A young woman with a popular YouTube travel channel recounts how her decision to quit her job to pursue her dreams helped her lead an authentic life
I didn’t expect the feedback on the video or the messages from people asking me how I did it; that they wished they could do it too.
It made me realize how a lot of people feel chained to the system, the 9 to 5 one that can silence your inner voices and dreams. These voices questions your desires, make you feel that you’re talking gibberish, that pursuing your desires won’t get you far. Sometimes these voices can be actual ones in the form of society or the ones in your own head.
I know because I pledged to fight these voices.
I’ve always believed that our actions create our lives. What is that propels people to live their true lives? Courage — courage in figuring out what they want to do with their life and then realizing it.
I know because I have done it.
My life at work was about me going to the office, saying hello to the security guard, smiling at everyone I passed but as I inched closer to the building entrance, I felt a sense of suffocation. I knew something was out of place, I wasn’t supposed to be here—I certainly felt that in the middle of a crowded elevator. I felt I had wings and wanted to fly but I couldn’t.
What is that I wanted, you wonder? I wanted to express myself and connect to the world. I wanted to reach the world as an Arab Muslim woman—I had a lot to say—but I wanted a platform.
When I told my work place that I wanted to be a presenter, they expressed reservations about my wearing a veil and said it was better if I remained behind the camera.
I heard this for almost three years. And then I decided that I needed to do something about it myself.
Though I highly appreciate where I was, and all the lessons I’ve learnt.. but sometimes corporate world gets too busy with its own growth that it forgets about the people in it. It is our responsibility to make sure we sustain our own growth.. each in their own way.
Fortune stepped in and I got the chance to travel with a team on a show—and that too, a week before the trip began. I was asked to take someone’s place on the team and it hit me, what if I was to create my own show? If I’m to travel to nine countries in Asia, let me take my camera and film during my free time. I sought my supervisor’s permission, got his blessing and just went for it.
After a brain storming session with friends, we came up with a concept of asking people in every country we visit to describe their dreams.
And that was it—it being the beginning of so many things.
That experience helped me discover people, connect with them; I made friends all over and learned about their values and dreams.
I created an online channel on YouTube called “Be Say So”–now called “Fly With Haifa”—which I funded myself. Friends helped edit the videos and for that I’m grateful.
The Asian trip was the beginning of me asking people about their dreams in Japan and China.
This trip was the start.. I made a couple of videos about people’s dreams around Asia, like Japan and China.
I was getting traction but I still felt something was missing. I wanted the momentum to be faster because I had a lot to prove.
And then, I received an email from one of the biggest online networks in the region, Uturn, saying they wanted to partner with my channel.
That’s when I knew I am ready to go solo, to give all my time to my channel. This was my time to quit my job and follow my dreams. I admit I was fortunate that I had worked two years on my channel and held a job as well as it made quitting easier as opposed to quitting and starting from ground zero. And I’m grateful for the job because I certainly learned many things there.
I was able to create five videos in the two years while I had a job and six months after quitting, we now have 20 videos.
I have made travel videos about Zanzibar, Palestine, London, Bahrain, India, and South Korea–videos which show you each country’s beauty and allows you to meet its dreamers.
We’ve reached milestones too: Over a million views on the channel with more than a 1.2 million views. Videos like “O Jerusalem” have gone viral on various online networks while celebrities have shared some videos.
When you decide to pursue your dreams, you will meet many challenges as you persist in your pursuit of your goals but you will also meet amazing people who will join you on your journey and offer support. In my case, I’ve been blessed. After quitting my job, a production company in Dubai, called to ask about partnering with me which turned my journey into “Fly with Haifa.”
Undoubtedly, the journey to waking up to your dreams is not an easy one, it needs a lot of work both mentally and physically. I’ll probably create a video to discuss this in the future but for now I can say that if I die anytime soon while working on my dream, I will do so knowing that I tried. I am happy knowing I lived it to the fullest, challenging myself and society.