Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission

Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
1 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
2 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
3 / 12
Photos of Haifa Beseisso around the world.
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
4 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
5 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
6 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
7 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
8 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
9 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
10 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
11 / 12
Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission
12 / 12
Updated 26 August 2016

Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission

Haifa Beseisso: A global citizen on a mission

As a Muslim and Arab woman traveling the world, Haifa Beseisso is breaking stereotypes and boundaries in the eyes of many who are unfamiliar and perhaps oblivious to the realities and lives of Middle Eastern women following their dreams. Armed with her hunger to learn, Beseisso quit her 9 to 5 job to pursue her passion. One year later, the vlogger, traveler, YouTube personality, fashion designer, and MC, has turned her passion into her career and her career into her passion. Like a modern day Ibn Battuta, Beseisso travels to different countries to explore, experience, and immerse herself into the essence, color, and life of each destination. She invites her followers and subscribers to “Fly With Haifa” as she documents her journeys, adventures, and new acquaintances. What separates Beseisso’s adventures from the rest is her emphasis on revealing the oneness of humanity, our common hopes and dreams, and that what brings us together far outweighs our differences. In each country and each city she visits, she asks the same question to people, “What is your dream?” The answers she receives are uplifting, touching and inspiring.
Born and raised in Dubai, UAE, 25-year-old Beseisso explains that the desire to explore the world was actually fostered in this city, “I got the love for being and feeling international from Dubai. It is such a diverse place. This is where I learned how to interact with people from different walks of life, and I developed a hunger to continue.” The filmmaking and media graduate of the American University in Dubai, has explored countries such as South Korea, Japan, the Maldives, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Turkey, among others. Since beginning “Fly With Haifa,” she has sampled local delicacies, captured the reactions of South Koreans tasting Arabic food for the first time, flew down the longest zip line in the world while in Nepal, tried her hand at being a shepherd in Jordan, visited her homeland of Palestine for the first time ever, as well as conducted a social experiment in Italy called the “I am Muslim Experiment.” With her bubbly and animated personality and unique and original sense of style, “flying” with Haifa is an eye-opening and enjoyable experience as she shows us the world so to speak, passes on her insights, and gives tips and travel advice. Arab News asked Beseisso to share her story and some memorable moments and experiences she has come across on her adventures.

After you resigned from your job to commit to your dream of traveling the world, you shared this announcement publicaly. What type of feedback or reactions did you receive?
The reaction I found from people was honestly unexpected. I didn’t expect that this video would click with so many people; it is like it hit on a nerve that was hidden. Apparently, a lot of people have so many hidden passions and want to do so much in their lives, but they feel stuck in a certain routine. So, it was really inspiring to see how much people want excitement, and it was mind blowing. It made me think: “Really? There are so many people feeling stuck in their jobs?” Of course I’m not against having a job, not at all. Quite the contrary, it’s amazing, it’s healthy, it’s growth, and it’s sustainability, but I just like to encourage myself and others to try to make a passion out of their careers. My family was very supportive; now, they always gather around and watch my videos on big screens and televisions. Friends were as well, but I’ve lost some friends who perhaps thought what I’m doing is crazy. However, I gained so many more friends who are so very supportive.

How many countries have you visited so far? Also, how do you choose the places you visit?
I have visited around 25 to 30 countries. Sometimes trips come to me, and sometimes I go to them. For example, I got a call from my friend to volunteer in Zanzibar, and I said to her “OK, lets go!” Sometimes I get an offer to go MC a show, event, or fashion show in another country (because I’m also an MC). In addition, I’m a voice over artist, so sometimes I get job offers abroad. So, work calls me to travel to different places, sometimes I get invitations to visit, or if I feel like visiting a place, I will work hard to make it happen. Thus, it’s a bit of everything.

When did you begin identifying as a global citizen?
I think I began identifying as a global citizen as a kid, when I realized that I love diversity in people. I don’t only get along with people who look like me, speak the same language and dress like me, I love everything and everyone to be different, and traveling only feeds that little seed inside of me.

One thing we take away from your videos as viewers is the realization that no matter the language or location, the answer to “What is your dream?” (Despite having some exceptions and variations of course) is almost universal. Were you expecting to come across that commonality?
First of all, I love asking it, because it allows me to get into the inside of a person, the beautiful part that is dreaming and wants things, and their eyes shine when I ask it. This question, unlike any other question, makes their eyes shine bright and emotional as they remember so many things, which tells you so much about a person. It also tells you about the country. So, it was very interesting to ask that question and how it reflects on the situation of the country. There were very similar and very different answers. Also, there were very inspiring answers, depending on the situation. However, the common point is that we are all human and we all want to grow and want what is best for our loved ones, the world, and us. I also found that a lot of people want to travel the world, it’s a very common dream.

When you meet heartwarming people such as John, the street sweeper in Vienna, or Eisa the young Syrian boy in Istanbul, do you consider it a responsibility to share their stories with the world?

I love this question so much. When I meet people like John and Eisa, I feel like I need to share them with the world, so the world may learn so much from them. When I meet these very inspiring people, I call them the hero of each country, and I personally learn so much from them. Something I’ve learned through my travels is that being poor is being poor in the heart and in the mind, its not being poor in a material sense. Therefore, I don’t feel sorry for people we traditionally consider unfortunate, I feel sorry for people who have everything yet are ungrateful. Maybe at some points, that was me, so I try to learn so much from these people and when I share their stories its for them, us, and everyone to learn from.

Each trip must have its own highlight or special moment, which stand out for you the most? In other words, do you have a favorite moment, encounter, or event?

My trips have had so many favorite moments, and a lot of those favorite moments are when I actually sit down and have some coffee or a latte. After a crazy day that was filled with filming and activities, sitting with someone and being able to look him or her in the eye and have a beautiful conversation over a latte, is my favorite part. Also, I love meeting that one epic dreamer that just blows my mind and heart away, which makes all this worthwhile.

As a designer, how much have the places you have visited impacted your fashion sense and style?

As a designer, I like my designs to be filled with color to be conversation starters, a fact that I love. Depending on where I am traveling, the colors might vary, so sometimes before traveling I prepare some outfits that are inspired by the feel of the country. Moreover, I’ve learned from my travels to combine pieces that I have collected from my trips. I’ve also learned that it is helpful to make double-sided “bishts,” because as a hijabi, we have so many layers to wear, and that can take a toll on luggage, so this helps in terms of lessening weight.

Has it been difficult for you to dispel any misconceptions about Arab and Muslim women when you encounter them on your travels?

Actually, it is not difficult for me to break any stereotypes while traveling because sometimes simply a smile can break down walls or barriers. I believe that when you smile so many great things happen and you can wipe away so many stereotypes. As does starting a conversation. I have noticed that people are much better than we assume. From all the negative things we always see in the media, we might think people are very negative, but they’re actually quite the opposite. I am surprised and overwhelmed with the amount of kindness and love that I encounter on my travels. For example, my “I am Muslim Experiment” video was an amazing experience. I held a chart in the middle of Italian streets, and I asked people to fill in the blank after this statement: “I’m Muslim and that makes me…” It was an Islamophobia experiment, and the results were wonderful. Someone gave me a flower and there was so much love in this person’s eyes.

With all of your experience traveling, what are some packing tips you can share?

Believe it or not, although I travel so much, my packing skills are lacking! I take so much with me, because I love clothes and accessories. But, I’ve learned to take the essentials like medicines for if I have any allergies, wet wipes, sanitizer, batteries (I have so many batteries for my camera). I have a passport wallet; it expands, which helps a lot, so I use it for my passport, boarding passes, and SIM cards. A travel wallet is very helpful.

Are there any updates or upcoming trips you can tell us about?

We have been getting so many requests from people to go to Morocco, so we want to try our best to make Morocco happen. I will be planning for the coming months, and hopefully afterwards more things will come our way!

“Flying” with Haifa is worth your while, and you can do so by subscribing to her YouTube channel (Fly With Haifa), liking her on Facebook (Fly With Haifa), following her on Instagram as well as Twitter (@FlyWithHaifa), and Snapchat (FlyWithHaifa). Watch her as she makes connections around the world one smile at a time.

[email protected]