#30CountriesBefore30 - Kemi Onabanjo
It's interesting how many times, once you stumble into someone or something, you then begin to see them everywhere!
I first heard Kemi when I watched the speech she gave as the valedictorian at the MBA class of 2016, at INSEAD business school - arguably one of the word's best business schools.
Few weeks later, I read her amazing story of visiting 30 countries before she turned 30! And then again, we found ourselves in a common WhatsApp group! All of this has been such a round about way of knowing her, because we apparently worked in the same building when I was back in Lagos!
Many people have the 30by30 travel goal and I thought it'll be great to share a few people who have done this. Kicking off this one with Kemi, who works as a consultant in Lagos, and is obviously a travel enthusiast!
Why do you travel and why should we travel more?
- I travel to see the world, to expand my mind, to learn about new cultures and to prepare myself to be a truly global citizen. We should travel more because it is one of the best ways to learn about the world.
What's the first country you visited. How old were you and what's one thing you remember about that experience?
- The United Kingdom. It was the year Y2K and the year I turned 13! I remember it so vividly. Couple of things I remember vividly about the experience are feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar Square and the adrenaline rush/near death terror I felt from the crazy rides at Kensington World of Adventure. I also remember all the WALKING we had to do – it was probably the first time I walked so much in my life.
3 countries on your bucket list and what you will do there?
- China – see The Great Wall
- India – try to cross into Pakistan by road
- Australia – visit my darling 'Tim Tim' and check out some kangaroos! Haha
Next country you're headed?
- Singapore (Baba God, give me visa favour in Jesus name – Amen!)
Craziest adventure ever! What was it and why did you do it?
- Until I go skydiving, no answer to this question.
One trip you regretted. And why?
- I never regret any trips, no matter how stressful they might have been. Every trip is an opportunity and a learning experience for me. So no regrets at all.
Worst and best meal you've had on your travels?
- Not a hardcore foodie so nothing stays forever on my tastebuds.
What items do you usually take from a hotel room?
- Haha, don’t let them catch me oh! Hand cream, shower cap/bonnet, nail grooming kit and occasionally, I take the house slippers for Mama Kemi. (That's a joke. Sort of)
Best travel tip for an intending traveller?
- Travel light, don’t shop too much, open you heart/mind and don’t forget to smile!
One person you've met on your travel you'd probably never forget
- The 2 couples (i.e 4 people) at my dinner table on my last cruise that I still exchange emails with.
What keepsakes do you buy when you travel? And what's the best one so far?
I always buy fridge magnets. There was also a time I was crazy about buying rings from countries I visited but that phase is over now. My current best keepsake has to be the sushi erasers I bought from Japan last year.
Who is your travel hero?
- Jesus is my travel hero! He can be everywhere at the same time. Now, that’s goals!!!
3 things you'd do on a long stop over?
- Resist duty-free temptation
- Find a restaurant to eat, find a seat next to a charging point and then eat sloooowly
- Resist duty-free temptation again
Longest flight ever taken?
- Paris – Tokyo, 13 hours!
Even if you travel to a million places, where would you always like to call home?
- Lagos. Ogba, Lagos to be specific! Haha.
What has frightened you the most on your travel?
- Rocking airplanes, turbulent flights. Obviously, I am not ready to die yet. Hahaha!
Top travel apps, travel websites and travel gadgets?
- Apps: Been, Splitwise and Yelp
- Websites: Booking.com (great for alternative accommodation), Trip Advisor (reviews are everything)
- Gadgets: my iPhone (for navigation, photography, entertainment and more)
Of all the countries you've been to, which top 3 would you recommend for a honeymoon and why?
- Tanzania, because visa on arrival, sun, sand, and beautiful water make everything look sexier
- Italy, because great food, multiple lovely cities to visit mean you won’t get bored quickly
- Portugal, just because I love Lisbon, you can ball without breaking the bank, it’s so warm and authentic and I want everyone to go there
Who is your favourite travel companion?
- Errrrrrr... I am in the process of getting a permanent favorite travel companion *wink wink*
I love the answer to that final question! Thanks for the heads up Kemi, and please send an invite our way! One very important thing to note, is that Kemi managed to pull off her 30 countries by 30 with a Nigerian passport! How?
- She maximed work trips, by often paying for an extra night to explore the city.
- She got familiar with the process of applying for visas, often having her documentation ever ready and noting visa free locations and easy visa locations. For example, with a valid US visa, you're able to go into Mexico and with a UK visa you can get an easy visa into Turkey.
- During her MBA degree in France, she braved the cold and explored much of Europe!
- She cut down on expensive material things. She earned in Naira, but opened a USD domiciliary account, and will often save part of her salary in USD.
- She wanted to! - I guess the first step in anything, is truly wanting to do it.
The 30 countries she's been to?: UK, UAE, Sweden, Kenya, Cameroon, Tunisia, Brazil, Austria, Ivory Coast, Benin Republic, South Africa, USA, Mauritius, Croatia, France, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Tanzania, Japan, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, Gambia... and of course, Nigeria!
And watch her very inspiring INSEAD valedictory speech here!
We don't all have to do 30by30, but I hope this inspires you to explore more - both local and internationally!
How many countries have you been to, and what are your travel goals for the year (local and international)? Share with us!
pS: Holding a Nigerian passport, a visa free destination is a blessing. Our Barbados Trip didn't need one. Check it out, plus I've listed in the post, all other 44 visa free countries for Nigerians!
And using one of Kemi's tips, the husband went to Malaysia for work and I tagged along. Here's a recap of our 7 Days in Kuala Lumpur (which is also the longest flight I've ever been on!)