- Tell us how you became a tour guide?
Whenever I got tired from the usual routine and madness of the city, I decided to take a break and went on a trip to find refuge in the mountains. Exploring nature and interacting with people from different cultures always helped me in finding a new perspective on life. This habit of running away from my worldly responsibilities to hide in the mountains became a hobby, and with the passage of time turned into a passion. One day, I finally decided to take the plunge of breaking free from the chains of corporate slavery, and left my full time job to turn my passion into a career. This led to the formation of ‘The Mad Hatters’; a travel platform for wandering souls.
- At what point did you first realize your interest in tourism?
I had a keen interest in traveling since childhood, but was able to pursue this hobby more actively as I became more independent after graduating from university. It becomes difficult to materialize plans with friends when everyone is tied up with jobs and responsibilities, so I had to rely on various tour operators to fulfill my yearning for adventure during the past decade or so. Traveling with these operators made me realize that there is a dire need for offering quality services in this industry and promoting Pakistan’s beauty and diversity on a larger scale, as it does not get the deserved limelight.
- What sets you apart from other tour guides?
Even after the long struggle for women’s empowerment and equal rights, it is still a rare sight to see women in public spaces in Pakistan. Hence, the freedom of traveling is not as easily enjoyed by women, as it is by men. But, we are trying to change that at The Mad Hatters. It is probably the only tour operator company in Pakistan that is being led by a woman, without any male partner/support, so it naturally offers a comfortable environment for females on trips. Our aim is to combine education and traveling, to ensure that the participants learn something new while traveling with us. We strongly focus on conservation/welfare of the areas that we visit, and inculcate the same values in the people who travel with us.
- What bores you?
Following a fixed routine day in and day out bores me. You wake up, go to work, meet some friends, come back home, eat, watch TV, go to sleep, and repeat! I think we are meant to do a lot more than that in this lifetime. Each day needs to be taken as a new adventure!
- If you wake up to find yourself completely invisible, what are the first two things you would do?
If I were completely invisible, I would go out on the streets of my city and roam freely all night long without having the fear of being harassed, or raped, or mugged.
- Which song, if any, can be the theme of your life?
I cannot think of any particular song as such. The theme of my life is evolving constantly, so it cannot be described by just one song.
- What superpower would you want, if you could have any?
I would want to have the superpower of knowing all the languages of the world, so I could effortlessly interact with people from different regions and cultures.
- Tour guides tend to be adventurous. On a scale of 1-10, how adventurous are you?
I think I would rate myself an 11; fearless, daring, crazy, and spontaneous.
- Two must haves in your bag?
I always make sure to carry a camera to capture the beautiful places I visit and a notebook to pen down my experiences at the end of the day.
- What’s your next exciting trip?
My next trip will be to the beautiful valleys of Hunza and Naltar at the end of July. There are many other trips scheduled for the northern areas this summer, and I plan to head to the southern part of the country during winter.
- Any tip to aspiring tour guides?
Whatever you do, do with all your heart and give it your best!
Aneeqa Ali is an avid traveler and cyclist with a strong passion for exploring and experiencing new things. After graduating with an MBA degree from Lahore School of Economics, she acquired a diverse skillset by working in various industries during the past 8 years, including investment banking, telecommunication, education, not-for-profit, and the fashion industry. Giving in to her love for traveling, she decided to turn her passion into a career and started a travel company by the name of ‘The Mad Hatters’.