For this week’s Stamped, Tolu Ajiboye, a 26-year-old Nigerian, walks us through her month-long solo trip across the US. She talks about going from New York to Seattle, and why she loves travelling by herself.
This is her story, as told to Daniel Orubo, Content Lead at Backdrop.
When I was a kid, I used to travel with my mum to London and Dubai every couple of years.
Then as an adult, I started travelling on my own in 2017. The first place I visited was Abu Dhabi, right after finishing my law school exams. I wanted somewhere that was easy to visit, but I didn’t want to do Dubai again; I wanted somewhere Dubai adjacent, and Abu Dhabi delivered.
The next place I went to was Marrakesh, which was really pretty; then I went to Turkey, which I wanted to see because of Istanbul’s rich history and how fun Cappadocia looked on Instagram. They even had hot air balloon rides, but I bailed because I’m a scaredy cat. The next place I visited was Cape Verde with a friend, and then right before COVID hit, I went to Barbados with a group of friends. Both trips were very fun.
My most exciting trip, however, is my recent solo trip to America, which lasted for about a month. I’d never been to the US, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Most of the books I read and media I consume are very America-focused, so I wanted to experience the culture for myself. I had also applied for a visa at the start of 2020 and it was about to expire. I didn’t want it to waste.
My first stop was New York. Thanks to shows like Gossip Girl and movies like The Devil Wears Prada, New York just feels like the centre of America. It was really nice seeing Times Square in person, as well as Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). I also got to see the NYU campus because I have a friend there. I spent about six days in New York; it was all fun.
My second stop was Miami because you just have to visit Miami if you have the chance, right? It was August, the end of Summer, so I knew it would be a great time. Unlike New York, I didn’t know anyone there, but I still had a blast. My hotel was amazing. It was on Ocean Drive, where all the parties go down, but I didn’t attend any because of COVID. I did get to see a drag show for the first time, though, and I made so many videos of palm trees; I’m sure everyone on my feed was tired of me. The food was also delicious and diverse — I had Peruvian, Thai and Cuban food.
My third stop was Boston because my best friend got into Harvard. Harvard is actually in Cambridge, but it was a 15-minute cab ride from Boston to go see her. That being said, Boston was a bit boring — most places began closing up shop by 9 PM. I only had fun when I was on the campus. The students always had some party to attend, and I got to meet people from all over the world. It was incredible.
Then my fourth and final stop was Seattle because my friend asked me to come. I don’t think I would have chosen to go to Seattle on my own, but I ended up loving it. It was very pretty. I visited Chihuly Garden and Glass, which was the most beautiful place I saw the entire trip. I also visited the Seattle Museum and saw the works of Claude Monet, the famous French painter.
I like travelling by myself because I get to sleep in as much as I want to. Nobody is trying to make me go on a hike by 6 AM. I hate when people turn trips into punishment — you know, all those people that say you must be out every moment doing something. If it’s a long trip, of course I will do some physical activities, but if it’s a short trip, just let me sleep and eat good food, please.
Solo trips are honestly the best. You get to plan your itinerary all by yourself and get to only do things you’re interested in. As a person, I generally prefer being on my own. I enjoyed being able to see friends in New York, but I was still in full control of that trip. I only saw them when I wanted to. That’s the sweet spot.
Since the US trip, I’ve been to Uganda for a friend’s wedding. Interestingly, this was a friend I made on my first trip to Abu Dhabi. We kept in touch. She came to Nigeria last year — her husband is Nigerian — and we hung out. So, when she invited me for the wedding, I was happy to go; I’d never been to East Africa. I stayed in the beautiful Jinja Nile Resort, saw a few tourist attractions and went clubbing. The wedding was great, too; I got to experience their culture.
I don’t know where my next trip will be, but I would really love to go to Greece — alone or with my partner, I don’t mind — but I know how tough it can be to get a Schengen visa. Hopefully, it all works out.
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