Synergyzer: Traveling as “Uncleji” and “Auntyji” around the world seems like a blast! Can you tell us how this fun persona developed and what inspired you to start documenting your adventures?

Uncleji: The passion for travelling started with me at quite an early age of 3 or 4 in the early 70s, and I got my inspiration from my late Chacha & Chachi. They were as crazy as what I am today. During the 60s and 70s, they travelled 6 to 7 times to the UK / Europe by car and numerous trips around the Globe by air. Whenever they returned, there used to be bags full of toys for us. I used to think that planes were some toy shops or toy factories. My Chacha has this massive collection of their travel pictures, brochures/travelogues, and writeups, which I often borrow to enjoy.

By the time I reached my 6th or 7th standard, I also had this huge collection of brochures and airline timetables that I religiously collected visiting their offices at Metropole Hotel Karachi. I used to learn their schedules by heart, along with the destinations. I always tell what airline is flying above, to what destinations and what meals will be served en route, etc. This was how my passion grew up. Regarding part 2 – I was lucky to get all of my Chacha’s collections & writeups just six months before he expired, which is a treasure for me. 6 years back, when I found this platform, The Travel Diary, I decided to start documenting my travel stories and adventures.

Synergyzer: How do you prioritize and plan your travels, ensuring they don’t interfere with your work and relationship commitments? Any tips for fellow travellers who are trying to strike that balance?

Uncleji: To me, travel is an investment in myself. Initially, at the start of my career, my priorities were always the best education for both my kids, a house, and Hajj. Alhamdolillah, once I was done with everything and saw both my kids well settled, this passion started to grow more within me to the maximum. Alhamdollilah, at 53, I am still working 9 to 5, and God has blessed me with more than everything I have ever dreamt of. I never try to take casual or sick leaves unless they are required on inevitable. I plan in such a way that all my official leaves are utilized. We always plan ahead at least five to six months prior to our travel date. I also try to combine Sundays and official holidays to save my leave quotas.

I would also advise my travel fellows to prioritize their basic needs like children’s education, home, etc., and also try to save a certain amount out of their incoming, strictly reserved for travel.

Synergyzer: Can you share a couple of your most memorable travel stories that truly made the effort and time investment worthwhile?

Uncleji: Each travel is a story itself. My best and most memorable one is the four generations of us travelling together for two weeks to the Far East just three months before my mother expired. Four generations as My mother, me and Auntyjee, both my kids and their spouses and our grandchildren. There can never be any such trip anymore.

Synergyzer: “Uncleji” and “Auntyji,” your travel adventures must have brought you closer to different cultures and perspectives. How has this enriched your life?

Uncleji: Oh yes! Very much. Travelling together to more than 80 countries on a Pakistani passport and to different underrated destinations other than usual, London, Paris, and New York, has helped us learn about different cultures, traditions, values, and cuisines. On the other hand, Auntyji also always try to portray our culture abroad by wearing our dresses, telling them about Pakistan – how beautiful it is and how hospitable we as a nation are. We used to take our kids once every two years during their school and ensure that they visited all seven wonders of the World before their college. Now we also travel with our grandchildren.

Synergyzer: You frequently post on The Travel Diary; how has the online community enhanced your travel experiences, and what kind of support and inspiration have you found within it?

Uncleji: The love and the respect we get from The Travel Diary, who I consider my family (Touchwood). This really encourages me to travel more and write more for their interests and guidance. It is also quite refreshing to note that there are many frequent travellers between 25 years and 70 on The Travel Diary who I call my gurus and follow in their footsteps, which inspires me to travel more. We have also formed a small travel community all over Pakistan for our time to time meet ups.

Synergyzer: Since you are a frequent traveller and have seen the World, what do you think the Pakistani tourism industry should do differently to attract more tourists?

Uncleji: The primary and most important one is that the government should ensure security for travellers, both International and domestic. Ease to travel without requiring any NOCs to certain areas, issues visas without any hindrance, develop infrastructure, protect our historical sites Mohenjodaro, Harrapa, Texila, Lahore / Karachi. Unfortunately, many such sites are now being neglected. Promote Pakistan at their foreign missions abroad. More day tours to the areas around should be encouraged and promoted like the one there used to be a daily flight, especially to Mohenjo Daro from Karachi, where one can visit in the morning and return in the evening. There used to be special trips to Taxila and around to lure Buddhists from Japan, Thailand, and India. Above all, they should allow tourists from India.

A few more points:

  • CAA should allow and encourage an open sky policy to attract foreign carriers to bring in tourists to the country. However, they fear that it would affect our airlines and their revenue, which I really doubt. Tourists are one important source of foreign exchange, and almost all Tourism based countries, like Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, etc, have good open sky policies.
  • Foreign carriers and operators like Thomas Cook should be allowed to operate Skardu / Gilgit directly.
  • Compulsions should be made to our domestic airlines to fly to at least one tourist destination like Skardu, Gilgit, and Gawadar. They only operate in major domestic destinations.

Synergyzer: Can you compare travelling in Pakistan with the rest of the World?

Uncleji: We have everything a tourist can dream of – Beautiful beaches, desserts, forests, snow-capped mountains, history, culture, friendly & hospitable people, lovely cuisine. It is just the infrastructure that we lack, but of late, I have observed good resorts and hotels coming up. I am also following a few guides who tour foreigners around remote places in Baluchistan, KPK & Gilgit Baltistan, and they really enjoy it. On the other hand, domestic tourism has also been booming ever since the Sukker to Siachen roads were constructed. I hope Hyderabad to Sukker roads get developed too and faster.

Synergyzer: Any exclusive funny or unexpected incidents you’d like to share with our readers?

Uncleji: Ah! There are numerous – & Auntyji and I are completely opposite when it comes to travel. She is a shopaholic, and I enjoy more sites & walking around. There are incidences where she suddenly vanishes, and I look for her in the entire malls & shops. Eventually shows up six or seven hours later at the hotel with bags full of MACs, Sephoras, and Swaroskis saying, ARRAY AAP KAHAN GUM HOGAYE THAY – MAIN POORA SHEHR DHOONDTI RAHI – PLEASE JALDI SAY 15 EURO DAI DAIN TAXI WALAY KA KIYARA & CHAI BANA DAIN – PARESHANI MAIN TU SIR DARD KER GAYA.

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Hamna Farrukh is a high-on-life but low-on-energy writer who found her passion for writing after completing a degree in Economics, which is carefully kept in a folder somewhere in a drawer. Her interest in marketing and advertisement peaked while working for Ishtehari, and finally, Synergyzer gave her bickering thoughts a much-needed voice through the platform to talk about shitty ads (some good ones) being made in Pakistan.