Najmun Nahar has been bitten by the travel bug. Her wanderlust has taken her to 93 countries around the world. I was born to travel,” she says, adding that she mostly goes solo on the sojourns.
This Bangladeshi woman in 2016 and 2017 alone visited 35 countries. These include Brazil, Argentine, Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Paraguay and other South American countries.
Najmun Nahar lives in Sweden. She came to Bangladesh in December and is all set to take off with her back pack in February, heading out for Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and other Central Asian countries.
This intrepid traveller visited the Prothom Alo office on 14 January and spoke at length about her travels.
She points to a picture of Moon Valley, 134 km away from San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. “It is said astronauts come here before going to the moon and carry out research,” she says. Its rugged bare terrain certainly resembles the moon surface.
She points to another picture on her smartphone. This is Peru’s Machu Picchu ruins. Then there’s a picture of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni where the sea has turned into a solid expanse of salt.
Her smartphone is full of such interesting images. It’s a virtual travelogue in her hands. She puts the phone aside to tell her tales of travel.
The world in books
Najmun Nahar had always been a bookworm and had a special penchant for travel books.
Her home was in Laxmipur and it was there she went to school and college. She would love the Masud Rana spy thrillers and would wander off, in her mind, to faraway cities and islands. “It was books that injected wanderlust into my veins,” she says, “I had read Syed Mujtaba Ali’s ‘Deshe Bideshe’ and other books which inspired me to travel.”
In more recent times she has enjoyed reading Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’, Eric Weiner’s ‘Geography of Bliss’, Susan Roberts’ ‘Almost Somewhere: 28 Days on the John Mayer Trail’, Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’, as well as several travel blogs.
Her father Mohammad Amin has been an important inspiration too. He encouraged her in all her ventures. Her seven elder siblings were supportive too. “I wouldn’t merely dream,” she says, “I would plan on how to make my dreams come true. You have to establish yourself if you want to travel and I endeavoured to do so.”
She has worked in Swedwatch and has done other part-time jobs. She uses whatever she manages to save to set out to see the world. “I may have more money in the future, but I may not have this drive and energy then. That is why I use whatever I can save to take off on my travels.”
In the year 2000, Najmun Nahar was a student of political science at Rajshahi University. It was then that she got the chance to join an international adventure programme, as a member of Bangladesh Girls Guide Association. She led her university’s team on a trip to Panchmarhi, in India’s Madhya Pradesh. Girl guides and scouts from 80 countries of the world gathered there. “It was certainly an exciting experience,” says Najmun, “My first trip abroad!”
That was just the beginning.
Bangladeshi at heart
Having obtained her graduate and post graduate degrees from Rajshahi University, Najmun Nahar then worked for an entertainment magazine. In 2006 she went to Sweden on a scholarship where she did her post graduation on Asian Studies at Lund University. She would work part time too. After saving up over a few months, she took a trip on a ship to Finland.
She sometimes travels alone, sometimes with friends and sometimes to attend conferences in various countries. No matter where she goes, she always carries with her a small green and red flag of her beloved homeland Bangladesh. She proudly tells everyone she meets, “I am from Bangladesh.”
Najmun mostly travels solo. She stays at youth hostels in some countries where she meets tourists from all over the world and makes friends. So as she visits various countries, she gets to know all sorts of people too.
She never feels lonely. After all, she says, “I travel to lose my way and find a new road ahead, to meet new people.”
Having lost her father, Najmun has taken her mother Tahera Amin with her on several trips. They have visited the Swiss Alps together and been to several places in Europe and America. Between 2011 and 2017, the mother and daughter have travelled together to 14 different countries.
Inspiration Global Foundation
Najmun Nahar plans in setting up the Inspiration Global Foundation. She will visit various schools as well as orphanages where she will tell the children her tales of travel. “People give the poor children food and clothing, I want to give them dreams,” she says. “I want to give them dreams of seeing the world. I have met innumerable people on my travels who have struggled up from extremely humble circumstances. I will use their examples to inspire the children.”
She will make a documentary for the purpose. She already has around 8000 video clips from her travels around the world. She wants to show these to the children so they can see the world beyond.
100 countries at 39
Najmun will be 39 this year. She wants to hit a hundred countries this year, and plans for her hundredth country to be in Africa. “I have hardly been to Africa and so I have my eyes trained on South Africa now.” Here comes the century!
* This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo Bangla print edition, has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir.