…thoughts on our travel motivations and destinations
About thirteen years ago, I went on a group trip to Dubai with twenty-five people: I only knew three of those people. I had been friends with one of them before the time (I invited him on the trip), and I was Facebook friends with the other two, but we had never met physically. We all met for the first time, a few days before the trip when we had a briefing session. When I remember this trip, I think about how we make friends in this social media age, but that is a topic for another day.
We arrived in Dubai at night: the city lights and skyline were a beauty to behold: it was truly “see Dubai and dream”. It was the first time in the city for many of us on the trip, and we were definitely in awe! Our cameras came out right from the airport, and we began drinking in the sights of the city immediately.
It was a four-day trip over the Easter holidays, and we had a packed itinerary. We visited many of the usual tourist spots available at the time: the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Souk, and some even went clubbing. We wandered around the city and even discovered some other hidden places where we got designer clothes and perfumes at wholesale prices. Some of the ladies in the group hightailed to Deira market; they did this every day throughout the trip.
We had a group dinner on the last day, and we all shared our experiences. One of the ladies who had spent everyday shopping marvelled at how much we had seen and done. It wasn’t her first time in Dubai, and she admitted that she had never done much sightseeing as she always came to shop for her business.
We all travel for different reasons. For many people, there has to be an economic objective. The lady on my Dubai trip, for example, joined primarily so she could go shopping. Some travel for official purposes: attend business meetings or training programmes, trade exhibitions, etc. Some others travel for medical reasons (including birth tourism). For these people, understandably, sightseeing may be the last thing on their mind at the time.
For many others, there is a social objective. This could be anything from travelling to attend social events organised by family or friends to just visiting and spending time with loved ones. The travel objective influences the decision to travel and also the destination. And finally, some travel for the fun of it. These are the real tourists. They focus on exploring their location, meeting new people, trying out new food, experiencing whatever thrills are on offer, and generally immersing themselves in the local culture.
Whatever our objectives, our travel choices are often focused on locations outside of Nigeria. We have contributed a lot of money to foreign economies, especially to Dubai, UAE, one of the most popular travel destinations favoured by Nigerians. Considering the rate at which Nigerians have been there, we need to declare it our national backyard!
The majority of my previous travel choices, both local and international, were largely driven by the need to attend a social event or spend time with family. Irrespective of this, whenever I could, I would explore and visit the available tourist sites. I also discovered the importance of understanding the basics of the local language as it endears one to the indigenes. My last holiday was a weekend in Ibadan with family members. We went via the new train service and we had such a wonderful time discovering some of the tourist attractions. It was also a great way to spend time with ourselves.
Before the pandemic, I had already explored some African countries with the plan to visit many others but this is currently on hold. Several African countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, and The Gambia, to mention a few, are quite intentional with their tourism campaigns. Africa offers so many tourism options but, in some cases, travelling within the regions and continent also present their headaches. For example, the need to apply for visas and the cost of travel can be a disincentive.
I wish we could harness the full potential of our tourism opportunities within Nigeria as there are so many things to see and experience. Unfortunately, many issues bedevil us, chief of which is our internal security issues. In recent times, our local tourism opportunities could have increased in many folds considering the many travel restrictions and hindrances that covid19 has presented for international travel.
Looking back, studying in Ibadan allowed me to see many parts of South- West, Nigeria. I went on a few class trips around Oyo state and to Akure, Ado-Ekiti, and Ijebu-Ode. There were also some fun trips to Ile-Ife, Ilesha, Sagamu, and Ilorin. I observed the NYSC in Yobe state, and I got to see many parts of the North- East and North- Central regions during the period. I went to many parts of the state and then to other cities such as Kano, Jos, Gombe, and Maiduguri.
My first solo holiday as a working-class adult was to Abuja. I had two weeks leave and decided I would spend most of it in Abuja. I booked my ticket at the luxurious bus park in Yaba on the day before my departure. Abuja was a blast. It was my first time there. I stayed with a friend from secondary school, and he had to go to work through most of the period. I had to discover the city by myself. I went to The National Assembly complex, the business district, some of the towns on the outskirts of the city, and I got to hang out with old school friends.
Since then, I have been to many other states in Nigeria, mainly for work or to attend social events. I have been to all the states within the South-West region, and almost all the states in the other five geopolitical regions (except for the North-West region where I have only been to Kano and Kaduna). I, however, cannot say I have fully explored many of these destinations because the duration of the trip was always a factor.
Travelling offers us the opportunity to relax and get refreshed. We are also able to rediscover ourselves, explore new cultures and expand our worldview. Also, when we experience life through the lenses of other people, we can improve our thinking, behaviours, and attitudes. Travelling in these times presents a few challenges but we can get creative. You could do a staycation and discover your city afresh or even go to a neighbouring city and see what’s on offer. We need to live a little more as life can give us so much more: this is the way I see things today.