This Pakistani woman spent half of 2020 hitchhiking all across the country

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This Pakistani woman spent half of 2020 hitchhiking all across the country

Beginning of the hitchhiking journey

Unlike most travellers, she has been hitchhiking (travel by getting free lifts in passing vehicles) across Pakistan.

Although intimidating and challenging at times, Maria gets a high from hitchhiking.

“Traveling is an indescribable experience in itself but hitchhiking is a life-changing experience that makes you find yourself. You get to meet interesting people from diverse backgrounds who share their life stories with you when you open up to them. At the same time, you save money on transportation while having an exciting and unpredictable travel adventure,” she told Dawn Images.

One wonders how Maria got the courage to leave home – but five years of traveling with groups had given her enough courage and confidence to venture out on her own this time.

Convincing her parents was the first challenge she encountered.

How does Maria ensure safety?

However, while things may have been monotonous for most of us, that’s not the case for Maria Soomro, an ex-banker and a full-time backpacker, hitchhiker and trekker by passion.

After spending years in a bank cabin, Maria realized her calling couldn’t be found behind the screen. She resigned from her job to follow her dreams and soon found out that her heart is on the road.

Beginning of the hitchhiking journey

Just before the lockdown began, Maria packed her bags from Karachi to come to Islamabad and began a journey for the mountains. What sets her apart from the rest?

Unlike most travellers, she has been hitchhiking (travel by getting free lifts in passing vehicles) across Pakistan.

Although intimidating and challenging at times, Maria gets a high from hitchhiking.

“Traveling is an indescribable experience in itself but hitchhiking is a life-changing experience that makes you find yourself. You get to meet interesting people from diverse backgrounds who share their life stories with you when you open up to them. At the same time, you save money on transportation while having an exciting and unpredictable travel adventure,” she told Dawn Images.

One wonders how Maria got the courage to leave home – but five years of traveling with groups had given her enough courage and confidence to venture out on her own this time.

Convincing her parents was the first challenge she encountered.

“They had confidence in me but they were worried about what other people would say and it took a little convincing for them to let me go,” she added.

Another major challenge awaited Maria when she reached Islamabad. “Just when I was about to leave the capital, the lockdown was enforced and I was stuck there exploring surrounding areas like Bani Gala, Barakahu, Shadrah, Chattar and Padhana Village.”

Maria waited till the lockdown eased and ventured up north. She hitchhiked to Nathia Gali and then Miranjani, Mushkpuri, Mingora in Swat to Dir, Chitral and Kalash. She then hitchhiked all the way to the Rakaposhi Base Camp, Astore, Rama Lake, Bulan, Gorikot, Tarishing, Rupal Valley and Nangaparbat Base Camp.

How does Maria ensure safety?

“Hitchhiking is not as risky as most people believe. if you avoid traveling after sunset, it’s safe. I have met some of the kindest Pakistanis during my hitchhiking adventures and have never faced difficulties but it’s important to listen to your intuition that will help you stay away from trouble,” revealed Maria.

When asked how she ensures her safety, she mentioned that besides trusting her gut feeling, she makes sure she has downloaded offline maps with her and keeps a knife with her at all times.