On a very random evening mid-2011, I logged on to Facebook to respond to some messages. The first thing that caught my eyes was an amazing picture of an Australian friend basking in Vietnam’s sun with the background of Ha Long Bay. I had no idea that Vietnam was that beautiful and as soon as she gave me enough information about her holiday, I immediately booked over a month’s long trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam via my favourite tour company, Contiki. I figured, why go all the way over there to see one country when it is so affordable to see a combination of four?
Prior to seeing this picture, I was planning for a 2012 spring holiday, and most of the options I could think of were in Europe. Grateful is not a strong enough word to explain what I feel about seeing that one picture. With about 12 countries under my belt, mostly in Europe and the Americas, I was getting a bit disillusioned about the concept of travelling and experiencing more beyond my comfort zone. None of the countries I had visited pushed me out of the little box I seemed so comfortable lounging in, and that was entirely my fault. That one picture showed me there was more to what I defined as travelling.
A few months down the line from liking a Facebook picture, I found myself roaming the streets of down town Bangkok trying to find a hotel because for once, I wanted to go with the flow during my travels. Well, at least for a week before I met up with the travel company taking care of me. So after flying for what seemed like a 48hrs long flight from Lagos, I found myself in a country where English was nowhere near the second language and trying not to get swindled into paying too much for a hotel room. I ended up paying $10 more than I should have, but I was ecstatic! I was in Thailand!
From that one picture, I found myself partying on an overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, watching the sun rise over Angor Wat, sailing on the Mekong Delta to different towns, draping a python on my shoulders while sipping on snake whiskey concoction, cooking and drinking with the locals, diving into the beautiful waters in the Gulf of Thailand. Haggling my way through many night markets for cheap trinkets, crawling through the tunnels in Vietnam, feeding the monks at dawn, partying like a rock star, riding an elephant through the jungle of Laos, hiking through many caves, visiting way too many temples and standing in awe of their beauties, while making friends to last a lifetime.
That one picture opened my mind to seeing countries so far from my comfort zone as the next destinations to explore. Without that one picture spurring me on, spending a few weeks exploring the beauty and culture of China would never have crossed my mind. Spending over a month travelling from Australia’s Gold Coast to braving the Outback’s and its Northern territory would have remained in the crevice of my deepest travel fantasies.
Oddly enough, the adventures that that one picture spurred me to jumping on, has now led me to looking at Africa in a very different light. With the way many news outlets have shaped the way the world views Africa, the thought of experiencing travel through Africa scared me more so than jumping on a flight almost 48 hours away from my home in Lagos.
We live in an age where anybody can access personal travel stories through various channels like YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like; getting more accurate images of the adventures one can experience in countries deemed as non-tourist friendly has changed the way people now travel.In December, I created a short video on my YouTube channel, ZeeGoes, showcasing my road trip to Anambra, and that garnered the most views, inquiry, and comments on my channel. Why? Many are curious about travel within Nigeria. Nigerians living in Nigeria are curious about travel within Nigeria. Nigeria is not a deeply explored travel territory, nor are many countries in Africa. Digital media is greatly changing the story of travel and making it more accessible for anybody. Many countries that I would have never thought of travelling to have been added to my bucket list after seeing Instagram images that made me pause and stare in wonder. Most of these are places not showcased by the popular media outlets but by mostly locals raising the veil on the beauties of their home.
In 2008 the thought of long road trips or flights within Nigeria or undeveloped parts of Africa frightened me. Now, the thought of experiencing travel through Nigeria and many countries in Africa excites me.