Interview 003: Anora Rahim, Student at Leuphana University.

Anora's Travel Shelf. Illustration by Bryn Beary.

[Note on Interview 003: Anora and I met in Khujand in 2011.  I had a Fulbright Fellowship to study the effects of an entrepreneurship education program in northern Tajikistan.  Anora was the lead research assistant for my dissertation research, and later became program manager for a social enterprise that I launched during my last year at Harvard.  Anora is a student at Leuphana University majoring in International Business Administration and Entrepreneurship.]

Where you'll find Anora these days: 53.5511° N, 9.9937° E

The Interview.

1) What is the most remote place you've ever traveled to?  How did you get there?  (From departure point to arrival.)

The most remote place I’ve ever traveled to was from my hometown, Khujand, Tajikistan, to Beatrice, Nebraska.  To get there, I flew from Khujand to Dushanbe, and stayed there overnight.  The next day, I flew from Dushanbe to Almaty, Kazakhstan and had another overnight stay.  I then flew from Almaty to Frankfurt; Frankfurt to Chicago, Chicago to Lincoln Nebraska.  The last leg of that journey was from Lincoln, Nebraska to Beatrice by car.

2) What are some of your favorite memories from the city in which you currently live?  

Celebrating Christmas with friends and my host family; listening to live jazz; and seeing a live broadcast the English Theater’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” at the Savoy Theater here in Hamburg.

3) What place/s do you get nostalgic for?

My hometown, Khujand, and Chicago.  

4) When you travel, what are your favorite travel essentials? 

Power bank charger for my cell phone; tissues; an eye mask; earphones; books; travel adapter; snacks - usually nuts, a banana, cookies or/and chocolate; pain reliever; and travel-size toothpaste.

5) How much stuff do you usually travel with?  I.e. Do you always travel with a carry on suitcase?  And how do you pack your suitcase/bag?

I usually try to travel only with backpack during short journeys. Before packing I create a checklist.  I put big items first and then my clothes.  I roll my clothes because it allows me to save space and avoid wrinkles.  Last, all items that I use frequently go at the top of my bag.

6) Do you have any specific apps (translation apps, hiking apps, travel guide apps), or a specific phone service (like Google's Project Fi) that you rely on when you travel?

Google translate,, Yelp, Triposo, Hostelworld, and various apps for buying air, train and bus tickets.

7) Do you bring books with you when you travel?  If so, paper or electronic? How many?  How much thought do you put into your selection of books (and/or other reading material) that you travel with?

I bring both electronic and paper books when I travel. Usually, I will only bring one paper book, and up to ten e-books. When I travel, I usually bring books that are easy reads and don’t require in-depth analysis.

8) How do you research/prepare for a new trip you are talking?  What are your go-to resources for planning a trip? Do you type up/print out/handwrite any travel notes prior to taking a trip?

I use internet as my primary source of information.  I try to find hidden places that are favorites of locals.  To prepare for a trip, I’ll make notes on my cell phone and make sure I’ve downloaded an offline map of the city.

9) What is your approach to travel?  That is, do you plan out most of your activities/time ahead of time, leave everything to chance, or do some combination of both?  

It depends.  Usually, I’ll plan out my activities.  But I’ll also get recommendations and suggestions from locals about places to visit and/or events to attend.

10) Do you have a place from your past that you have purposefully returned to, and/or continue to return to, over and over again?

The (now closed) Caribou Coffee near Millennium Park in Chicago.

11) Tell me about a trip you took recently that you enjoyed.

A visit to Bremen, a city located an hour southeast of Hamburg by train.   I met up with an old friend from Tajik State University who was living there.  We went to Mix Markt, a Russian shop, and bought familiar foodstuffs, such as Kirieshki, Rollton, Alenka chocolate, condensed milk; buckwheat grain; and pearl barley.  We had a great time reminiscing about Tajikistan and our friends.

12) What are a few secret/hidden/favorite places in the city in which you live right now?

There is a great jazz bar “Birdland” that has live music in Hamburg. The atmosphere is fantastic! It has really positive vibes and music is outstanding.

13) How does your background affect the way you approach travel/explore our world?

Before I started traveling abroad, I didn’t realize how much we can be prone to stereotypes and prejudices towards other countries.  Living abroad can be a great tool to broaden one’s perspectives.

14) Are there things you collect when you travel to new places?


15) What are a few things you never travel without?

I never travel without my cell phone and laptop.

16) What is one place you haven't been to, but would like to travel to one day?  Why?

I would love to visit Nepal or Thailand.  I’m really interested in Buddhism and would like to study there with an experienced teacher.

17) What is a favorite book(s) (and/or writer) on travel/voyages/exploration/experiencing new things?

I recently read The Beach, by Alex Garland. Living in isolated part of the world and being away from civilization is tempting.  That said, the book doesn’t have a happy ending.

18) Is there a film/movie/documentary that you saw that inspired you to travel somewhere new and/or made you curious about a specific place (building, farm, museum, city, country, region, etc.)?  If so, what was it?

The movie “Wild” made me interested in exploring my inner self through solo traveling.

19) Have you purposefully and/or serendipitously returned to a place from your childhood?  I.e. the home you grew up in, the school you attended, and/or other childhood memory.  If so, describe.  What was it like to re-experience the reference point for a memory?

Two years ago I visited Istaravshan, the town that I grew up in, and went by the school I attended while living there.  Both the town and the school have changed drastically, but I found the people were still consumed with the same concerns: financial stability, upcoming weddings; gossip about the next door neighbor's daughter.  I found their attitude and world outlook frozen in time.

20) How do you stay connected when you travel?

Email, Skype, and messengers like Facebook and Whatsapp.

21) Why do you travel?

Life is short. There are so many things in the world to learn about and to see.  Being in one place too long is a huge waste of time.

Filed under Interviews

a curious person still searching for the poem that Nezami Ganjavi wrote about the prince who toured his kingdom only to find crumbling structures, causing him to reflect on the transience of life.


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