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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.


Writing to me is…

Writing to me is like using playdoh. When I write, I play with words, string them together, like a necklace to make beautiful sentences.

Writing to me is like using the color wheel. Nouns are blue, verbs are red, adjectives are indigo, adverbs are orange, prepositions are violet, articles are brown, conjunctions are green, and interjections are yellow.

Writing to me is music. When done right, the words flow together and create harmony.

Writing to me is fun when the words tumble out in exactly the order in which I imagine them.

Writing to me is like drawing pictures with words.

Writing to me is a way to slow down and rationalize my thoughts. Sometimes, jumbled thoughts become untangled; fleeting ideas become anchored to the page.

Writing to me is something I do all day, everyday.

Writing to me is easy. Most times.

Writing to me is like reading out loud, relishing the sounds the words make.

Writing to me is rewriting. Often.

Writing to me is poetry.

Writing to me is, preferably, pen on paper. But it’s never just black and white.

Writing to me like breathing. I don’t know how I’d be if I couldn’t write.

Writing it down - Maynefoto

What does writing mean to you?

Share your thoughts and take a minute to check out what writing means to my other Blog-A-Licious buddies:

1. Paula –

2. Stuart –

3. Karen –

4. DK Levick –

5. Shannon –

6. Corinne –

7. Sonia –

8. Sulekha –

9. Dora –

10. Sarah –

12. Roy –

13. Janki –

14. Tina –

15. Thelma –

16. Dora –


Quieting My Restless Mind

Brain, computer art
Image via Wikipedia

I spend a lot of time in my head so when I’m having one of those days, one where my brain is so stimulated, I can’t write what I want, its paralyzing.

I had this week all laid out. Starting today, I’d write about Paris. I was excited by the ideas that were coming, made notes, selected the photos but now that I’m to start, I haven’t been able to quiet my thoughts. I feel lukewarm, no, detached about it and frankly, it’d be a struggle to write even the first sentence.

Yesterday, on the subway, I ‘wrote’ an entire post on another topic — in my head. I didn’t want to pull out my notebook and begin writing because I feared the thoughts would float away — they were flowing so effortlessly, I decided to bask in the glow of their energy instead. And I did. (I must have filed them away because I can’t recall them today. But believe me, they were beautiful and oh, so poetic!)

So since my brain’s not cooperating, here’s what I’ll do in the meantime:

  • Write what wants to come out. Writing about something else, takes the pressure off and frees up my brain so it can continue to bake the idea/s that want to come out or clear the clutter.
  • Do something physical. Like cleaning (which I need to do), walking, gardening, exercising, etc., that engages the other side of my brain and frees me up so the ideas can flow again.
  • Review the events of the past 2 days. By reliving the weekend’s events, I can connect with and process the emotions and the sparks I got. I had a weekend full of activities and each was a potential blog post. I can also plan the coming weekend’s activities.
  • Talk to someone. I do have a few calls to make that are totally unrelated to my writing. Those will also take my mind off of the matter at hand.
  • Breathe deeply. Breathing deeply forces me to concentrate on my breath, not on the confusion in my head. It’s also quite relaxing.
  • Listen to music. When I listen to music, I’ll sing along or dance and that takes my mind off the noise in my head.
  • Watch a funny movie or cartoon. It’s no understatement – laughter is good medicine. It’s the perfect antidote to stress and relaxes not just the facial muscles but the entire body.

What technique do you use to quiet your mind when it refuses to do so on its own?

I Wasn’t Sure I Could Do It

I must admit, I wasn’t sure I could do it – post everyday for a week, let alone a year but I was willing to try.

I like a challenge.

But I’d taken on challenges before….

I don’t think of the year. I think of a day at a time.

Sometimes, ideas come quickly and often, other times not so.

Sometimes, I bang out several hundred words in no time flat. At other times, a few hundred seem to take an eternity to emerge.

Used to being more comfortable behind the scenes, I’m learning how to bare myself to the scrutiny of others and not become paralyzed by my fear that they won’t like what I say, think I’m a fraud or worry when they don’t comment.

And they’ve been surprisingly (to me) generous, receptive and supportive.

Now posting everyday has become a habit I don’t want to break. (I’m writing this as I wait to see a movie.) Three months just flew by!

There’s no prize at the end of the year, just the sense of accomplishment I know I’ll have.

Thanks to my blog buddies and everyone else whose comments have encouraged and propelled me forward.

To the next milestone.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

Content Block?

Collaborative writing exercises—such as the cl...
Image via Wikipedia

Is this content block?

For the first time since I started this challenge to post everyday in 2011, I don’t have a topic I want to write about.

I have a few ideas but I haven’t had the time to develop them as I’m in the middle of two writing projects – one with a fast approaching deadline.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that the ideas aren’t popping as fast or as furious as they usually do. And for some reason, I’m not feeling any of the suggested DailyPost topics.

So rather than break my perfect postaday2011 record, I’m writing and hoping to clear my head because all I can think of is my deadline.

I can’t wait to get back to writing about my travels.

Guess I’ll Pat Myself on the Back Now

Exactly a month – 31 days – ago, I responded to the challenge to post everyday for 365 days.

I did it on a lark.

This blog was registered back in 2007 and though I write (almost) everyday for work, I hadn’t been able to muster up the energy or enthusiasm to post even once a week.

That is, until I saw the challenge. It said to me: Dare to write. Dare to be original. Dare to be authentic. Dare to be naked emotionally. Dare to be controversial. Dare to be funny. I dare you!

So I write and I read and I comment on other bloggers’ blogs and I strive to be a better blogger, a better writer.

And I’m having fun! Just like I used to in writing classes. I look forward to coming up with topics to write, share my stories and craft eye-catching headlines.

I also look forward to receiving comments. No, I love receiving and reading comments. There are so many blogs out there, I’m thrilled when you stop by mine and let me know what you think. Thank you for joining me on this journey.

But today, I’m also patting myself on the back to mark this important milestone.