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Friday Focus: Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom

This month, InsideJourneys inaugurates Friday Focus, a series of interviews with writers and travelers.

October’s Focus is on Nigerian born writer/photographer and editor for Matador Goods, Lola Akinmade-Åkerström.

Lola holds an MSc in Information Systems from the University of Maryland and has a solid background in Geography. She specialized in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for 10+ years and her affinity for the geosciences and maps meant she was born to travel.

Her work has appeared in Vogue, National Geographic Traveler, BBC, San Francisco Chronicle, Travel Channel’s World Hum, Forbes Traveler, Sherman’s Travel,, ISLANDS Magazine, United’s Hemispheres, Guardian UK’s Been There,, CITY Magazine, Pology, GoNOMAD,, Transitions Abroad, Matador Network, amongst others.

Some of her articles and photography have been syndicated on MSNBC, Yahoo, New York Daily News, Chicago Sun Times, Huffington Post, and Time Warner.

She has also worked as a field journalist on the web team during Eco-Challenge’s Expedition Race in Fiji and currently volunteers as a photojournalist with the Swedish Red Cross and World Hope International, documenting their projects in countries such as Nicaragua, Sweden, and Cambodia, and C.H.I.E.F – an NGO based in Nigeria that promotes grassroots health development, HIV/AIDS awareness, and the empowerment of women.

Lola describes herself as fiercely passionate as well as compassionate and has a generous heart. She is also guided by her faith.

Here’s Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom on writing, traveling and her approach to both.

What do you find most challenging and most fun about being a travel blogger?

I actually consider myself a writer/photographer and blogging is just one of many platforms I use to share work. What I find the most invigorating in terms of blogging about travel is that I can bring people alongside me and provide a ground-level perspective of where I’m journeying through.

There are various challenges based on what type of travel blogger one is. There are many bloggers whose main goal is to make money through advertising on their site so their challenge is trying to get traffic and viewers. There are others who want to score free trips so their challenge is showing PR companies that they’ll get some return on investment.

For me personally, I earn most of my income from freelancing and so my own challenge is to always have a fresh pool of ideas and a steady backlog of work.

What does it mean to you to travel?

Travel is two-fold for me, and I consider it a part of my life. As idealistic as I am, I also try to keep a balanced view on life. I can’t make travel so consume my life that without it, I feel helpless. Yet, travel is an integral part of my life because I’ve been traveling overseas ever since I was 1 year old.

Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom

Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom

In terms of travel being two-fold, for me travel is not only about traversing the world, counting countries, and absorbing every other culture while losing yours in the process. Travel also requires that I be an ambassador for my own culture, sharing it and educating others I meet along the way as well.

I see travel as an investment and I wrote about my views here.

What places are on your bucket list and why?

Though I’ve been blessed to visit so many countries (roughly 40 so far), I’ve actually chucked out any bucket lists I had. Because my attitude and philosophy towards travel has changed with time, I’ve stopped looking at life as a checklist and more as a moment by moment experience. If I never get to go skydiving off Kilimanjaro in my lifetime, I won’t have regrets because it wasn’t on some bucket list that defined my life.

That said; I really want to go to the North Pole. It has always been a childhood dream of mine and I know someday it will happen. I also want to visit Mongolia as well as travel through and spend some time in a lot more West African countries.

Describe your dream trip.

I’ve been drawn to the South Pacific for some time now. Though I’ve visited Australia and New Zealand as well as spent 3 weeks in Fiji, my dream trip would be to spend 3-6 months in the South Pacific, island hopping and visiting every single one of those remote islands.

Tell us about a place you visited that you didn’t like.

Brussels was the one place I really didn’t dig. I’m always open to giving it another chance.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself through traveling?

There’s a certain down-to-earth vibe that comes with being a traveler. One thing I’ve learned is to never take anything or anyone at face value. I’m very open-minded and always give everyone the benefit of doubt. I’ve also learned through my travels just how versatile and flexible I can be.

What gadgets do you have to have when you travel?

I still don’t own a smartphone mostly because I want to balance working on my travels with actually experiencing each moment. This may change within the next few months, but right now, I don’t miss having one. I always have a travel netbook as well as a DSLR camera when traveling. I often use my camera to capture what I call “visual notes” which I then piece together into an article (in addition to traditional note taking) when I’m back at my desk.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to point readers to a couple posts that I think might be helpful. I always get questions about breaking into travel writing and photography and I’m always open, honest, and realistic in my responses. Here are a few articles/posts worth reading.

Thank you, Lola, for sharing your insight and your articles with us.

Read more about Lola Akinmade-Akerstrom or follow her blog by visiting her here.


Staying Connected While on the Road

One of the issues we face as we travel from developed to developing world is matching the ‘always on’ level of connection we’ve come to expect and enjoy. It becomes particularly critical if you plan to be away for longer than a week and you’ve committed to post everyday.

Prior to leaving the US, I researched connectivity options available through the major providers in Jamaica – Digicel, Lime and Claro – and felt confident that the only difficulty I’d have is deciding which company to use.

Last Monday, I set out to get a new phone and SIM – I had misplaced my Jamaica SIM and the professional I paid in London to unlock my Nokia phone damaged it instead.  Getting the phone was the easy part.

When I told the sales person that I wanted to purchase a wireless modem, she asked where I lived. She might have seen the look on my face and quickly added that she had to check to see what service was like in my area. I was surprised. According to Digicel, their 4G service was available everywhere.

She tried the modem on their laptop and it fired up instantly. I’d learned from previous experience that getting anything done with a Mac in Jamaica was problematic so I had her try it on my laptop.

Just as I thought, the modem failed. She recommended another, which at about $100, was almost twice the one I wanted to buy.  I was ready to buy but they had none at her location.

We drove to the store she said would have it. When I got there, I decided to check with computer technician at a computer store what modem he’d recommend for the Mac. It wasn’t Digicel’s, the one I was trying to find, but Claro’s, the Mexican company that is reportedly eyeing Digicel for purchase.

Luckily for me, Claro was on the floor below but their Mac expert was out and the modem resupply had not yet arrived. It’d be here in about an hour, I was told.

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Montego Bay Convention Center

View of the Caribbean Sea from the Montego Bay Convention Center

Since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and it was getting closer to 2 p.m., I decided lunch was my priority. After lunch, I called – the modem and technician were both there. But he was doubtful their modem would work properly in my location. The signal would most likely fade or drop entirely, he said, so he advised me not to buy.

I thanked him and made my way to the Digicel store. The modem was in stock. The sales person (and Mac expert) to whom I was directed was there. Again, the modem that was supposed to work with a Mac, didn’t. She tried three different devices and called their technicians to assist but no joy. I left the store near 5 p.m. — no modem and no way to get connected.

When I told my cousin, she said I should use her DSL service. I was able to hook my laptop up but the connection is so slow, it drops every few minutes.

So, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to be online long enough to keep up with all your posts. I do hope to get this sorted out soon as I do miss my ‘always on’ connection.

I guess the best part is that I’ve been reading more and getting to bed earlier!

Another Award

As you all know, blogging is a solitary thing. You write and read and hope others will appreciate your point of view and decided to follow you on your blogging journey.

It was a real treat to open my mailbox and see that I’ve received an award, not just any award, An Appreciated Follower Award from fellow blogger, Celia at Africa2Asia. Neat, huh? Well, I think so!

And now that I’ve gotten the award, I have a few things to do:

1. Thank the giver. (Thanks Celia!)

2. Pick 5 bloggers to pass the award on to. Let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3.  Copy and paste the award

4.  Have faith that my followers will spread the love to other bloggers.

5.  Have bloggy fun!

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are the 5 people I’ll bestow the Appreciated Follower Award to. These are talented, eloquent, thoughtful, interesting people whose blogs are worth a read.

Thanks again, Celia!

I’ve Gotten a Liebster Award

I was visiting my blog buddy Hakea’s blog when I noticed she had given me a Liebster Award. What’s the Liebster Award, you ask.

Well, the Liebster Award is said to have originated in Germany. Translated to English, it means “beloved.”  The Liebster Award is meant to bring more attention to blogs with fewer than 200 followers.

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