been reported in the news. However, brave Maria decided to take a risk and traveled the entire country on her own. We love how this woman set an example for many girls out there who have the same wish in their hearts as Maria’s.
She also mentioned:
“Budget traveling is my focus. The largest chunk of your budget ends up being spent on accommodation and transportation, and both of these things can be covered when you’re hitchhiking. This is a shortcut to get to know local communities, be it Pakistan or another country. When you ask for a lift, you get a special introduction to their home, their points of view, and you learn from them,” she said, adding that one can build contacts as a bonus who can be assets to solo travelers.” said Maria.
Soomro further added;
“My advice to Pakistanis who want to follow into my footsteps would be to take time to understand this kind of travel first and do not go straight for hitching,” she said. “Travel in groups and learn the areas you want to visit, know how roads work and, like any other passion, take time to educate yourself.”
Rather than asking for help or for a lift, she has taken each ride as an opportunity to let people learn what hitchhiking is exactly and why is she traveling throughout Pakistan. When questioned about how secure she felt while solo traveling, Maria said she follows “her gut instinct, assessing each ride” but also emphasized on the importance of “being prepared,” and taking precautions for self defense such as carrying personal protection equipment like a cutter, knife and a pepper spray.
Maria also stated that before following her footsteps and heading out to explore the country alone, one should travel in groups first and learn all the routes, roads and areas across the country. She said that one should take time to educate themselves in this regard.
“There are very few people who follow their passion in the world, and I am one of those crazy people since I thought I could do it,” said Maria. “I am a free bird and travel is a part of me. I can’t imagine my life without this.”
This woman has inspired so many of us. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments.
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