GoBeyond.SG team recently chatted with Yasmine Khater, a marketing and lifestyle coach. She founded Transpiral, a business helping women launch their own businesses. Yasmine is only 28 years old but she has travelled to more than 40 countries and has even said her piece at TEDxWomen - an offshoot the famous TED series. We find out more from her about the insights she has gleaned from travelling and tips she has for the wanderlusters out there. Interviewed by Melissa Lim, Carolanne Chan, and Rayan Tan
Yasmine, tell us, what inspired you to travel?
When I was young, my mum would always tell me stories about her travel and about places she went to. In college, my number one priority was to travel and when I came across AIESEC and realized that “I can travel to over 90 countries? Game on!”
I’ve discovered that learning is always part of traveling. Like when I was in Estonia, I was on an internship with 15 people from 13 different countries. We had breakfast together in the morning, and I’m like, “You do WHAT for breakfast?” Everybody had their breakfasts differently, looked at their day differently and worked differently.
Traveling is also such a humbling experience. You are exposed to such rich cultures and meet so many different people everywhere.
The more you travel, the more the idea of traveling changes. Now, every trip for me has been a challenge. For example, I went to Borneo and climbed Mount Kinabalu. I went to Kenya and climbed Mount Kenya. Before that, my travels were all about visiting and going for weddings.
You apply in life what you learn in your travels. It’s about trying to get to know your real self. Traveling helps you find the thing that makes you, you.
Were you fearful about traveling to such far off and developing countries?
I was very keen on traveling, so fear was not an issue.
The first country I chose to go to was Ghana, a country in this big blob called Africa. My father thought I was joking when I told him I wanted to go to Ghana. He told me, “You’re 17. You are not going to Ghana. You are going to get malaria there and die.”
A lot of times it’s about convincing your parents that you are not going to die, so it’s more of allaying your parent’s fears rather than your own.
I only started to feel scared when I got on the plane. I never did any research and Africa was a huge question mark to me! But I really learnt so much. Turns out, Africans are super uber friendly, like to a crazy extent.
How many countries have you been to?
I’ve been to over 40 countries. It’s my goal to visit every country in the world. I believe that if I want to see every country in the world, I can.
And it’s not crazy. I saw 10 countries last year! I spent about between 10 days to 2-3 weeks at each location. A lot of people think traveling is very expensive. But if you put aside 100-200 dollars aside every month, you could probably go on a trip every four months! Saving for travel is really not that hard if you put in the effort. The best thing about Singapore is that our currency is strong, so the cost can be (relatively) cheap.
You have travelled to and lived in many places, which country do you call home?
I am a Singaporean. Traveling is something that I have to do, but now it’s Singapore that I call home. My mum’s Singaporean and Dad’s Egyptian. I lived in Egypt before this and just came back after living in Spain for 3 years. I got back about a week and a half ago and will be staying here indefinitely. I’m looking to build my business and buy a flat over the next few years. When you travel, you become so patriotic of your culture and country.
Tell us about your bucket list.
I have a crazy bucket list.
Some of the things I’ve put on my list, I’ve accomplished. I wanted to speak at a TEDx conference – I did that last year. I wanted to run my own business. I am doing it right now. I want to travel to three countries in one day, I did that in Europe this year.
When you travel, you will realise that everybody has their own dreams. For me it is about an adventure.
How do you find places to go to, to eat, etc?
It’s really easy! You have to know that there are tons of information and websites online. For example, there is couch surfing, which is amazing, also Meetup.com. You have people meeting up for coffee and then showing you around. They also have events and I will be like, can I join you guys?
What are some travel tips?
Use Dropbox! I put in scanned copies of my passport, IDs, visas, insurance, numbers to call, all my documents. So no matter what happens, I can still access them anywhere!
Bring some common sense: Before you go, find out tourist scams and things you have to be cautious of. I’ve never been robbed – it’s just about being alert. It’s not like in Singapore where it’s overly safe, like I can leave my bag at Starbucks and it can be okay. Don’t walk down dark streets at night. Ask the locals which neighbourhoods are dangerous and avoid them; don’t be afraid to ask people. They also have things to share and learn from you.
Pick up some local language: Some important words for traveling include “Hello”, “Toilet”, “Thank you”, “Where is..?”, “How much..?”
What’s your most memorable experience so far?
It was in Kenya, in a safari where I saw so many wild animals, and they were free. It was amazing because my whole life I only saw animals in cages. At the safari, we were the one in the cage! Because the animals are supposed to be free. To me that was really important. Like how you see things. It’s never 1 +1=2, or black and white. Perspective can be shifted depending on where you are.
What is your most important advice for GoBeyond.SG’s readers?
The most important thing is to dream. Dream, and be very clear about where you want to travel to and what you want to do or who do you want to be.