I am writing to share my experience from my recent trip back to motherland – Nigeria, I guess it can be called a homecoming trip as my parents were both from Ibadan and they share the same surname – Ajala – and no they are not related ? I get asked this every time, no they are not, just a beautiful coincidence. I have also been told about the legendary Ajala the Traveler so I guess I could claim to be a traveller as well as I have been to a few countries but for this trip, I decided to visit home sweet home. I am British-born and grew up with 5 elder brothers so as you can expect, that pretty much toughened me up and this has helped me on my various adventures.
My trip was back in February so the weather was hot hot hot and oh very humid too so it feels as if there is not enough air around and this causes constant need to drink water. However, the mosquitoes were something else, they really dealt with me, I think they intentionally went for me as the amount of bites I got was just disproportionate to what an average Nigerian living in Nigeria would have gotten in the same space of time, and this is despite splashing on mosquito repellent on a daily basis. I am fine now though, I guess it toughened me up…or maybe not. Those visiting Nigeria or Africa from other parts of the world are advised to speak to their doctors, nothing to worry about.
I took off from London Heathrow with Virgin Atlantic so this was pretty much a few hours of flying, when I think of it, it amazes me how close by Nigeria is from London, yet…so far apart in many ways. The flight was pretty much straight-forward, you get the usual uncles and aunties complaining about this and that and those that want to ‘maximise’ their value for money by ordering everything offered by the air hosts and hostesses and even end up packing some in their bag, anyway…we took off and landed safely at MMIA. After all is said and done, you have to love the ambience on a Nigerian flight, usually dramatic and enjoyable, gotta love the culture!
We went through the usual drama at the airport, long queues, punishing heat, those with ‘red’ passport flashing it for everyone to see, I swear I didn’t do that, I guess it’s usually Nigerians that migrated to the UK and got the passport that really flash, I was just keeping mine safe and close by.
Plan for this trip was to see extended family in Ibadan and enjoy the sites of Lagos. So, being a keen traveller, I am usually organised. Itineraries, right wear etc. were already taken care of ahead of my arrival. For the Lagos leg of my trip, I stayed at Moorhouse Hotel and decided to visit and research the Red Door Art Gallery, Tarkwa Bay, Ikoyi Bridge; all sites and experiences didn’t disappoint one bit!
I went to Lagos with friends and family although I wouldn’t mind solo travelling around Lagos but I find such a buzzing city deserves good company! So I will advise anyone coming to Lagos to come with company to really enjoy it but if you are coming to Lagos for solitude then sure you can do a solo tour too. Met someone with local knowledge who showed us around, knocked off because you appear as a tourist. Having someone that’s familiar with the area can also educate you about the yes’ and no’s and the important things to be aware of.
Being the astute person that I am, I set out on this trip with a budget and that was £110 for a week, works out to about 50,000 Naira. I know you’ll be thinking how can you enjoy yourself with just #50k in a week but you will be surprised how far your money can take you if you have the right person with street knowledge on your side. Travel takes up a lot of my disposable income so £110 seems like a great deal to me. I should point out that I used Uber during my time in Lagos as that was linked to my account so essentially this was excluded from my #50k budget. I know the doubting Thomas among you will be like ‘exactly, I knew she couldn’t survive on just #50k in a week!’ ?
During my time moving around Lagos and Ibadan, I never really felt threatened or afraid at any time, this will be a surprise to those outside Nigeria who have this view that it is a war-zone, danger zone and the rest of it but this is simply not true, most Nigerians just want to enjoy their life and have fun. However, with every travel, some common sense need to be applied like don’t dress to the market the way you would dress to go for drinks at night. In my case, I often alternate between Lagos and Ibadan and it’s so interesting seeing the differences between what is norm in Lagos and not in Ibadan and vice-versa. The part of Ibadan where my mum is from is predominantly Muslim so I would never dress in Ibadan as I would in Lagos, need to respect people’s religions and culture.
My best moment was walking into Velvett Lounge & Bar in VI Lagos and bumping into a friend from London, I mean what are the chances! It really is a small interconnected world we live in.
My worst moment however was when I was travelling in Lagos from Festac Town to VI on an unlit motorway in an Uber, as if that was not bad enough, his tires got busted in the middle of the road and we had to pull over to get this fixed. I would rather forget that moment in an instant, not the best as I was running different scenarios through my head of what could happen to me but at the end, I got home safely, phew!
Here are my final thoughts. There is something about being in Lagos that fills me with so much joy and pride in originating from somewhere so rich. I always go and come back to London feeling refreshed and inspired and even motivated to retire there someday. I have had so many beautiful memories in Nigeria and one of it is being able to do a short film on my 107-year old grandma which you can watch here if you are interested.
I have met people from different walks of life and it’s refreshing being able to challenge stereotypes with my imagery and stories that I love to share on my Instagram and blog.
My love for the motherland continues to grow and I am itching to be back soon, until then……….
Hannah Ajala is a London based journalist with a passion for travelling and mentoring.
Find out more about her passions at thisishannahajala.com
See her Instagram photos @hanajatravels