I initially met Zaakirah Nayyar through a Facebook group called Foreign Wives of African Men. Eventually we realized we had other things in common such as our love for traveling and blogging.
We often communicated via Facebook Messenger for about a year before we actually met in person. I was going to Nashville, Tennessee for a conference and knew that we had to meet in person. Zaakirah picked me up from my hotel and we toured downtown Nashville and ate Barbecue for lunch. We had a great time eating and swapping stories about men, our love for travel and the crazy blogging world.
Who is Zaakirah Nayyar?
Zaakirah is many things including a photographer, videographer, social media marketer, social media consultant, content curator and a travel blogger! Not only only does she wear many hats in the digital world she is a survivor. At 9 months old she was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer which resulted in having her eye surgically removed and mild hearing loss. She is an inspiration as she does not allow difficulties to hinder her progress in life.
I was excited to interview Zaakirah about how she met and fell in love with her Gambian Husband Bunja Demba and wed on July 16, 2014 in The Gambia.
Tiffany: What motivated you to pack all your things away and travel?
Zaakirah: My parents instilled in me at a young age that there is the world out there bigger than my own. From the first country I ever visited, Costa Rica, as a high schooler, I caught, what they call the travel bug. By the time I traveled to my fourth country and first African country, Ghana, it was a breeze for me. Because of all the wonderful experiences, I decided I wanted to explore the Motherland more. The Gambia became my second African country and 7th country altogether.
Tiffany: Were you looking for love abroad or was it a natural occurrence?
Zaakirah: It was most definitely a natural occurrence. I had just gotten out of a relationship and moved back home, so I was nowhere near looking for love. I was simply ready to travel to Africa again. We were connected via a mutual friend, whom I was told would be the one to host me. This host (my future husband) and I connected via Facebook before my trip. We had a few conversations before we met each other on Skype. Sparks flew then. Once we finally met in person, the connection extended, especially as he took me around his country to the photogenic places I wanted to visit.
Tiffany: When did you fall in love and knew you wanted to be married?
Zaakirah: I fell in love the moment we first met face to face via Skype. I knew there was something about him that I felt after the call. That similar feeling appeared again when we visited his family home in The Gambia, and I was observing as he was playing with the neighborhood children. He, on the other hand, said he knew he wanted to marry me the moment he met me and he hadn’t felt that way before, like ever.
Tiffany: How have you and your husband adjusted to living in the USA?
Zaakirah: It’s been a challenge adjusting to residing in the U.S. together. He has been here less than five years. This is also his first country away from home, versus me, I’ve been to a little more than ten countries. So, it’s the challenge of making sure he’s comfortable, is alert, educated, and then sit back and let him make decisions, mistakes, etc. all while he is dealing internally with various culture shocks and homesickness and challenges of marriage, can be a lot. But we take it a day at a time.
Tiffany: What advice would you give to a person who falls in love abroad?
Zaakirah: Keep your guard up. Honestly, I think that’s the best thing that I could have done after many relationships and getting my heart broken by life over and over. Because you have nothing but the person’s word to depend on, whether or not the relationship continues after you leave the country, protect yourself. When you keep your guard up, you can keep your frontals on as far as seeing and doing something about the red flags that may appear early on in the relationship to help you decide for sure if this is what you want, because once you get immigration involved, it’s never ending.
Tiffany: What were your family and friends initial reaction after learning about your new found love?
Zaakirah: Originally my family was not fond of the idea of him. To most, he is just an immigrant from West Africa. They were concerned for my safety first and foremost – making sure he was not scamming me. There were more friends that were happy that I was happy, expressed their disdain, but not as much. However, once he arrived in the States and they were able to either hear his voice via phone, chat via text, or even meet him in person, impressions changed. They ask about him on a regular basis now.
Tiffany: What places have you traveled together and what new destinations do you have in mind?
Zaakirah: Our first trip together was to Dakar, Senegal while we were in The Gambia. We have also been to many U.S. cities together such as Miami, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia and Columbus, Ohio. We have previously talked about taking a cruise to the Bahamas together, but I will have to keep you updated on that.
Tiffany: Do you believe that traveling with your significant other makes the relationship stronger?
Zaakirah: In a way, it does make us stronger. It allowed me to learn that he is not my travel companion for international trips due to the very different traveling personalities. Seeing his behavior on this trip gave me a better understanding of how he is in unfamiliar environments and vice versa. Additionally, it strengthens our communication levels, because if we are at all uncomfortable, we only have each other to tell.
Tiffany: Where do you see yourself and hubby in 10 years?
Zaakirah: If God wills, we will be living in The Gambia, West Africa with at least one child.
Tiffany: What would you suggest if people are scared to date abroad? Take a risk or play it safe?
Zaakirah: Take a chance. Life is a risky journey – take those chances. Stay true to yourself and stay in tune to your instincts along the way.
Pondering minds would like to know:
Would you dare take a chance on love abroad or this something that you would never entertain??
Check out the previous post in the Love Abroad series!