Life Lately: How I spent my last holiday (Dec 2017)

Happy New Year joyful people of Kemi’s Blog land!!! My heart is so full of JOY and positive expectations for 2018! I see promotions, new streams of income, business expansion, new relationships, engagement & wedding rings, babies, celebrations, growth, and so much more in 2018! Do I hear an AMEN???

Hello 2018, I’m here for you!!!

Anyone who attended primary school in Nigeria would remember that every time we returned from a break/holiday, the very first English Language class assignment would be to write an essay on ‘How I spent my last holiday’. Right? So, in keeping with tradition, this blog-post is essentially a recap of how I spent my Christmas/New Year break in Lagos. I definitely need another holiday now – Jesus be an energizer!

My break started from around the 21st of December and it was marked by the arrival of my ‘started from Instagram, now we are real friends’ buddy – Dorcas (@wellwornheels). She came and literally turned my world upside down, lol.

Dorcas oh Dorcas!

Given that she had not been to Nigeria in a long while, she was on a mission to check everything off her ‘Naija bucket list’ and I was a very willing accomplice and chauffeur (aka professional driver). That bucket list had everything from food to eat (amala, boli, etc), shows/concerts to attend, places to visit and explore across Lagos.

We did a LOT of things and I will just try to recap some of the highlights. We started from the Joyful Joy Laugh Fest (a charity comedy event to raise funds to fight malaria) where I won the celebrity auction to have dinner with Lynxxx (see proof below, hehehehe). It was a lot of fun, for a good cause. We even got to see Yvonne Orji perform in person, plus we saw our favorite couple – Susu and Banky (and we got inspired to go watch The Wedding Party 2 the next day)!!

With Osas and the man Lynxxx (trust me he is smiling inside, lol)

We also attended the Adekunle Gold concert (#epic #legendary #amazeballs) and danced to our hearts’ delights. Mr Gold is GOLD! Finish!

The GOLD groupies 🙂
The GOLDen squad

I also behaved like a proper ‘I just got back’ and explored Lagos (Terra Kulture, Nike Art Gallery, Lekki Craft Market, etc) as a tourist on a tricycle (keke, tuk-tuk, etc) with a cool crew of ladies – it is always nice to make new friends and connect with old ones. My girl Nene wrote a fabulous review of the Keke Experience which you can/should read here –  https://www.nene-uwa.com.ng/2018/01/ajala-nenes-trip-keke-experience-lagos-nigeria

 

The Keke cool kids
The Keke Royalty kids with Mummy Nike (Nike Art Gallery)
Dancing in Lekki market, lol

 

Getting a share of the national cake, lol

We crowned the entire experience by watching the Fela & the Kalakuta Queens show. The show is incredibleeeeeeeee! If you haven’t seen it yet, you have one more weekend to do it ( 2 shows on both Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 7pm) – don’t dull!!!!

Not a Kalakuta Queen but still a Queen

One of the highlights was getting to meet some of other Lagos-based travel bloggers and curators. Mehn, that was an experience. Each of these women are doing amazing things and I am so honored to have met them in person.

Power Travel Women (plus Lola’s strong unlooking game, lol)

From L-R (hehehe), we have Lola of @unravellingnigeria who has explored some deep places in Nigeria and the great thing is she takes people there; Dorcas of @wellwornheels who is an auditor by day, travel addict (with 40+ country stamps in her passport) and blogger by night; Fola of @folaswaka who may be low-key (for now) but guys, do not underestimate the tips and tricks she has under her hat; Yejide of @naijanomads who is all about curating adventurous experiences to green passport friendly destinations (international trips only – she has trips to Lebanon, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Morocco planned for this year); Margaret of @theajalabug who has been to places in Nigeria that most of us only know from our ‘states and capital’ citations from primary school!!! She also reviews hotels, resorts and restaurants; and then there’s me – you already know!

Yejide, Dorcas and I collaborated on the giveaway grand prize trip to Morocco – a true example of collaboration over competition. I am looking forward to spending more time with all these amazing ladies (and meeting more members of the travel tribe) this 2018, l’agbara Olorun (by the grace of God).

Giveaway collabo

My girl from business school, Lakheni, who is South African, was also visiting Nigeria for the first time and this time around, I was the one managing the bucket list (eat jollof rice – check, eat pounded yam – check, go to Nike Art Gallery – check, go to Lekki Craft market – check, attend a Nigerian show – check, get fat on plantain – check, eat small chops – check, hahahhaha.) You get the general idea of this bucket list now!

Lakheni the Lagosian (pounded yam & egusi, market bargains and Nike art)
At Ali Baba’s Jan 1st concert

The only thing we did not manage to do on the list was get her to eat suya – by the time suya was ready every day, we had eaten ourselves to stupor and just could not make space for any more food. I am so afraid to get on a scale now *covers face* This brings me to a very important question ‘why is suya only sold at night???”  If anyone can tell me, I will be forever grateful.

Different shades of Lakheni

We also took the opportunity to connect with other members of our class who happened to be in Lagos as well- my sister Tim-Tim (remember her from last Christmas?) and the man Ro-Ro.

Yes I went back to Nike Arts Gallery with my INSEAD crew
Class of 16J Naija reunion

What else did I do o? Yeah, I went to the Bez Live concert (again!) and it seems like I will be an annual attendee. As always, Oga Bez and all the other artistes that opened the show delivered exceptional performances. I found the ‘kiss cam/dance cam’ attraction super cool. I guess the kiss-cam didn’t bother coming near me because I was surrounded with my army of ladies, hahahaha!

Me and my Bez ladies!

I also managed to attend 4 weddings within 10 days – peep my wedding uniform shoes, lol. They are sooo comfortable and great for dancing! You know I don’t know how to sit still once there is music playing, so it is important to be in the right shoes for the job, lol.

Wedding 1 (Dec 16)
Wedding 2 (Dec 19) – I was wearing those shoes here too, lol 
Wedding 3 (Dec 23)
Wedding 4 (Dec 26)

It wasn’t all outings and outings o – I spent some time with family as well, made out time to meet up with some friends (older and younger), started building my vision board, carved out time to review my 2017 goals, wrote my thanksgiving letter for 2017 and then started setting goals for 2018. Some of my 2018 goals are pretty exciting – take professional swimming classes, take professional heels dancing classes, write for more blogs, revamp this website, speak daily affirmations over myself, kick off my modelling/brand ambassador career, and so much more!

With Mama K (please can you ask her to borrow me her shoes?)
With Brother K, lol
With Papa K

To be honest, I am yet to complete both my vision board and 2018 goals because I haven’t fully downloaded all that God is saying for 2018. Now that all the activities have calmed down, I am spending time in prayers and meditation for the next couple of weeks to ensure that my agenda is a 100% reflection of God’s agenda for my life. I don’t have time to be chasing shadows and expending energy on the things that are not in God’s plan for my life abeg!

The girls dem…
The men dem…
The aburos dem 🙂

Now, the biggest highlight of my holiday was actually not all of the activities listed above (even though I thoroughly enjoyed myself), it was the Christmas giveaway (#kemischristmasgiveaway) that truly rocked my boat in December. WOW! That was an experience and a half! I will write a separate blogpost on the lessons from the giveaway but I think it is important to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who participated. It would have been impossible without you all – thank you so much!

THANK YOUUUUUU!!!!

Remember in my last post, I said I was hoping to get 24/25 gifts so that I could give stuff out daily till the 25th of December? Well, we got MUCH MORE than 25 gifts! We ended up with 59 gifts in total!!!!! Am I hearing your WOW? Looool.  I am still saying WOW too!!! 59 gifts meant I had to give out multiple gifts every day and by the last day, we had a total of 120 winners!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!

It was truly a December to remember and I am thankful for all my experiences during the period. Now it’s time to go back to work to have some more impact and make money to fund the next holiday. Amen!

Grateful for these ladies who trusted me to make Lagos rock for them!

Have an amazing year people! Set (and smash) scary goals, connect with loved ones, forgive ya haters (I hear they are actually confused fans, lol), laugh at yourself, talk to God every day and live your best life. 2018 WAS AN AMAZING YEAR (yup, I have declared it and it is happening already!)

Kemi the Model 🙂 Did I nail the pose? Dont you just feel like buying that truck now?, Lol

Joy-filled hugs,

Kemi

p.s – What are you saying about your 2018?

p.p.s – Please vote for my friend Yejide Runsewe (just search for her name on the site) to win an all-expense trip to India. Vote here: http://season5.keralablogexpress.com/index.php/user/single_participant/65823

p.p.p.s – I am still waiting for the answer to the ‘why is suya only sold at night’ question– I am genuinely curious.

Where to spend Christmas? I am dreaming of a GREEN Christmas!

*playing Mariah Carey’s Christmas album in the background*

Hello beautiful people, long time, no read. I know it’s been a while, so many things have happened since I last wrote – President-elect Trump, WIMBIZ annual conference, Ondo elections, Wedding Party premiere (reviews, anyone?), and so much more.  I am super excited about the new month of December and all the season represents – giving, sharing, loving, dining, exploring and even more giving.

I know so many people are wondering where and how to spend the Christmas holidays this year. I am as well. The ways in which I celebrate Christmas have evolved over the years. From hosting Christmas parties at home, to taking family trips both abroad and within Lagos (Mama Kemi is the queen of staycations), to more recently (when the ajala travel bug bit me), taking solo trips and returning just before December 30th to ensure I ‘cross-over’ and spend New Year with family.

Since 2013, on my flight back home from wherever I had spent Christmas, I type up a thanksgiving letter to God, highlighting everything that I am thankful for in the year. Everything from my family to my career; from safe passage in all my work and personal travels (doing Lagos-Abuja safely every week for 6 months deserves special thanks to God, no?) to friends and family who got engaged or married and loved ones who had babies (adding to my ever-increasing list of god-children and my bridal train); from new friends made and old friends I am still in touch and in love with, to my health, well-being, weight, and BMI (lol);  from my ‘toasters’ and the fun times, the break-ups and the lessons learned, to improvements in my spiritual life and attitude. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! The first thanksgiving letter I wrote was 8 pages long, font size 12, regular spacing – you get the point. I wasn’t generalizing, I was mentioning actual names of people, places, exact events, organizations, etc. I don’t think I realized I knew how blessed I was until I wrote this letter. It is easy to say ‘count your blessings’ but how can you really count those blessings if you don’t ‘name them one by one’? Sorry for the digression (not really sorry sha, lol)

Give THANKS!
Give THANKS!

My first Christmas away from family was in 2011 which I spent in Calabar. I spent some time in Tinapa with a close friend and his family, and then moved to Calabar town itself on Christmas Eve as they geared up for the main carnival. My dear friend Andie was a fabulous hostess, and I enjoyed spending Christmas morning at her family house, listening to Mariah’s Christmas album on replay while getting ready to go to church for the Christmas service. Afterwards, we went party/get-together hopping across town and I met up with some old friends who also came in from Lagos for the carnival. I also had a blast spending time with some new friends I made at the airport during the severe 10-hour delay on our Lagos-Calabar flight. The carnival on 27th December felt truly like Africa’s biggest street party. I know I have not been to any other African street parties yet, but the sheer number of people was overwhelming!  And you know we have numbers in Nigeria, so I would not really doubt that claim, lol. It was amazing to see how the quiet little town of Calabar comes ALIVE in December!

Calabar, 2011
Calabar, 2011

To be honest, I actually really missed not being with my immediate family on Christmas day but being with long-time friends helped. Whatever the case, make sure you are spending time with your loved ones. After crossing the first non-family Christmas hurdle, it became easier to go away again. Christmas 2013 was spent in Dubai, mainly resting and reflecting. Big highlight of that trip was seeing the world famous Cirque du Soleil on their Michael Jackson Immortal tour. It was mesmerizing! I remember having to close my mouth more than a few times, lol. When you travel, not every time shopping, sometimes memorable experiences!

Enough reminiscing. Kemi, what are ‘we’ doing for Christmas this year? Being the planner that I am, I would have figured out the answer to this question since October (usually after the birthday celebrations) but for some reason, I have not been able to finalize Christmas plans. I had some grand plans to visit Zambia with my Aunt (my uncle is married to a Zambian) but somehow that didn’t quite pan out. ‘Somehow’ here really means forex, lol. So I have eaten some humble pie and decided to look inwards (within Nigeria) to figure out how to have a very ‘green’ but memorable Christmas. In fact, I don’t like white (snowy) Christmases – you know my relationship with cold and winter is not exactly warm. 🙂

Here are a few ideas I have toyed with but still have not had the time or mental space to conclude on – I need help!

  1.    Calabar (again!) – I hear that every year the carnival gets better and bigger, and I think it would be fun to see how things have evolved 5 years later. Social Prefect is planning a trip to Calabar this Christmas. I think I will hola at her ASAP to see if there are still spaces on that trip – they get pretty sold out quickly. Nigerians love a good party!

    Social Prefect Calabar Tour
    Social Prefect Calabar Tour (PC: Social Prefect)
  2.    Obudu Mountain Resort – Still staying in the Cross-River region, I think Obudu might be a great idea. Does the fact that it shares a border with Cameroon make it almost abroad? Lol. I have considered Obudu many times but because I am not a big fan of long trips, I have not been able to convince myself that the extra 3-4 or 5-6 hour road trip after landing in Enugu or Calabar respectively, will be worth it. I hear the cable cars are no longer functioning – can somebody please fix them?
    Obudu Resort (PC: Hotels.ng)
    Obudu Resort (PC: Hotels.ng)

    I hear these babies don't work anymore :-(
    I hear these babies don’t work anymore 🙁
  3.    Inagbe Grand Resorts – Still keeping it ‘resorty’, Inagbe also seems quite appealing. 15mins boat ride from Ikoyi and you are in Lagos paradise. I looked at the video tour on their website and it seems like a decent place with a good mix of fun activities and relaxation options. This might actually be worth exploring. What would make it even better would be to go with a group of loved ones!
    Inagbe so pretty!
    Inagbe so pretty! (PC:Inagbe Resorts website)

    Inagbe again
    Inagbe again (PC: Inagbe Resorts website)
  4. Staycation in Lagos – There is also the option of just booking a hotel somewhere in this Lagos and spending a few days there. It is always nice to have someone else wait on you. With all the concerts and events in Lagos this December, wouldn’t it be great to be able to enjoy the event to the end without worrying about annoying your neighbours when you get home late because your gateman will not hear you honking incessantly?  Around this time, most hotels have Christmas packages so I might be able to find a sweet deal. Now, all I need is the time to go hunting for this sweet deal. Sigh. Friends, please if you know any decent hotel with a good Christmas package, please share with a sister.
  5. Road trip across West Africa – Going by road to some of the neighboring West African countries also seems like a great idea. You get to see a lot of beautiful sights, enjoy the scenery and discover new terrains on a budget! My favorite countries for road trips are Ghana and Benin Republic. I am not sure I would want to drive to Cape Verde sha, lol. If you don’t want to have to explain to policemen at different borders that your car is actually yours (although it carries your father’s name) or that your international driver’s license is legit, I suggest you go with a tour company. They take away all the logistical hassle. All you need to do is show up, doze during the road trip, but please don’t drool! Pictures are unforgiving, lol. For Benin Republic this December, Naija Nomads has a tour between 27th and 30th December. Check them out!

    Naija Nomads goes to Cotonou
    Naija Nomads goes to Cotonou (PC: Naija Nomads)
  6.  La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort – does this still count as Lagos? If yes, refer to (4) above. If no, refer to (3) above. Lol. The prices though, you will just want to do half-day there! If you know La Campagne prices, then you will understand my next suggestion.
  7.  Village runs – Reconnect with your roots. My last surviving grandparent passed on in June, so this is not really an option for me right now. But wait, even if you don’t have living grandparents, who says you can’t visit grand-aunts and uncles? This is definitely a nice, cost-effective *coughs* way to spend the holiday. Turn it into a culture trip – explore parts of your village/town you never knew existed, ask your older relatives for the history of your family/village and don’t forget to ask them to spook you out with folk tales and legendary stories.

    Horse rider display at Ijebu Ojude-Oba Festival (PC:BISCON)
    Horse rider display at Ijebu Ojude-Oba Festival (PC:BISCON)

Regardless of what we get up to, we must remember 2 things. First, the main premise of this season is GIVING. Gift exchanges are nice, I mean, who does not love Secret Santa? But this is beyond just exchanging gifts. Giving to people who cannot give you anything back in return is extremely powerful and fulfilling. Give it a try. The temptation to the tight-fisted in this ‘not-so-buoyant’ economy is very strong, but don’t let that stop you. It is the liberal soul that will be made fat. Make sure you include a budget line for ‘giving’ as you think about how to spend your 13th month or bonus. Give your domestic staff 13th month bonuses too. Take gifts to the orphanages or old peoples home. If you don’t have the time, give money to people who have the time and have set up programs to meet these needs. If you don’t have time and money right now, surely you have some old baffs/clothes, shoes, household stuff that you don’t really need anymore. No excuses guys!

Second, we must take the time to reflect on the year – the highs, the lows, the lessons learned, the changes that need to be made, the dreams that need to be revived, the risks that need to be taken, etc. I hear there is a new hashtag for this:  #turndowntoturnup. Don’t just use the hashtag, actually write down the things that you need to turn down, and the things that you need to turn up, turn it into a vision board, share with 1-2 people you can truly be accountable to and then run with it. Who hashtag alone ‘epp’?

Okay guys, we need more ideas. What are WE doing for Christmas this year?

Hugs,

Kemi

Kemi Onabanjo’s Journey to 30 Countries Before Her 30th Birthday

My name is Kemi Onabanjo and I am a certified ‘ajala’, or as my more learned colleagues would say, a travel enthusiast.

In June 2016, I successfully achieved a personal goal I set for myself – to visit 30 countries by the time I turned 30. The goal was aptly named Project 30 by 30, and I managed to achieve this goal a good 16 months ahead of time. Folks have asked me a lot of questions ranging from why I set this goal and how I managed to achieve it on a Nigerian passport, to how I funded the project and where I am headed next. So I decided to take a moment to answer all those questions and share the entire experience with the world. Here we go!

Travel mantra
Travel mantra

Why?

I have always been curious about the world. I remember devouring volumes and volumes of children’s encyclopaedias (I guess Google is the new encyclopaedia) while growing up and my parents having to buy new editions as soon as they were released. I enjoyed watching a program on NTA Channel 5 called ‘Children of the World’ where kids from all over the world convened somewhere (can’t remember where now) for cultural and talent displays. There was a little boy from Nigeria who used to play the xylophone and although I used to watch him with a mix of pride and great envy (as I could not play any musical instrument or sing to save my life), it was watching the kids from other countries in their beautiful costumes that gave me the most delight. I loved and still love to play the ‘country and capitals’ game – still played it on the bus ride to Idanre Hills last holidays, and I won, whoop! Sorry, I digress.

Although I was curious about the world, I did not start travelling until I was 13, and being a true Nigerian, my first destination was London, England! It took another 6 years before the next trip happened, and this time, it was to the other destination for true Nigerians – Dubai, United Arab Emirates! I went on both trips with my family and although, they were mainly to visit family and look for bargain deals (again, another hallmark of being a true Nigerian), we also managed to visit some tourist attractions. I don’t think I still have or remember any of the items we bought on those trips, but I remember how I felt when I first saw the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, the still policemen in front of Buckingham Palace, the imposing Burj Khalifa and the breath-taking sand dunes in Dubai. As my eyes widened in excitement every time I saw these things, it felt like my mind also popped open in enlightenment. The thrill from landing in a new country, looking out for similarities and differences with Nigeria, trying out new food (although that took a while) was next to none.

London, England - 2000
London, England – 2000

As soon as I started working and earning money, I started saving aggressively for travel – I even set up a dedicated bank account for my travel-savings. About 6 years ago, I decided to be deliberate about my travel destinations when I realized that my vacations almost always led me to the same spots – London, Dubai and Accra, Ghana. And that’s when I decided to start visiting at least 2 new countries every year – 1 in Africa, and 1 in any other part of the world. About 4 years ago, this goal metamorphosed into the Project 30 countries by 30 – and here we are today! Done and Dusted. To God be the glory! 🙂

Dubai, UAE - 2006
Dubai, UAE – 2006

 

How?

First, I have had the good fortune of having to travel for work to cool countries like Sweden (more cold than cool), Kenya, Cameroon, Tunisia, Brazil, AustriaIvory Coast, Benin Republic, South Africa, USA and Mauritius (dear future husband, you can strike that off the potential proposal/honeymoon locations, thank youuu). On my business trips, I quickly learned the art of exploring whichever city I landed in on the weekends. Sometimes, I deliberately arrive/leave a day earlier/later so I can explore the city, and I happily pay the hotel bill for that extra night because I essentially got a free flight to the country 🙂 I fell in love with some of these countries and I have gone back multiple times to explore other cities within them. I have plans to revisit some of them in the nearest future because there is still so much ground to cover.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

In deciding between which campus of my business school I should spend more time on, France was a more attractive option compared to Singapore, due to the miracle of the Schengen visa and the access it gives you to most European countries. However, the thought of living through winter scared me and I tried going to the Singapore campus but that did not quite work out right. Ultimately though, I can say that braving the winter and going to the France campus paid off big time! In the course of my 11 months in France, I managed to visit 8 additional European countries including The Netherlands (I never counted the many stopovers at Schiphol airport as visiting the country), Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary and Croatia.  All things truly do work out for good for God’s children. Amen, Halleluyah!!!

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Visas – Being a Nigerian passport holder means that I need a visa for a good number of countries – even within Africa. Things are changing though, with more African countries opening up their borders and removing visa restrictions for other African passports. While we wait for that to happen, I have learnt the art of filling visa applications like a pro. I don’t even think about it, whine or worry about it, I just get right straight to filling it.

Quick tip: I have all the important documents scanned and saved in a folder on my computer – passport data page, work I.D. card, pay slips, template letter of introduction from employer, previous visas, even my grandmother’s birth certificate (lol). This makes it easier for me to put all the supporting documents together, print them a day to my interview and just hop to the embassy like a champ. It also reduces the stress associated with visa interview prep, where one is constantly worried about forgetting an important document at home.

I also constantly do a lot of research on visa hacks for that lovely green passport of mine. I am always looking out for countries I can visit without a visa, or where I can get a visa on arrival. You cannot imagine how elated I was to find out that you don’t need a visa to enter Mexico if you already have a valid U.S visa and that if you have a valid U.K visa, you can get a visa on arrival in Turkey. Plus, the fact that I only had to pay US$50 for a visa-on-arrival to get into Tanzania was a huge relief! These seemingly little visa workarounds make travel-life a little more pleasant.

Prison Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania - 2016
Prison Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania – 2016

Funding- Since I am not a trust fund kid (yet), I had to save a LOT to be able to travel. Life is all about trade-offs, so I chose travel over expensive shoes, bag and clothes. I also have the luxury of not having to worry about diapers and crèche fees yet. I saved in Naira and US Dollars. Every month when my salary got paid, I would change some small USD with my ever-faithful aboki and then deposit in my local domiciliary account (not under my mattress o!). I usually printed my USD bank account statements when I was going for visa interviews, as part of proof of funds.

It was frustrating to see that the deposits yielded no interest but at least it was accessible and I could withdraw it whenever I needed it. This habit of changing forex small small came in handy when I began to save for my business school fees.

Quick tip: Open a domiciliary account so you can start saving in USD for your travel fund. International flight ticket fares are usually quoted in USD, so you can pay for your tickets from that dom account. It will be less painful than paying hundreds of thousands of Naira.

If you can get a debit card linked to the dom account, even better. That way you can spend from your dollar card abroad without whipping out a calculator to calculate exchange rates and bank fees every time. This will save you from exchange-rate induced high blood pressure or tension headaches!

The current economic climate does not seem conducive for any forex related transactions now, but this too shall pass. We hope it will not last forever. As soon as this storm passes, open that dom account and start saving in USD.

Flights- For me, this was the biggest part of the travel expense. I love to travel but I don’t particularly enjoy airports or flying, so I try to minimize the time I spend getting from point A to point B. I would rather pay a little extra for a direct flight than have to stay at an airport for hours waiting for a connecting flight and being tempted by the evil perfumes at duty free that keep calling out to me, lol.

In my working years before business school, I always used the same travel agent (who has now become a family friend) because I did not have the time to go online. I would ask the travel agent to give me 2-4 flight options and their prices, and then I would choose the most affordable and time-efficient. When I became a student, and had more time and less money, I booked a lot of my tickets by myself, online – go figure!

Beyond flights, I have also used other modes of transportation to explore more and manage costs. I went on a 7-day cruise of the Greek Isles for my 25th birthday and I got to visit 7 cities across 3 countries – Greece, Italy and Turkey. On my last birthday, I took a train from Berlin, Germany to Prague, Czech Republic. During my last international trip with my best friend and her family, we also took trains from Barcelona to Madrid in Spain, and from Lisbon to Porto in Portugal. Trains are great – you don’t have to take off your shoes to go through security, you don’t have to get there 3 hours before departure, you usually would get a great view of the scenery and landscape, and you can sleep in peace without a seat belt holding you down.

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Accommodation – This is another major culprit in the high travel expense category, and I have tried out a lot of different options in a bid to manage costs. I have stayed at all sorts of hotels (even the 0 star ones), hostels (more available in Europe than in Africa, and the best one I have stayed in so far was in Japan), serviced and non-serviced apartments (great for when you’re travelling with a group), Airbnbs (the new kids on the block which I absolutely love) and even once, I stayed at a colleague’s house who was out of town (this is a good way of getting super cheap accommodation if you have colleagues in other countries). Not every time 5-star hotel, sometimes hostel. However, on my birthdays, I always give myself a treat and stay at a fancy hotel for just that night at least. It’s a not-so-cheap way to get a free birthday cake, maybe some wine, and on some very good days, a free room upgrade! Hotels are usually very nice when it’s your birthday 🙂

Takayama village, Japan - 2016
Takayama village, Japan – 2016

Solo vs Group travel – This one is tricky. I have done both and I definitely prefer to have my people with me on trips. I think that memories are even more beautiful when shared with friends and loved ones. However, the coordination challenge is real. Between weddings, pregnancies and babies, vacation calendars that won’t synchronize, bosses who refuse to approve leave requests, and other unexpected life events, it is very challenging (sometimes impossible) to travel with your full squad. So, I have learnt to be content with travelling with just 1 friend, or joining a group of people where I know just 1 person. My trip to Gambia over the Easter break in 2014 was with a friend and 3 other ladies who were her colleagues from work. It was awkward for like 5 minutes initially and then we became a real crew over the 5 days we spent together. And today, when we see each other, we do warm hugs and try to catch up real quick on life. Now that I think about it, this is actually a good way of expanding your network of acquaintances and people you know.

Banjul, Gambia - 2014
Banjul, Gambia – 2014

Technology – Unfortunately, I am one of those late adopters of new technologies/apps (e.g., I only joined Instagram last November) but once I eventually get with the program, I definitely max it out. I have found some apps and websites that have helped make my travel experience easier in one way or another. My personal favorites are:

  • Yelp – This app uses your location to provide a list of restaurants, bars, cafes, and all things related to food, complete with ratings and reviews. The best part is that it provides directions to your chosen destination, and gives you the option to call and make a reservation.
  • Splitwise – Great for tracking your spending and splitting bills when travelling with a group. You know how easy it is for money matters to scatter friendships!
  • Been – This app helps to keep track of where you’ve been around the world, and it’s simple, yet powerful, visual of the world map helps you see your ‘gaps’ and can be used to draw up your destination wish list.
  • Booking.com – Especially great for alternative accommodation options like apartment-hotels, and they almost always have a deal/discount for you.
  • Uber – This is one of the safest and cost-effective ways to get around a city- enough said!

That’s all folks! I hope with these few points of mine, I have been able to convince you, and not confuse you, that it is great to explore the world through travel!  A lot of my choices of where to go and what to do have been heavily influenced by this project of mine. The moral of the story is this: you have to be deliberate about achieving your goals, travel-related or otherwise. It won’t just happen.  You have to make it happen for yourself, and with a little discipline and a lot of motivation, you can surely achieve it!

“Kemi, where are you headed next?”, you may ask. “What is your next travel goal?” Still undecided, but I have a long wish list of countries that I would like to visit soon. Top on that list are Senegal, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Cape Verde, China, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Switzerland. Any willing companions and hosts? 🙂

Cheers,

Kemi