Oreoluwa Shodayo (@oreoluwaflames on IG) is a Nigerian tour curator and content creator who’s visited more than 20 states in Nigeria. He talks to me about green tea, being a homebody, basic infrastructure and how one trip has altered sentiments regarding tourist destinations.
Backdrop: Have you always loved to travel?
Oreoluwa: I basically stumbled on travel, but people don't believe me when I tell them that. There was a time in my life that I was always bored. I'm a reserved person, so I don't have that many friends or lots of activities to do.
I developed a routine of work and home, and the cycle went on for a while. That is, until this particular Saturday morning. I woke up with an intense yearning for something different. I got out of bed, got dressed and headed to a bus park to catch the next vehicle to Abeokuta.
I visited Olumo rock, and I’ve not looked back since then.
I'm honestly inspired.
Yeah, I learned that being spontaneous brings out so many aspects of you that you never would have imagined. I agree that travel can be transformational.
Can I hear about a trip that changed you notably?
Hm. I’m not sure I can say the change is necessarily a good one, but this trip happens to be one of my favourites. A trip that transformed me is my trip to Rwanda. I mean, the scenery blew my mind. There’s a kind of peace in the air and the greenery is so beautiful.
I don't joke with my tea, so witnessing their tea plantations (and drinking some of that tea, of course) made the trip divine. They have the best natural green tea, and some of the best coffee as well.
It’s a little surprising that I love travelling because I love the indoors. And it’s safe to say that’s one of the reasons I love the trip to Rwanda so much. I spent a week there, sleeping in at the hotel on most days. There was lots to do and see, though, from exploring dormant volcanoes to visiting endangered gorillas.
That sounds amazing.
It was. Rwanda is not only a natural beauty, but everything in the country just seems to works really well. It was a pleasure to sit by my hotel window, sipping tea and overlooking a hill with luscious greenery.
And that was the problem. It all made me utterly disappointed in Nigeria. The level of development, especially in the tourism sector, was ridiculous compared to Nigeria. I totally lost the faith I had in Nigerian tourism. The country is much more developed, and it’s particularly striking because the people attained this despite the genocide of 1994.
So you used to be a bit of a patriot and this trip changed that?
Oh, I was quite the patriot, advocating for Nigerian tourism and encouraging people to travel more within Nigeria. I recognised the numerous flaws, but I figured no pain, no gain.
The moment I stepped foot in Rwanda, and saw how well things worked, though, I just gave up. Ghana was my first trip to another African country, but I didn't do much touristy business, so I almost forget I've been to Ghana. Then, Kenya is undeniably beautiful and things also worked better than in Nigeria, but something about Rwanda just opened my eyes to how easy and enjoyable touring can be.
Is there any destination in Nigeria you’d still advocate for, despite your new ideals?
Omo, honestly right now, I'm not so sure. The major tourist destinations are either dilapidated, inaccessible or burdened by security issues. It’s always one thing or the other. If you want luxury, you definitely can still get that, just with a side of one or more of these problems.
I think I was particularly excited about Kenya because of the Dolphin chasing. That happened in Kenya, right?
Yes it did, it was honestly such a magical moment. The feeling is unexplainable. You have to experience it yourself. I was rewatching a video of the experience on my YouTube recently, and I still felt that magical feeling. By the way, if you think Dolphin sightings are magical, I think you’ll love snorkeling.
I’ll definitely check out the YouTube video. And yes: Snorkelling is on the list of things I plan to do soon. You went with people?
Yes, It was a group tour. We stayed in a resort in Mombasa, Kenya. It was a lovely trip, but Rwanda really changed my perspective, even though I didn't do much.
Was your visit to Rwanda a solo trip?
Yes, it was, and that gave it a nice touch.
Any other trips since Rwanda?
Yes, I visited the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018, right before the end of my stay in Rwanda. The music was an especially good part of the visit. I grew up listening to Awilo longomba, so the place felt familiar. Their food added to this feel; they had many dishes similar to ours in Nigeria. More recently is Benin Republic. I visited last year, but the Rona affected travel accessibility. With Covid tests, new restrictions and updated regulations, it became a little more difficult and costly, but I made it!
Where do you plan to go next?
Namibia is currently high up on my list. Then, there's Zambia/Zimbabwe for the Victoria Waterfalls. Looking to make these happen as soon as possible.