– The Sun News

‘I ran into a lion in Cameroon’

Recent travel

Prague, Czech Republic. My best memory of the trip was the visit to the Prague Castle which was built in the 9th century. However, I had a hard time communicating with the people due to language difference.

First travel outside Nigeria

While in secondary school and in the early part of my university years, I travelled in and out of many West African countries including Benin Republic, Ghana, Niger, Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, and Senegal. I also travelled to Cameroon and Gabon. This was before I made the decision to go to France to further my studies in 1999. Hence, I will consider France as my first major trip outside of Nigeria because that was the country I left Nigeria for knowing I was going to be away for a long time.

Unforgettable experience

The most unforgettable experience for me happened on the day I arrived Paris for the first time. My destination was Strasbourg (Universite Marc Bloch). My connection flight was scheduled to leave at 8:30 pm. I arrived Paris at 2:30pm and there was a long wait ahead of me – which was fine. I decided to explore the airport and its vicinity. After three hours of exploration, I decided to read one of the romantic novels I had taken along on the trip. It was a very engrossing book.  My wrist watch had stopped working at some point during the trip, so, as I read, I watched for nightfall to make for my departure gate.

I read the entire book, yet no nightfall. I decided to find my departure gate anyway so I could sit around there while I wait. I asked the airline connection attendants for my departure gate.

Attendant: What time is your connection?

Me: 8:30pm, I don’t have a boarding card yet.

Attendant: But it’s 10:15 pm.

Me: How? But the sun is still up!

Everybody that heard my outburst in the airport burst out laughing. I was confused and somewhat angry too but also curious to understand what these Oyibos were up to. It was simply unfathomable for me that it was 10:15pm, close to midnight and the sun was still shinning so bright. To my mind, they were all being funny. Truth was, they were not being funny at all. It was 10:15pm and the sun was still shining and I had missed my connection to Strasbourg.

It was apparently not just a normal June or July night as the sun did not set before 9pm. It was the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in Central Europe. Since that experience, I have never relied on daylight or darkness in determining time in any part of the world. Not even in Nigeria.

Favourite city

Cologne, Germany. My favourite neighbourhood is Heuchelhof in Wurzburg, Germany. It is exceptionally clean, has very beautiful landscapes, highly affordable, very organized, safe and family-friendly.

Favourite meal abroad

South Coast Lemon Sole Fish Fillets served with dauphinoise potatoes.

Lessons from travels

Every person, every place, every culture, every system is unique. You have to approach them with an open mind; imbibe the good, acquire the knowledge which mostly come free of charge, and improve on yourself because most of the things you discover or learn travelling, you may never experience in a classroom or through other means of learning.

Travel advice

Always research the places you choose to visit before you go. You will not learn everything, however, you will be better off having basic information on your palms before you arrive.

Dream travel/destination

Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. I can’t wait to see the large sunrise and sunsets, the coral reef, the opera house etc.

Ideal travel companion

Whoever can enjoy the small things, and is close to me, and have similar taste and/or interest.

Unforgettable monument

Neuschwanstein Castle in Fuessen, Germany

Unforgettable moment abroad

Coming nose-to-nose with a lion in the jungle during a hunting expedition in Northern Cameroon

Travels Dos and Don’ts

Do only that which is culturally acceptable in the places you choose to visit.

Go everywhere with an open heart. Don’t go anywhere believing the style or system where you are coming from is superior or inferior to theirs – you’re wrong if you think that. The truth is that we’re all similar, yet so different. Embrace it all.

Don’t expect or try to change the people you meet on your journey. Your points of view are bound to be different and that’s okay.

Essential travel tools

This depends on your destination as weather varies greatly from place to place. Moral, religious and cultural expectations can also limit your choices. Your hygiene bag is, however, a must-take no matter where you go.

Favourite pastime abroad

I love going to the beach and theatre.

Most profound culture shock abroad

I had the experience in Amsterdam. For a very long time, I could not get over the number of stores freely displaying sex toys in their windows, the transgender people soliciting patrons behind glass walls/windows, the availability of marijuana in coffee shops etc. Amsterdam was a huge shock indeed.

Interviewed by Lawrence Enyoghasu

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