Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Travelin' the Globe

M&H Staff

Calling travel extraordinaire Safeena Padder a "go-getter" is quite the understatement. With 30 countries under her belt and countless more on the horizon, Safeena is highly adept at conquering all kinds of dazzling adventures. With an innate desire to reach deep into the world's pocket of hidden treasure, Safeena has naturally become a gifted photographer and story-teller. As a recent Pepperdine University graduate and current resident of Southern California, Safeena has built an impressive inventory of photos from her travels and (not-so) ordinary life.

Allow Safeena to grab your hand and lead you down the corridors of her past (and future) ventures. You may just find yourself booking a one-way ticket to Africa during your lunch hour.

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Can you give us an overview on your extensive trip around the world?

After graduating in May of 2015, I technically still had a class–– Christianity and Culture–– to fulfill. Pepperdine happened to be offering a month-long program based in Amman, Jordan, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was raised with a Muslim background, so studying Christianity in an Islamic context was an incredible and unique opportunity. I spent a month living in Amman with my Pepperdine peers, diving into cultural and religious studies, seeing all of Jordan, and having interactions like dinner with a Jordanian tribe leader a couple miles away from the Syrian border, meeting UN representatives, and watching friends be baptized in the Jordan river. While my peers headed back to CA, I extended my travels by taking a bus over to Israel to visit my dear friend Erin.

The goal of this trip was to visit old friends I had made when visiting Israel in 2012 and recharge before my next leg of traveling. I did some photography for the non-profit Erin was working with. I ended up flying back to see my family in NJ for a week before embarking on the big one–– living and working in Kamulu, Kenya with a non-profit called Made in the Streets–– after a random day layover in Qatar, of course. Talk about going from luxury to poverty in less than 24 hours. At MITS (a school that ministers to reformed street children), I served as their in-house photojournalist and student sponsorship coordinator–– essentially their all-around media/communications person. I captured the students’ stories and shared them with their sponsors in the US.

I had to leave East Africa due to visa requirements after 3 months, so I took 2 weeks of personal photography time in Cape Town, South Africa, one of my dream locations! I was able to stay for free by trading photography and design services for accommodations. Then I went back to Kenya for a couple months, before a day layover in Egypt, 2 weeks visiting family in the UK, and finally heading home after 7 months.

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Did you have a favorite location?

From this particular period of travel, the people of Kamulu (in Kenya) will have my heart, but the city of Cape Town captivated my curiosity and sense of adventure. Traveling alone has always afforded me such a new, uninhibited perspective of wherever I am. While I was in Cape Town, everything went wrong–– I was mugged, I had to get emergency rescued from Table Mountain, I dropped my cell phone into the ocean–– but it remained my favorite solo travel experience because of how clearly I could see God working through these seemingly terrible circumstances. I was kept safe, made wonderful friends, and found a home in what I like to think of the Southern California of Africa. If you go, hike Lion’s Head (but take a friend!).

Is there a specific moment you'll remember forever?

When I was in Cape Town, I met the warmest group of friends when I was hiking Lion’s Head on a Friday night. It was a foggy day, none of us had originally been planning on hiking that day, and no one else was on the same trail we were on. We clicked, exchanged information, and resolved to meet up later in the week. The next day, I was hiking up Table Mountain (barefoot, alone, with expensive camera gear, without a proper meal or rainproof clothing–– don’t follow in those particular footsteps of mine) and long story short, required a search and rescue team to find me and bring me down from up the side of the mountain. 

I still had cell service, so I had Facebook messaged my new friends to ask for advice if I thought I might be in a dangerous situation, and they helped coordinate the search and rescue (they almost sent a helicopter!). When the medical team guided me back to the bottom of the mountain, those people I had met less than 24 hours ago were unexpectedly waiting for me with food, warm clothes, and hugs. They told me, “You know, Safeena, yesterday after we met you, we said to each other that we knew there was a reason God put you in our lives yesterday, but we weren’t sure what the reason was. This was the reason. And nobody should have to Uber home after being rescued from Table Mountain.”

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

What advice would you have for young aspiring travelers?

First, TRUST. Trust God to make you more courageous and trust your intuition to know when to be cautious. That balance is all that traveling and meeting people has been for me. Do not learn a new place or people with a basis of fear. I also get a lot of people telling me that my travels and adventures are something they WISH they could do, but it seems like a pipe dream. And I will be the first to say that it’s not easy–– having enough money to go was a hustle and living on my own was incredibly lonely at times–– but there’s nothing particularly special about me that makes it possible for me and not for you.

Second, stay curious. One of the greatest things about traveling for me has been how it changes my perspective when I’m “home” (wherever that is for the moment). Keep a traveller’s mindset when you’re local. Get to know your neighbor. Wonder about the grocery store clerk’s life. Realize that if your morning commute was in another country, you’d be a lot more appreciate of the views and more inclined to pull over and soak it in for a minute.

Third, listen. Listen to God and listen to people. I remember more about stories heard and wisdom learned than I do about specific views and monuments (I let my camera remember those for me!). Listen to God when He tells you to go for it, but also listen to Him when he tells you that taking the safe route is actually an act of faith (Table Mountain lesson). If you listen, you will know the difference.

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Did the trip strengthen your relationship with God?

YES. A thousand times over. I’ve always been typically millennial-ish with the invincible (and untrue) mindset of, “things just work out for me.” This past year has shown me the hand that God has played in carrying me through situations that otherwise should not have worked out for me. I also saw God so clearly through the people of Kamulu that became like family to me. My faith is SO imperfect, and it has often bothered me how much doubt I have sometimes and how much I need God to really show Himself to me. And the fact that during my travels He again and again showed me how much love He has even for me, unceasingly questioning me, when I wasn’t looking or asking for Him.

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Favorite Bible verse?

Mark 5:34 and 5:41. This is when Jesus brings Jairus’ daughter back from the dead after healing the woman who had touched him and zapped his powers. He in all grace tells the woman, “You have been healed by faith; go and be free from your suffering.” To Jairus’ daughter he says, “Talitha kumi,” which means, “Little girl, I command to you, arise.” This chapter is a testament of my faith, where there have been points where I have considered myself so far beyond hope and salvation. But with Jairus’ daughter, Jesus was the only one who saw her potential to arise and live again. I have been healed by faith, and I have been called to arise.

Now what's in store for you?

I’m currently a wedding photographer. It is SO not what I expected, but it is so fun. I believe heavily in a project-based life, so I’m currently also searching for my next big, impactful “project” to pour myself into, wherever that takes me. I told myself 2016 would be for less international travel, saving money, and seeing more of America, but I’ve somehow found myself shooting a wedding in Australia next month. So much for that plan. :)

Countries visited:

30, I believe.

Milk and Honey Magazine's interview with travel enthusiast on faith in Christ and life.

Dream Destinations:

New Zealand, Patagonia, & Iceland.


I’m actually a big homebody and my bedroom is my favorite place.

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