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The Ten Best Quotes from Intrepid Women Travellers

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Timing is everything, and timing was on my side when I happened to be home in Penang when the “Zafigo Talk: Intimate Conversations with Women on Travel and Culture” was on as part of George Town Festival.

The talk was moderated by Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, founder of Zafigo.com, a new website to cater to women travellers in Asia and the Middle East.

“It started out as an idea – it was my first trip to Pakistan and I didn’t know how to dress for a meeting and I couldn’t find anything online. Over the years, I thought about the things that affect women: safety, culture, social etiquette. The information out there was mainly about Western women.”

So with business partner James Chong she started Zafigo.com in 2015. “Women love to travel because of low-cost airlines. Now they have the income and they love to talk about it.”

The panel comprised Anita Ahmad, travel blogger at Travel & BE; Zainah Anwar, leading feminist activist; Sasibai Kimis, founder of EarthHeir.com; and Priscilla Patrick, producer and Head of Traffic Information at Star Media Radio Group.

They covered a lot of ground, but these were the 10 quotes that stayed with me.

1. “Never let anything stop you from travelling.” – Priscilla Patrick. She survived the Sri Lanka tsunami in 2004 because she couldn’t swim. “Those who tried to swim drowned.” She was carried away by several waves that hit her and when she came to, she found herself close to the tops of palm trees and clung on. “There’s that 20% extra animal instinct we all have to survive.”

2. “It made me grow up, respect people and cultures, and I learnt travel is not about places and destinations, it’s about journeys.” – Priscilla, who’s travelled to 50 countries and just returned from Antarctica.

3. “Once you get behind the layers of security, you find an incredible oasis of tranquility.” – Zainah Anwar, co-founder and former executive director of Sisters in Islam (SIS) on travelling in Afghanistan.

4. “I felt safer in Ghana than in KL.” – Sasibai Kimis. A social entrepreneur who founded EarthHeir.com in 2013 and whose vision is to raise Malaysian artisanship to a level that people in London and New York would aspire to own and collect, Sasibai lived in Ghana for two years. “My parents were shocked but thankfully they didn’t stop me. As a woman, if anything happens to you in Ghana, the men protect you.”

5. “Living in Ghana made me realise how little I needed, how few material possessions I needed around me.” – Sasibai on what life in Ghana taught her.

6. “If you don’t get out of your comfort zone, you will never understand humanity.” – Anita Ahmad, who’s spent the last 14 years working in the humanitarian and social development field, and who has so far travelled to 50 countries. “I like to travel to dangerous places.”

7. “If you are a happy person, happy things will happen to you.” – Priscilla on travelling with an open mind and no expectations.

8. “I read Lonely Planet so that I don’t go there.” – Priscilla on what guidebooks she uses.

9. “Technology has made it so much easier for women to travel and go off the beaten track.” – Zainah, describing trips made using Waze and Google Maps.

10. “My three favourite travel websites are Booking.com, Airbnb and Skyscanner.” – Marina when asked what websites she uses.

Penang-born Yeoh Siew Hoon is the founder of WIT, a media and events company specialising in online travel. She loves to write and she loves to travel. And oh yes, she loves gadgets.
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