For one Mohammed (Moe) AlSanea, travel is not simply a hobby, it is a way of life. An architectural engineer by education, a project manager by past profession, an artist by imagination, and a storyteller and book designer by aspiration, Mohammed first popped up on our radar years ago. We received a beautifully written story titled “Wisdom from an unwise backpacker” that vividly painted images of the Himalayas in our minds, and we’ve been hooked on Mohammed’s stories ever since then.
In virtually catching up with the avid wanderer (we couldn’t exactly pinpoint where he was at the time of our interview), Mohammed quickly responded when we brought up our very first interaction, “Actually you may not know this, but with the money I received from my previous collaboration with bazaar I paid for one week’s worth of my accommodation when I was in Northern Thailand. Ever since then, the idea of work and travel never escaped my mind. These days, I’m working on a few different projects including the traveler platform 361 while spending more time around Asia (Nepal, India, SE Asia).”
If anything, finding that perfect balance between work and travel leaves us green with envy. But, how does Mohammed identify with traveling? Even though he’s not the biggest fan of the sky, and doesn’t have the intention of traveling and exploring every single place on this planet (we’ll see, this bazaar editor personally sees Mohammed exploring other planets one day), Mohammed does believe in staying put in one place for as long as possible. He does this so he could absorb the small nuances that are innate to the daily lives of the locale he is visiting, “I am drawn to the culture, and to travel overland (I am actually typing this on an overnight train from Padang Besar, Malaysia heading to Bangkok, Thailand). I also use travel as an opportunity to challenge some of my fears that I’ve accumulated over the years.”
When it comes to the travelers’ platform, 361, Mohammed wanted to help establish a space for fellow Arab travelers who “like to push themselves outside the norm when it comes to ‘travel’. The platform shares their stories and experiences with the community.” 361 was actually founded in 2013, after he returned from a long backpacking journey that completely transformed his outlook on life. He said that it “left me in a different place than where I was when I first embarked ‘unknowingly’ on it. It may have been that feeling of nostalgia that people get from writing a journal or telling a story that led to initiate an intimate gathering of a group of travel friends, here in Kuwait, to share our different encounters and experiences.” Growing more popular with the utilization of social media, 361 is continuously evolving, and is now a printed publication to keep!
Being publishers ourselves, we gleefully gushed when we heard Mohammed’s take on print, “There is something magical about holding a book or a magazine in your hand (but make sure to reuse, recycle or share!) that any social media platform won’t deliver.” The 361 team created a travel publication that showcased everyday stories about life and culture from the perspective of Arab travelers. Travel is always an entirely subjective experience, and even if you were to repeat an exact itinerary presented by a guide, your experience would be inherently different. Mohammed further explained, “We want Arab travelers to tell their personal experiences and allow the community to draw their inspiration from within its own.” From there, Mohammed established Kunnasha, a publication design office, with Alaa Al Terkait, and through it they oversee the design and management of 361. But he credits the platform and publication’s success to the continuous efforts of their team of travelers, editors, photographers and designers. He stated, “We hope to continue producing a publication dedicated to share personal travel stories from Arab travelers. We also hope to be able to support Arab travelers, traveling on a budget, as writers, photographers, or illustrators.”
Before we rushed off to find ourselves a copy of 361’s most recent issue, we stopped to ask Mohammed about his most memorable travel experience, in hopes of gaining some inspiration to finalize our own summer plans. Once we got on the topic of India, however, there was no stopping him. He began by saying that he was especially fond of Sikkim, India, “[Sikkim is] a district that’s nestled between Bhutan, China, Nepal and India. It actually became part of India in the 1970s. So, what happened was that I took an overnight train from Kolkata to Siliguri and from there a long adventurous ride to Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. I didn’t know then that foreigners are required to have a permit, obtainable at the borders, to enter the district.”
He continued, “In India, I was always mistaken for a local, so when we were waved to pass at the border (which is more of a bridge with a small office rather than a physical border) I thought this was a regular checkpoint for drug dealers or something which was common in Asia. You can imagine my shock and panic, when I was asked to present a permit at the guesthouse I planned on staying at! Anyways, the whole thing was clarified on the way out and they were friendly enough to laugh about it. Although, I was encouraged to exit the way I entered—a mute local traveler.”
While his droll anecdote is symbolic of how Mohammed truly feels about this part of the world, he’s at ease with himself the most when he’s in Asia, “South East Asia, specifically,” he added. But if you were to straight up ask him for advice on where to go wanderlusting this summer, Mohammed wouldn’t usually suggest a destination, but rather an experience. He exclaimed, “I was blamed once for suggesting a honeymoon destination, so what excites me wouldn’t necessarily excite you! I would suggest to do something different and to experience a new culture. Ah, and to go solo. But if I must [suggest a destination], I would say Bagan in Myanmar!”
Until we are able to pinpoint this wanderer next time, we leave you with more tidbits below from this backpacker’s mind, and we hope you get inspired to share your own 361 experience!
Up close and personal questionnaire
What do you most value in your friends?
Sincerity and a non-judgemental attitude.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
A day that starts with a purposeful task and ends with family and friends (This day takes place anywhere on earth).
What is your greatest fear?
A life wasted.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Judgment and gossip (with conviction.)
Which living person do you most admire?
I admire few people for different reasons.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
What is it that you most dislike?
Bargaining (but only because I had to do it today and I don’t like doing it).
Which talent would you most like to have?
That of a talented author and something else that I will keep to myself.
If you could have any job, what would it be?
Anything that allows me creativity, mobility and has a good purpose.
What would you consider your greatest achievement?
I am not sure really. Maybe overcoming some of my fears.
What is your most treasured possession?
You are determined to test my indecisiveness! I have to think about it.
Where would you most like to live?
I am not sure yet but I see myself somewhere between here and South East Asia.
What are your favorite words to live by?
Live and let live. I don’t have a favorite, but it’s the one that came to mind and I truly believe in it, and I hope that I exercise it too.