The Black Travel Experience : Just like the name implies, we speak to various black people about their travel experiences. The good, the bad and the ugly (if any). No two travelers can be the same so just because it doesn't sound like your own story doesn't invalidate anyone's experience.
P.S whenever Africans also travel, we're seen as black even if some may not want to be identified that way but alas, it's the reality.
Today's guest is Michael Ernest Nwah. He's a marketing & corporate communications professional, a meditation & yoga teacher that lives in the Lagos, Nigeria. He's also a pan-Africanist, has travelled the African continent experiencing different cultures, traditions and people across 16 African countries.
He is one of the foremost individuals that helped popularised the practice of yoga and mindfulness in Nigeria, and today as a wellness creative he is the brain behind projects like The Yoga Spot @theyogaspot.ng (a yoga studio in Lagos), Meditate Africa @meditate.africa (a space for meditation by people of African descent for people of African descent), he also co-created Untangled @untan.gled (a conversation platform) and Mindful Social Change Nigeria. Michael's practice focuses on inclusivity, accessibility, and the elevation of the collective well being and consciousness of the African people.
What’s your earliest memory of travel (both local and international)? I remember the first time I got on a plane, it was a small plane that would transport Mobil staff from my hometown in Eket to Lagos; I was so little and I was travelling alone to meet my Aunty on the other side. I was given earplugs and I remember stepping out of the plane and thinking "damn, everyone looks normal after such deafening flight, and I am deaf” lol. I think that is my earliest memory of any sort of travel. At what exact moment or what experience ignited your love for travel? I think my first trip to an African francophone country, Togo, did that for me. My cousins schooled in Togo and I had gone with my Aunty to visit them; it was also a mini-vacation. I remember the culture shock that I couldn’t get over was that these were Africans like me but uniquely different in their ways. At that point, I was too young to grasp the concept of colonialism and the concept of Pan-Africanism but I remember thinking how much I loved the country because of how similar yet different the people were. I think that culture shock gets addictive; I wanted to be shocked again, I wanted to go somewhere where the language, food, nuances etc. were all similar yet uniquely different. I wanted to travel again, and this time without my parents or relatives. Hahaha, we totally understand wanting to travel without parents or relatives. How many countries (and cities in the country you live in) have you been to? (kindly name them) I have been to 16 African countries and lived in quite a few cities. I love mentioning only African countries I have been to and seldom count anywhere else outside of Africa. Call me a snob, but I am too PanAfrican in my ways. I think the continent is so remarkable and black people ought to travel Africa more, and for this purpose, I will only list African Countries I have been to. Rwanda Kenya Burundi Kenya Mozambique Togo Ghana Benin Morocco Egypt Uganda Namibia Ethiopia South Africa Tanzania Seychelles Oh wow, that's remarkable. So which of these places is your favourite so far and why A favourite is so hard to pick. I love Kigali because one of my favourite people in the world lived there for 3 years, so the company was always great. I also love the simplicity and greenery of the city. I am an island boy so I love Seychelles, expensive place but I love it there because of the clear blue beaches. In line with Seychelle, I would add Zanzibar, Tanzania, and perhaps Mombasa, Kenya. I do have a love-hate relationship with Kenya at the moment anyway. I also absolutely love Morocco, my trip to Morocco changed my life in a good way even though I had a terrible experience, it opened me up to see, experience and love the country most amazing way. Plus, I love that I can get everything in Morocco from culture, food, beaches, desert, snow, mountains, nature, everything. Although not in Africa, I love Lebanon too. I liveeeeeeed in Beirut!. How was that?
It was just a lot of flexing and it was so much fun. Lots of connections, I got a tattoo there, got lost, went to a 'war-prone' zone, attended a yoga festival! My first. Got hit on a lot haha, Had a lot of firsts in Beirut actually.
Which was your least favourite place and why? Accra, Ghana. Felt to me like Port Harcourt on steroids. However, I have been advised to revisit the country again since my last trip there was in 2016 and a lot has changed. The shade!!! How does travel make you feel? LOL. EVERYTHING. I go through ranges of emotions depending on what stage of travel I am at;
if I am planning it - anticipation and joy.
When going through immigration - disdain and stress.
When my passport and money was stolen – pain and hate.
When I make new friends - love.
When I see and experience new things – gratitude, and joy!
When I return - euphoria with a sense of depression.
Like I said, it's an array of emotions so I would say travelling makes me feel my feelings whatever it may be at different points in time, but ultimately it is mostly on the HIGH side.
Honestly, travel is life. What’s your travel style like –adventure or chop life and enjoy One of the reasons I don’t do group travels especially internationally is because I'm an adventurous traveller AND I always always experience a country as a local and that means me renting out a space like say an Airbnb, going to the market or learning how to cook local dishes.
For instance, I backpacked Morocco and visited about 13 to 15 towns across the country from the south to the north in a month, I also hiked the highest mountain in the Middle East which is located in Morocco (mount Toubkal) without a guide. Not everyone has a stomach for that. Love it! Street food or na? Yes. I am however very careful with it, plus I am vegan so…. Do you have a travel bucket list? Yes. See every country in Africa. I really want to see Mali, Botswana, and Madagascar next. We want to go to Bali too, take us with you. We have to ask though, what’s the most annoying travel question you get? 'You are travelling again?' Which do you prefer, solo or group trip? Solo If you travel solo, what fears quickly come to mind? Who will take my picture when I am out? If I set up my camera, with my tripod stand will someone pick my phone and make a run for it? Will I be robbed again because I am alone? hahaha
If you travel with a group, do you think people are scared when they see a bunch of black guys travelling together? People are scared when they see a bunch of black people then top that with a bunch Nigerians travelling together. LMAO, fair enough. With these fears, why do you still go? It’s their flawed perception of the world, not mine. Won't let that stop me from living my best life! Does your family worry when you travel? Sometimes I choose to tell my sisters and keep everyone else in the dark lol, before they say you are using money you would use to marry to travel lmaoooooo That marriage topic is so stressful. What’s it like to travel as a black man, have you ever been stereotyped. All the time! I am stereotyped for being black, for being Nigerian, for having facial hair, for having brown eyes, for my accent, for my complexion - it is endless. It is one of the things I detest the most about travelling. I was stereotyped and discriminated against by Kenyan immigration and I kicked against it, wrote about it, and basically called them out. They issued a press release lying through their teeth that I didn’t have a return ticket when I did. I actually NEVER travel without my return ticket, I always know how long I will be in a place. I am Virgo and a planner I plan every single trip. You can’t on a whim backpack Morocco as a Nigerian except you are a planner like me, trust me. Sorry about Kenya. As a black male traveller, do you find yourself worrying about how you may be perceived wherever you go? Yeah, I stopped arriving countries with backpacks. I see white people up and come to Africa with just backpacks but I must come with a briefcase, appear to be rich or to have a successful career, be and act a certain way because of the flawed perception. Yeah, we totally don't understand why we have to be dressed to the tee to travel.
Have you had any scary experience while travelling? In Morocco I was robbed, all of my money and my passport was stolen on the 3rd day of a month long trip. The rest of the trip could fill a book. So until I write about it, I will spare you all the details. Worst nightmare especially as green passport holder. Any embarrassing travel stories? I think it will forever be embarrassing to be singled out as a Nigerian National at arrival immigration Can't argue with that so let’s talk immigration. How bad has your struggle been with the Nigerian passport? REALLY REALLY BAD. I am an unmarried Nigerian man and that also adds to the already existing wahala of the green passport. It’s been tough, even WITHIN Africa and it's crazy. Travelling Africa in my opinion is definitely more expensive and stressful when you think of ticket, visas, immigration, and whatnot. Have you ever had a racist experience? What was that like? Yes, that could fill up a book but I’d rather not dwell on it at this point Fair enough. With the current BLM movement, how do you think that will affect travel for black people? I think we may see a shift towards inclusion and representation in the industry but to what extent I am not sure. But I love that there is more awareness and I can pull out my ís it because I am black card” which I did in Mozambique at the railway station by the way. Love to hear it. Where are you packing your bags to once ‘travel is back’ and why Somewhere in Africa, thinking of Cape Verde because AFRICA and because I deserve a vacation. We all do. It's been a year and a half.
Random, who do you think would win in a fight, a polar bear with a rifle or a shark with a laser?
Gun I would cheer for the Polar Bear because they are vulnerable and their population is decreasing due to various factors. So they are the underdog here. Although, sharks are also going 'functionally extinct' but still let the Polar Bear win. Travel advice for black people?
Don’t allow people to discriminate against you and go free without any consequences, if you do then they will do it to others. When you are treated badly or unkindly talk about it, we are behind your back to amplify your voice and shine a light on it. Also, try and see as much of the motherland as you can, reasons are endless apart from the remarkable natural beauties and manmade wonders the continent has to offer, you would always be growing the tourism industry on the continent. Any post-covid travel predictions? Tickets prices will be brutal when we get back into the full swing of things.
Love how Michael's experience is so diverse and we love that he stans travelling around Africa.
If you would like to feature on this segment, please get in touch.