From Kerala to Qatar: Indian mother's solo road trip to cheer for Messi in Fifa World Cup

Naaji Noushi wants to motivate other homemakers to chase their dreams

Indian mother of five, Naaji Noushi, 33, is on a solo trip from Kerala to Qatar to watch the World Cup and cheer for Argentina star Lionel Messi. Photo: Naaji Noushi
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An Indian mother, avid traveller and YouTuber has set out on a solo trip from the South Indian state of Kerala to Qatar to watch her favourite player, Lionel Messi, play in what will be his last Fifa World Cup.

Naaji Noushi, 33, who lives in Oman with her husband Noushad and five children, aged 14, 12, 6, 4 and 2, chronicles her travels on YouTube and hopes her journey will inspire other women to chase their dreams.

Ms Noushi, who attracts millions of views on her YouTube channel 'Naajinoushi Solo Mom Traveller', began her journey on October 15 from Kannur District in north Kerala.

She plans to reach Qatar by December 10, only eight days before the World Cup final in Doha.

Ms Noushi is driving a Mahindra Thar SUV — named ‘Olu’, which means girl — that has a kitchen and a tent attached to it its roof.

She is currently in the state of Karnataka and will reach Mumbai through Pune in a few days, from where she will ship her four-wheeler to Oman and continue onwards.

For the second leg of her journey, she plans to visit the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia before reaching Qatar.

Naaji Noushi, 33, lives in Oman with her husband Noushad and five children, aged 14, 12, 6, 4 and 2. Photo: Naaji Noushi

Seeing Messi play is the end goal of her trip. She says the Argentina forward and the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has been a role model for many people.

“I am a big Messi fan,” Ms Noushi told The National on her way to Hampi, a world heritage site located in Karnataka, which will mark her first 2,200km. "This is his last World Cup and I want to celebrate it with the rest of the world. I am there to cheer for Argentina.

“Malabar (area in North Kerala) is known for its football frenzy. Ever since I started watching football I was fascinated by Messi and the way he plays. He is a self-made man and a role model in many ways.

“I want to be a role model for my children, too. Usually, children always look up to their fathers. Mothers, who are homemakers like me, have no achievement to make them proud. I wanted to change that.”

Travel bug

Naaji has a small kitchen in the vehicle where she cooks her own food. Photo: Naaji Noushi

An avid traveller, this is not Ms Noushi’s first solo trip.

In February, she documented her drive to Nepal on social media and reached the base camp of Mount Everest in only five days.

Last August, she drove 13,000km throughout India covering 17 states and five Union Territories to reach the Himalayan region.

She said she got her travel bug from her father who was also an avid traveller. But as a child, she was not able to travel too much due to financial constraints.

“I come from a middle-class Muslim family in Kerala,” she said. "My family never had enough money to send me for holidays or school trips. I used to feel sad."

Getting married at 19 and having children at a young age, Ms Noushi said she had to wait to satisfy her thirst for adventure.

As a homemaker, she did not have money and her trips were initially funded by her husband, who works in Oman as an operations manager in the hospitality sector.

But since she started her YouTube channel last year, she has been able to fund her trips through views of her videos and her sponsors. The channel has more than 61,000 subscribers and close to 8,000,000 views. She also has more than 42,000 followers on Instagram.

Ms Noushi said she wanted to motivate other women to chase their dreams.

“If I can do it, they can too," she said. "I want every woman to dream big, even if they are mothers and have responsibilities towards their families.

“I leave my older children with my husband and my younger kids under the care of my mother when I travel. My family is super supportive as they all love travelling.”

When asked about safety concerns while travelling alone, Ms Noushi said she had been overwhelmed by the kindness and help she has received from strangers.

“I did my solo trip through India last year to show that India is a safe country for women," she said. "This time also, I do not face any problems."

She says she covers an average of 400km daily and parks her vehicle in petrol stations to rest.

“I have a small kitchen in the vehicle and I cook myself to avoid getting sick," she said.

Ms Noushi has already set her eyes on her next trip once the World Cup is wrapped up.

“I want to drive my ‘Olu’ on a solo trip through seven continents,” she said. "That is a big dream."

Updated: October 26, 2022, 12:31 PM