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Solo Travel Chronicles: Lessons Learned While Visiting 50 Countries

By Travel Noire

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Stepping foot onto JKIA in Nairobi this past May meant I’d been to 50 countries. Looking back on the eight years since I’ve actively started to travel, I’m sharing some top lessons learned while traveling on a restricted (Nigerian) passport, as a (sometimes) solo traveler, a female traveler, and a career woman.

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff:

I’ve learned that things will go wrong…missed flights, denied visas, canceled trips, lost valuables, illness etc. I’ve learned to compromise when traveling with others. I know that a bad (travel) day sucks but it doesn’t mean a bad life. As bad as any situations seemed, with time I will get through it and past it.

There’s no Competition Just Seasons:

My first time on a plane was the day I left Nigeria for the USA to attend University. My first backpacking trip was not until after graduate studies. This is so important in an age where it is easy to ‘feel’ behind on life because of what we see on social media or based on what others have accomplished.

I personally have not set goals around a number of countries. Beyond travel, I have had times where I’ve felt passed over only to realize later that I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I believe in seasons and if you’re reading this, remember that everyone has a different race, different priorities, and different access to resources. Whatever it is, keep at it and know that your season will come, and the timing will be right.

Traveling is a Privilege and Privilege is Relative:

Anyone from a country with a restricted passport knows that travel can be such a hassle sometimes. I could name the many disadvantages of traveling on a Nigerian passport. But guess what? I’m a Nigerian passport holder that has received US, UK, Canadian, and Schengen visas every time I’ve applied. That is a privilege as for some reason they prove to others that I’m a ‘worthy’ traveler. While I wasn’t born or always in this position, I can afford to save for travel. That is a privilege.

Opinions Are Just that:

There’s a lot in the news and a lot on social media. In the travel space there are lots of opinions too. I’ve learned to be careful in making judgments on places and people based solely on someone else’s opinion or experience. My view is not the only view but it is a reference point and that’s all. There’s no perfect to travel and no perfect way to live. So go to that unpopular place, take that risk/job if that is aligned with your purpose. Every chapter of your life is yours to write after all.

I Don’t Know Much at All:

While I have traveled more than the average person, I’m still learning and if you’ve read my blog you’ll see that I make mistakes. Traveling has taught me that there’s so much of the world that I do not know and that’s okay.

It is Possible to Travel and Still Build a Career:

It is possible to have a corporate career and travel without giving up both. There will be time and season for everything but even before I got to do a stint in Europe I’d traveled to over 20 countries. It comes down to priorities and it’s okay if travel isn’t a current priority.

I love to Travel but it is Not my Life:

I don’t travel to escape my life. I’ve been intentional about incorporating travel into my life and I plan to keep it that way even if it’s through watching the Travel Channel at some point. Travel is great but it is not my entire identity.

There are other things that are meaningful to me that I focus my time energy and resources on. Some of them are being engaged in the community, building a career and building younger professionals up, my faith, and doing my best to live a life that matters and that reaches beyond me.

Representation Matters:

I was surprised to find people queuing to take pictures with me in Turkey. After that episode, I ran to my hostel to ask what in the world was going on! Last year in South Africa the entire kitchen crew (all black) at a nicer safari lodge came out to greet me because they’d never had a black guest in their time.

It’s easy to ignore the conversations about representation until you live it whether it’s in the classroom or in a boardroom or on Lake Titicaca. But the lesson for me is this and it goes beyond travel: to show up fully because you never ever know the extent to which your presence makes a difference to someone else.

50 countries in and it feels unreal. I’ve found friendship and kindness. I’ve found curiosity; I’ve exchanged smiles, shared drinks, and secrets with strangers. I’ve been inspired, and frustrated, and I’ve stared in wonder at God’s creation. I’m better for it! I will always be thankful for the journey and glad I chose adventure – my way! I hope I never lose that sense of wonder!

This post was written by Dee Olateru

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