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, Fodors.com, ISLANDS Magazine, United’s Hemispheres, Guardian UK’s Been There, Smithsonian.com, CITY Magazine, Pology, GoNOMAD, Away.com, 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.
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.
- Baby steps towards living your passions
- Letting go of past lives
- A to Z of Pitching Outlets
- In Pie-charts: The realities of freelancing
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.