Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad on Traveling the World in a Hijab: Episode 12 of Travel + Leisure's New Podcast

Fencing has taken Ibtihaj Muhammad all over the world — including Rio, where she won a bronze medal representing Team USA in 2016.

Ibtihaj Muhammad in fencing clothes and hijab
Photo: Left: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images; Right: Courtesy of Ibtihaj Muhammad

If you've followed along with the first season of Travel + Leisure's podcast, Let's Go Together, you'll know there is not one standard definition of a traveler. Our host, Kellee Edwards, has introduced listeners to widowed women rediscovering themselves through solo travel, a gay couple finding solace in the National Parks system, people fighting to preserve their native cultures, and others on a mission to discover theirs. But we're not quite finished.

On the final installment of season one of Let's Go Together, Edwards is joined by U.S. Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Muslim woman to wear a hijab while competing in the international games. Named one of Time magazine's "Most Influential People in the World" in 2016, the year she took home a bronze medal in fencing at the Rio Olympics, Muhammad is an avid traveler, fashion designer, activist, and even the inspiration behind a Barbie.

In the episode, Muhammad tells Edwards what it was like growing up in New Jersey as part of a Muslim family, how she got into fencing in school, and how she found herself in the sport.

"The opportunity to kind of embark on this journey of fencing, I think really was rooted in the idea that it uniquely accommodated my religious beliefs," she said, going on to explain that fencers wear helmets, long pants, and long jackets. "It was the first time in my life I felt like I really fit in and just was a part of the team — and I could kind of abandon these labels that I feel like society places on us, whether that be as girls, or as African Americans, or, you know, even as Muslims."

Before competing in Rio, Muhammad — who was a three-time All American during her college years at Duke — spent plenty of time traveling the world competing.

"I would say that one thing that I love about sport is that it brings so many different people together, and [offers] the opportunity to travel to so many different places," she told Edwards. "I just love the idea of culture and how it changes, depending on where you are... there's so many different facets that make up our world."

Over the course of the episode, Muhammad talks about how she got to the Olympics in 2016, her 2018 Pilgrimage to Mecca, being profiled in airports, where she loves to travel, and why she does it all in her hijab.

Hear more from Ibtihaj Muhammad on Let's Go Together, available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.

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