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Naija Xplorers: Omotoke Spent 19 Months Backpacking Across 36 States in Nigeria

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Naija Xplorers is a travel series on BellaNaija that features African travel content creators and enthusiasts. They share their experiences about the best places to travel, how to enjoy a solo trip, and tips on budget-friendly adventures, both locally and around the globe. From the foodie who knows where to get the best food in Lebanon, to the explorer who has travelled to all 36 states in Nigeria, they will provide a unique perspective on the world, sharing travel hacks, hidden gems, and their personal experiences.

In the previous episode, we had a conversation with Zim. Did you miss it? Read it here.

This week, we are featuring Omotoke, a travel content creator who calls herself the “West Africa travel plug.” She has travelled to 13 countries in Africa, and she spent 19 months backpacking across 36 states in Nigeria. Omotoke shares her experiences travelling as a Nigerian across West Africa, tips that would be helpful for your next adventure, and her ultimate comfort food when she returns home from a long journey.

Hello, Omotoke! Tell us three fun facts about Omotoke.

Fun facts about me! Wow.

  1. I never dreamt of becoming a traveller. I just sort of met myself in the travel space, and till today. It’s been a miracle travelling one country at a time.
  2. Wherever you see me, you’ll see a water bottle filled with garri; that is my lover.
  3. I would love to travel to every country in the world for the first time by land or water without flying.

Your Instagram bio says, “The first female to solo backpack through Nigeria in 19 months.” Give us the scoop on that.

Backpacked across 36 states in Nigeria within 19 months. Today, it’s one of the most amazing feats I am grateful for. The gift of being a Nigerian and the amazing people of this beloved country. The diversity and beauty we embolden. I’m a proud Nigerian, and I will always uphold my country’s flag.

What were the challenges you faced during your solo journey across Nigeria?

One of the challenges I faced was mostly personal, like financial constraints on my ability to travel as frequently as I would have wanted to. Travelling across Nigeria as a first-time traveller proves to me that I can travel anywhere in the world. The love, the support, and the experiences made Omotoke, the Alarinka, of today.

You call yourself the West Africa Travel Plug. Tell us your top 3 West African travel destinations of all time.

Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Ghana: These are countries I see myself living in and loving.

Being Nigerian, how has your nationality influenced your travel experiences?

Travelling through West Africa as a Nigerian comes with its benefits. Most West Africans look forward to meeting Nigerians. They are mostly curious to confirm all the news they read online, and once they meet one of us, they pamper us. Travelling through land borders can be very discouraging because there is segregation that comes with being in Nigeria and paying more than the fees charged to other countries. This leaves questions as to why Nigerians need to be treated differently from the sight of our passport; the notion that Nigerians are rich and loud and, therefore, deserve to be different, has to be dead this year, please.

Budgeting is a big concern for many people. What are your top 3 money-saving hacks for budget travel?

  1. Stay with the Locals: I couch surf most of the time, and this saves me money on accommodation, which will most likely consume a chunk of your budget.
  2. Never travel during the peak season: I don’t travel during any festive season or a destination peak season. This attracts lots of tourists, and with that comes an increase in the prices of transportation, accommodation, and generally everything.
  3. Get a travel partner. I don’t do this because I’m a solo traveller, but it’s one of the best money-saving hacks. You get to share costs with someone else, which reduces the set budget by half.

What’s your ultimate comfort food after returning from an adventure?

My comfort food is always with me, lol. And it’s Garri; it comforts me and guides me. Other than that, a good amala and any Nigerian delicacy will comfort you after long trips to Atieke and Aloco; trust me, you’ll appreciate Nigeria’s diversity more when you travel.

How do you balance experiencing a destination authentically with creating engaging content for your audience?

Creating means experiencing. I have a 60:40 rule. The 40 is to document the destination and everything amazing that is happening while enjoying the art of creating and documenting. The 60 is when I drop my phone and bask in the beauty of my destination. Living in the moment and taking it all in. It took me a while to be able to master this act.

What’s the one travel app you can’t live without?

Google Maps, everywhere I go. It can lead me astray sometimes, but it will always get me back home.

What are the safety measures you put in place when exploring?

Having a local on my speed dial. It’s important to always have someone who knows their people to help you or get you out of any jam. I asked for local insight and information on my destinations to help me better prepare and stay safe. Downloading offline maps is very crucial.

For someone who aspires to pursue a career as a travel content creator, what advice would you offer them?

  1. Love it first! It’s not an easy industry to delve into. But if you love travelling, experiencing new cultures for yourself, and documenting your lifestyle to some extent, then by all means you’ll make a mark here.
  2. Passion beats popularity; it’s easy to feel you’re not getting the accolades and rewards for your efforts or contributions. This is where passion comes in; it keeps you going and enjoying what you do.
  3. You probably heard this again and again: Start where you are and with what you have. I started in a small community in Agbogunleri, documenting everyday people and places with an Infinix and no naira to my name. But today, I have travelled to 13 countries and am still counting. START NOW! GET BETTER AS YOU GO.

What’s next on your travel bucket list?

Planning another crazy adventure of backpacking to 10 countries: Thinking about it, BellaNaija can come on board for exclusives on this journey; it’s going to be massive.

Thank you! For having me.

Star Features