KARACHI: She’s the woman on that red BMW bike, on a mission to show the world what Pakistan truly is. Rosie Gabrielle is one of the latest solo female travel bloggers going viral, but something about her feels oh-so-original.
Whether it’s her “humble” upbringing in Canada, the 10 years she spent living in Oman or her willingness to immerse herself in various cultures, the motorcyclist seems to have a genuine gratefulness for everything around her.
As visa regulations ease and the government attempts to boost tourism, we’ve seen a few ‘foreign sensations’ attempting to debunk stereotypes attached to Pakistan through their travel experiences here. Last year, Polish blogger Eva Zu Beck went viral after her social media posts lauded the undiscovered beauty and heritage of Pakistan.
However, there’s no gainsaying that these tourists don’t encounter criticism. Some Pakistani women have taken to social media in the past to point out that while foreign women are able to roam around the country freely, their experiences are limited in comparison to locals.
While talking to Rosie with a huge crowd waiting to take photos at a chai wala in Karachi, the adventurer talks about her admiration for the people of Pakistan. Oozing with quiet confidence and profound spiritual love for the country, Rosie talks about her transcendental adventures - both, good and bad. She also acknowledges how "blessed" she is to be able to live her dream.
‘The Express Tribune (ET)’: The question you must get asked a lot is why you chosen Pakistan of all places?
Rosie Gabrielle (RG): Pakistan has always intrigued me. A couple of years ago, I did a video series across Oman which went viral. Essentially, it was me trying to showcase what it is like travelling as a solo woman, but more importantly, it is my interactions with Muslims. It is so important in this day and age, especially with all the negativity that the media portrays towards this part of the world and its people.
ET: Why were you in Oman for 10 years?
RG: I started off as a singer there and then I opened my own photography company. Afterwards, I began the video series showcasing my travels around Oman, which was really close to my heart. Muslims from all over the world were thanking me for my positive portrayal of them. It made me see what impact I have with sharing my experiences via social media. I felt like this is what I’m destined to do. Pakistan has such a negative view in the media; therefore I wanted to go and see what I could do.
ET: Has the response from Pakistanis been encouraging?
RG: I have not had one negative comment from any Pakistani. It’s so overwhelming. People can’t stop thanking me. But, I thank them. I feel all the Pakistanis I have met are a model for humanity. It’s heartbreaking because people in the West can be so full of fear and so closed-minded.
ET: Do you think your experiences as a foreigner are different from a local Pakistani woman who is travelling alone?
RG: There are actually more Pakistani women riding than what I thought. I met a bike rider in Lahore; she’s been all over the northern areas. There are schools in Lahore and Karachi that specifically teach women how to ride bikes. It’s so good to see these people breaking barriers.
ET: You’ve been to so many places in Pakistan. Is there one particular moment that really stood out for you?
RG: I have experienced so many amazing moments and have so many incredible stories. It’s not about the place or the country; it’s about the personal experiences. I was riding to Ranikot Fort when my bike broke down just before Sukkur. I didn’t worry. I pulled into a gas station and these gentlemen told me to follow them to the mechanic in the next town. But because it was time for Friday prayers, the mechanic was not there.
By then it was getting dark so the men asked me where I am sleeping. They told me there is a hotel in the next town but I was okay with staying with a family. They invited me to stay in their home, which was filled with their entire family and amazing women. They gave me this traditional dress, taught me their traditional dance and served me delicious Pakistani food. The women insisted I stay with them for two days. If my bike didn’t break down, I wouldn’t have had such a memorable experience.
ET: With Aurat March and International Women’s Day having recently passed, what is your advice to all ambitious women who are eager to explore Pakistan alone?
RG: That’s a tough one because we are from different cultures. Bless my mother; she raised me at a very young age all alone. When I travel, she just prays extra hard for me. Being here in Pakistan, I’ve realised how it’s very hard to tell a girl, “Yeah, go out and live your dreams and don’t listen to your families and live for yourself!” At the same time, I want to advise women not to limit themselves. I want them to go for their passions and know they have the ability to do anything. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, I have health issues and I suffer every day. I didn’t go to university but I had a dream. I didn’t care what it took but I was going to get there, because it is what makes me happy.
ET: Back home, what will you say if you are asked about your trip to Pakistan?
RG: Don’t listen to people! [laughs] Don’t listen too much to the negative media and experience Pakistan for yourself, because you’ll never truly know until you do. You’ll never understand how amazing these people really are. Travel, get out there, meet people and change your perception. I’ve travelled to so many places but Pakistan is simply incredible. It’s humbling and I’m proud.
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