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 a long time friend of the site Amarachi. She's Nigerian and when she's not putting her head down at her 9-5, she can be found discovering new places both home and abroad. She runs 'Travel With A Pen' where she shares her stories and helpful tips before you embark on your adventures.
What’s your earliest memory of travel?
My earliest memory of travel has to be the first time we moved from Ondo State, where I was born to Edo State in Nigeria. I don’t exactly remember the journey itself, I just remember realizing one day, that I was in a different place and people spoke differently. I also remember being excited to pick up Pidgin English although my dad discouraged us from speaking it in the house.
The earliest trip I remember in detail has to be my road trip to Jos. I went with ABC transport and it was ridiculously long but I enjoyed every minute of it! I think I was just fascinated that you could watch TV in a bus!
At what exact moment or experience ignited your love for travel?
My family moved around a lot when I was younger – my dad got transferred to a different state every 2 years. I think it was in those moments, when my dad would announce these moves to us that I began to get excited about travelling. We would also make trips down to the East to see family and just the experience of meeting and spending time with my cousins was enough to ignite the love for travel.
How many countries (or cities in the country you live in) have you been to?
So far, I have been to 20 countries as at my last count and in Nigeria, I have visited 23 states and several cities within those states.
What’s your favorite country so far and why?
This has always been a tough question for me to answer but if I had to narrow down to three, I would say, Benin Republic, Morocco and Italy. Benin Republic, because I live in Lagos and it is such a quick, cheap and easy getaway. I also met my husband (Mark) on my first visit to the country – so of course, it has a special place in my heart.
Morocco was just magical! There, I saw it snow for the first time, spent a night camping in the Sahara Desert, wandered through souks and blue colored alleys. It was wonderful! And finally, Italy is such a gorgeous country. The food, the language, the streets, everything is just so beautiful and whimsical.
I’ve enjoyed spending time in all the countries I have visited though. I have pleasant memories from every single one of them.
How does travel make you feel?
Excited, Empowered and Appreciative. I remember taking my first solo trip as a shy, introverted, timid young lady and coming out of that experience emboldened, more confident and enlightened. That trip really did change my life and each time I travel, I gain something new.
What’s your travel style like –adventure or chop life and enjoy
I would say Adventure but not like, trying-to-kill-myself-adventure! So, it’s in between really. I would share a hostel room with strangers, maybe hitchhike sometimes but I would also be willing to splurge on experiences I think are worth having. I try to find a healthy balance between the two.
Street food or na?
I used to be a very picky eater. In some ways, I still am but when I travelled to India a few years ago, I decided to really embrace the experience and that included eating street food. I have no regrets and I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to indulge a little. Of course, sanitization is always at the back of my mind and this pandemic is going to amplify that for sure! But for now, I would say a yes? (with the question mark, lol) to street food.
What’s the most annoying travel question you get?
“So, what did you bring for me?”
Please Sir, did you give me money?! I know it is just banter in most cases but it used to worry me a lot when I first started travelling internationally. I would feel so guilty about not getting gifts for people. But now that I am older and wiser, I simply do not let it border me at all!
Which do you prefer, solo or group trip?
I absolutely love solo trips! I love the feeling of independence it gives me and the courage, morale boost I get every time I successfully complete one. This isn’t to say I don’t like group trips, because I do, especially when I travel with people who have a similar travel style.
When you travel solo, what fears quickly come to mind?
I think a lot about who will take my fire pictures! Just kidding. I often worry about getting stranded without any money. I think that is the biggest one. I used to worry about getting lost (because I am terrible with directions) but not so much anymore because I feel like I know what to do if that ever happens.
Also, I take the maximum level of precautions I can afford to stay safe. I usually factor this before I go on the trip and it makes me feel more comfortable to embark on it.
With these fears, why do you still go?
Because I realize the world is like one small village and people, for the most part are good. I tell myself this and having experienced the kindness of strangers, I truly believe it.
On my own part, I also put things in place to ensure that I address my fears. So for example, because I am afraid of being stranded, I travel with multiple cards (including a dollar card) and cash (which I hate to do, but it is necessity). I also have a support system back at home to help out in case things get to that point.
As a solo female traveler, do you often find yourself worried about assault, rape etc
The more I read about these terrible incidences around the world, the more I worry and the more I add to my list of precautionary measures to take when I travel solo. Like I said earlier, I do the best I can to stay safe. And for me, this includes, keeping a low profile, not staying out late, letting someone know where I am or where I’ll be going and so on.
Have you had any scary experience while travelling?
Fortunately, I haven’t had any experience that has scarred me or any that relates to the question above and I think this is part luck and part risk management.
If I had to pick a different kind of scary, I would say that my scariest moment was the time I went snorkeling in the Red Sea, without knowing how to swim. I had a panic attack when I tried snorkeling with flippers on and almost drowned Mark. But that wasn’t even the worst part.
Somehow, even after that incident, he managed to convince me to swim a long stretch of the ocean. Honestly, love clouded my brain that day, because if I was in my right senses, I would have told myself that I had just started courting this guy plus he knows how to swim! Chances are if there were sharks in the water that day, I would have been lunch! I’m glad we both came out of that in one piece!
Let’s talk immigration. What’s that like for you?
Immigration is not fun when you have a Nigerian Passport. The whole process from getting a visa to border control is just so apprehensive. I remember my first trip to France, I and two of my colleagues, who were also first time travelers, got pulled aside and questioned for hours.
In Tanzania, immigration officers took mine and my sister’s passports to a different room, before coming back in to grant us a visa on arrival (when they still offered this).
It doesn’t matter how many countries I have visited; I am always nervous at every stage of the process. When I experience kind, welcoming immigration officers (like the ones I met in India), I am always so appreciative.
What’s it like to travel as a Nigerian? Do you think you’re stereotyped as a Nigerian or just stereotyped as a black person?
I might be imagining things but I usually don’t see the frowns until I hand over my Nigerian passport. Lol, so maybe that!
Have you ever had a racist experience? What was that like?
Again, fortunately, I haven’t had an explicit racist experience. Or at least, I haven’t interpreted an experience I have had to be racist. As a matter of fact, the only time I have felt conscious about my race while travelling was when I visited Spain. But up till this day, I don’t know what it was exactly that triggered this feeling.
With the current BLM and women’s safety movement, how do you think that will affect travel?
I think more black travellers will seek out countries where they are welcomed and accepted. They will also be more willing to speak out against any racial prejudice because, now, thanks to Social Media, the world is listening.
As for female travellers, I feel like we already try do a lot to stay safe, so this will continue, with more precautions taken as we deem fit.
Ever had a ‘can I touch your hair’ experience?
I have. Twice, so far – In France and in India. I actually didn’t and do not find it offensive, although I would get really annoyed if it happened multiple times during a trip. Luckily, this was not the case for me.
Where are you packing your bags to once ‘travel is back’ and why
Ivory Coast - I am hoping to see more of West Africa after the pandemic. Then Kenya!
Any post-covid travel predictions?
I think travel will return as normal! Lol, honestly, I don’t believe much will change. Maybe in the short term, there’ll be minor changes here and there… More security checks, we’ll need a covid-19 free certificate, higher fares and so on but ultimately, things will return to normal J