GVS: You have achieved quite a lot at such a young age, what struggles did you face in the journey to become your own boss?
Safaa Rauf: My age was the biggest factor that kept me away from big projects, big multinationals and executing everything that I had the knowledge of but people just saw me as someone young and inexperienced. So, being young in the business industry didn’t bode well for me. It was really hard to make people look past my age.
I had worked for 6 years, when finally at 25 I started my own company and having a female boss wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. They just saw my age and my gender both as something that discouraged them to give me a chance. So I continued to defeat age and gender barrier to be successful and changing mindsets one client and one organization at a time.
GVS: What inspired you to come up with the name ‘Safaa in Transit’?
Safaa Rauf: That’s a very interesting story. Because of my work, I had to travel a lot locally, a lot of Islamabad, Lahore trips from Karachi. My grandfather who used to travel a lot as well for his own work used to bump into me at the airport but he always referred to me as his ‘transit love’.
He’d always meet me at the airport in transit time and called me his transit love. So when I was deciding a name for my travel blog and my screen name, I just kept it ‘Safaa in Transit’ because it reminded me of my grandfather. Secondly, I believe transit is not just between different countries or airports, it is about life itself.
We’re all in some sort of transit either we are between friends and jobs or any kind of place in life, so Safaa in transit means that I’m on a continuous journey just like any other person.
GVS: Are you a backpacker or a long term traveller?
Safaa Rauf: I wouldn’t call myself a backpacker ever. For example, I went to Europe for 10 days and had a 30kg suitcase with me and everyone kept wondering why, why i had so much luggage, but it’s because I take my entire life with me everywhere.
So I need my clothes and my work stuff. All my trips are like business and pleasure both. I’m working in the day and in the evening I get out to explore and sightsee. For me, it is just living from a different place. So I wouldn’t call myself a backpacker ever.
GVS: If you could go back in time and tell young Safaa one thing about travelling, what would it be?
Safaa Rauf: I would tell the 10-year-old Safaa who wanted to travel the world just by watching shows on TV that “you will get to do it definitely so don’t ever doubt that. It is going to be more magical than you imagined it to be. You are going to see all the luxuries of the world that you can afford and you will independently learn about each country and culture of the world.”
GVS: Your travel photography is very creative, who takes your pictures?
Safaa Rauf: I actually have never travelled with the same person twice so it’s never somebody constant who is taking the picture. So I just ask a professional photographer for help or ask a co-traveller to take the pictures. I like to click what I see. I don’t like to make it unnatural.
People like to photoshop people out of their shots or they remove little nuances about the place. I think that it’s the reality if you travel you’re not going to see a famous fountain without a bunch of people, so I keep my photos very real and I feel like reality is much better than we understand it to be.
GVS: What’s the one thing Pakistan has in terms of Tourism that other countries lack?
Safaa Rauf: I have travelled across the main cities of Pakistan because of work, such as Multan, Faisalabad, Islamabad, Lahore, Murree and a little bit of the north side because of my work. Other than that I haven’t explored many cities and I stay away from northern areas because I have massive motion sickness and whenever I do go up north, I pop a sleeping pill.
I would love to explore the Balochistan side because that is something so under index right now I would love to go there. Each city is so unique in its own identity. For example, when you go to Lahore everybody is laid back. In Islamabad people keep to themselves. In Karachi, everybody is so oriented with business.
In Multan, everybody is all about food and hospitality. Every city is so different that you can’t judge Pakistan based on one city. For any foreigner coming to Pakistan, I would suggest going to different cities. So you can see how different we are culturally and habitually. We are a very welcoming people, with a vast variety of cuisine to offer to different countries.
GVS: Your favourite Pakistani street food?
Safaa Rauf: My favourite street food would be everything. Growing up eating street food, I’ve never been that sort of a person who cares about hygiene. I love biryani, nihari, bun kebab. You can name anything that the streets have to offer and I’ll be a fan of it. I enjoy spicy food and street food really symbolizes spice.
GVS: What’s your favourite travel memory from overall?
Safaa Rauf: I have one from Pakistan and one from my international travel. I was very young, when once we were travelling from Karachi to Lahore on a train. That was the first and only time I travelled on a train and it was very odd for me to see a vendor going around the station offering people hard boiled eggs as a snack and I was like eggs are ‘snacks’?
Which city are we in? Why are they offering eggs for a snack? This would be a very distinct memory for me understanding that hard-boiled eggs are also snacks. Internationally, I went to Amsterdam very recently and I tried the dorm life which is very different from the way I actually travel.
We were a couple of friends and we thought we could stay in a dorm and get in touch with other travellers and take it from there. When we got to Amsterdam it was very hot and there were no fans or ACs. Which was very weird for someone from Pakistan because we have an AC and fan in every room no matter where we live. So within an hour, we checked out.
GVS: What places do you look forward to exploring in the future?
Safaa Rauf: I think the USA is a very big country on my bucket list. I haven’t ever been there. I want to do a month long trip where I explore different parts of the US. Not just for Instagram but actually explore what different foods they have, what kind of weather, what they like to do for fun, what are the people like? I think the USA is definitely on the bucket list for this year.
GVS: Do you have any funny travel stories?
Safaa Rauf: About 6 months ago I was on a train to Rome from Milan. Fifteen minutes since I got on the train, I realized I didn’t have my passport. And as a travel blogger, nobody would expect me of all people to forget something like a passport. No courier service was willing to send it to me.
I called the hotel I stayed at in Milan and found someone who spoke normal English. They found my passport in the safety deposit box in my room. The problem now was, they weren’t willing to give it to anyone other than ME. And so I had to go back to Milan the same night.
I woke up at 4 am booked myself a train went to Milan, got my passport and came back to Rome in the next 3 hours. It was the worst but it was also very funny as my mom keeps telling me that how are you going to be a travel blogger if you are not going to remember where your passport is.
GVS: If you could time-travel (past or future) to anywhere in Pakistan, where would you go?
Safaa Rauf: About six or seven days ago I was going through my mom’s old pictures. She showed me pictures from the times when there were actual clubs in Karachi, women smoking. It was very fascinating that Karachi was once so liberal. I would love to travel back to those days when there were clubs, visiting foreigners and hippies, to experience that time in our country. But only if it doesn’t change my present of course. I would never change my present.
GVS: Tell us 5 things people need to know about business class travel?
Safaa Rauf: Complementary services. Getting yourself priority boarding, lounge experiences, personal chauffeur. It’s all so worth it. It’s a good way to keep someone travelling business class.
People don’t know this much that BC comes with a lot of complementary services. It’s addictive. Once you’ve flown business class, you won’t be able to sit in economy class and you’ll want to upgrade. It feels like Royalty.
GVS: How do you budget your trips?
Safaa Rauf: The number keeps on changing depending on where I’m going or for how long but I like to spend more on my hotels compared to any other expense such as the food I eat. Because for me great hotels set your mood for the whole trip. Because I spend most of my day in my hotel working so I definitely invest in it.
I make sure to try different kinds of food, one fancy meal in the day or one meal from a street vendor in a day. I like street shopping from whatever is locally manufactured. I like to buy local and go to local cafes so generally, I don’t keep a number in my mind I generally come back with an empty bank account.
GVS: What message would you like to give to the young female entrepreneurs of the country?
Safaa Rauf: There’s so much potential in female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. Every woman out there, I think should start her own business. I would like to tell these future boss babes that don’t let the gender bias around you hold you back. Being a woman is an honour and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. You can face any of the challenges you’ve got as long as you are determined that you want to achieve your dream.