Venturing to other parts of the world has always fascinated me. We are all human and yet our way of life differs so dramatically depending on our place of birth. Traveling overseas to countries that are incredibly different to the western world have a way of opening up our minds and teaching us things that we could never learn without experiencing it ourselves.
While I was traveling throughout Europe there was always a certain sense of familiarity. While each country differs slightly, it was fairly easy for me to get around and to understand the intricacies of the cultures. I did not stand out too much because for the most part, I looked like just like everyone else (minus the turtle-like backpack which symbolised my status as a foreigner).
Exploring Asia is a whole different ball game. The fascinating thing about this continent is the vast differences in the local cultures compared to my own. Every country in Asia is incredibly diverse and beautiful in its own way.
The place I found most culturally different to my own was when I travelled to the island of Java in Indonesia. While it was an incredibly beautiful and fascinating place that is rich with culture, I found it to be one of the most challenging places to travel on my own as a solo, female, foreigner. I discovered a whole new way of existing in a space that was unfamiliar to me.
It was a rather peculiar feeling being the only white, female foreigner in a Muslim majority country. The hauntingly beautiful call to prayer echoed from the local mosque five times a day and nearly every female strictly wore a hijab in public. I quickly learned to cover up any exposed flesh so that the attention from the locals could be slightly alleviated. Indonesians are incredibly curious about bule (foreigners) and most feel no shame about staring at you, initiating conversations and asking for photos with you.
This article by Stephanie Pelser outlines the things every solo female traveler need to know when traveling to Muslim countries so that she may be culturally aware and can experience the local culture in a way that is most rewarding.