Foreign Nomad: “A Lot of Foreigners Wrongly View Nigeria as Unsafe, Owing to Depictions in Western Media of Boko Haram” – Nate
Jan 22nd, 2019

Sometimes last year, we met an amazing traveler, Nate, who came to Nigeria for an event and our team had the opportunity to take him to some places in the city of Lagos.

Nate is a seasoned traveller who, for the love of travel, abandoned his attorney job to explore the world. Not only does he travel, he also loves to document his experiences at the different countries he visits on his blog. On this segment of Foreign nomad, Nate shares his experiences in Lagos with us and we enjoyed it.

COULD YOU BRIEFLY TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?

I’m an American and a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur and travel blogger. I’m originally from Denver, Colorado, where I left my attorney job a few years ago to travel the world and never really looked back. In the past three years, I’ve visited 44 countries across 6 continents.

COULD YOU TAKE US THROUGH A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NATE?

Everyday is totally different! Right now I’m in Vietnam, spending some time getting some work done in Saigon. I try to keep pretty normal hours, just working from whatever hotel or Airbnb I am in from my laptop. And then in my spare time I go out and explore whatever destination I am in! It’s a pretty cool life, though requires a lot more work than I think most people realize (I work 60 hours/week, often!).


 

YOU WERE IN NIGERIA LAST YEAR, WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE AND HOW LONG WERE YOU HERE FOR? 

A good friend of mine from law school is Nigerian, and I was in Lagos for his wedding. It was my first Nigerian wedding and it was quite the adventure! I of course dressed up in traditional Yoruba attire and everything.

In total, I spent a little over a week in Lagos. In addition to the wedding festivities, I did my best to explore the city as much as possible.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before seeing the rest of the country as I had plans to be at the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival in Thailand, but I hope to get back to Nigeria to explore more soon!

WE KNOW YOU ARE AN ADVENTURER. HOW MANY COUNTRIES HAVE YOU BEEN TO AND WHICH IS YOUR BEST?

In total, I’ve been to 67 countries and counting. I’d love to hit them all someday!

I usually tell people that my favourite country is Georgia. It sits at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and the Middle East and that shows in every aspect of traveling there. From the food, to the culture, to the landscapes, it’s a unique melting pot of the world unlike any other. It’s a little off the beaten path for most travellers (although Georgia is getting more popular), but I highly recommend it!

TELL US ABOUT YOUR MOVE TO NIGERIA: VISA, ACCOMMODATION AND GENERALLY SETTLING IN. 

Getting a visa for Nigeria wasn’t easy at all, as Nigeria has reciprocal visa regulations that are meant to mirror the difficulty that the USA places on Nigerians looking for visas there.

So while from a political perspective, I can totally understand why that is fair, it did mean the process was quite arduous – especially because I wasn’t located in the USA at the time I was applying. With that said, I was ultimately able to obtain a visa with some assistance from my friend’s family and it was well worth the effort.

For accommodation I stayed at a hotel in Ikoyi. For whatever reason, hotels targeted to foreigners are actually fairly expensive in Lagos for what you get (probably owing to the abundance of business travellers).

COMING TO NIGERIA, WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS VS. THE REALITY?

I try not to walk into countries with expectations, as I find it better to keep an open mind. I found Lagos to be chaotic and colourful, energetic and exhausting at the same time.

Everyone I talked to was incredibly friendly and eager to hear my story, and I made so many friends in random places – from the beach, to shopping malls, to Uber drivers.

BEING A FOREIGNER, DID YOU ENCOUNTER ANY DIFFICULTY UPON ARRIVING THE COUNTRY? 

Honestly, I didn’t find Lagos all that hard to navigate, though I’m a pretty seasoned traveller and have seen a lot by this point. The hardest part by far was probably dealing with the insane traffic. I’ve never spent so much time sitting in a car waiting!

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE AT THE NIGERIAN WEDDING YOU ATTENDED?

The wedding was an incredible experience. First off, it was one of the largest weddings I’ve ever attended (I’m guessing there were over 800 people at the traditional ceremony). It was also very fun to participate in the part of the ceremony where myself and the rest of the groom’s friends had to prostrate ourselves in front of the bride’s mother to help him ask for her hand! Overall, it was an experience I’ll never forget. I did get to try some food, but because I’m vegetarian I had to miss out on quite a lot like suya.

DID YOU GET TO DRESS IN A NATIVE ATTIRE? 

Yep, I wore a white and purple Yoruba traditional dress!


 

FROM ATTENDING A WEDDING TO VISITING MANY PLACES IN THE CITY, YOU ARE REALLY A GREAT EXPLORER. WHICH OF ALL THE PLACES YOU VISITED WAS MOST FASCINATING?  

Naija Nomads was kind enough to assist me in visiting Makoko, which was a fascinating experience for sure.

I also really loved the Lekki Conservation Center and the Nike Art Gallery. I even got a traditional welcome from Nike herself.

But I think if you only had to go to one place, I would pick the New Afrika Shrine. It was such a colourful experience and everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I really enjoyed just hanging out there and talking to locals.

WHAT OTHER NIGERIAN TOURIST ATTRACTIONS/DESTINATION WOULD YOU LOVE TO VISIT WHEN NEXT YOU’RE IN THE COUNTRY. 

I want to come back and see everything (a tall order, right?). The one thing I feel like I really missed near Lagos was the Epe mangroves. If I had another day, I would’ve went there for sure.

Would you love to visit other cities in the country? If yes, where would that be and why?

Abuja is definitely on the list. I’ve also heard incredible things about Calabar’s waterfront, so that is high on the list as well!

WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT NIGERIA AND THE PEOPLE? 

I loved how friendly and talkative (incredible talkative) the people were. It’s great to just get into random conversations with locals, and sometimes that’s harder to do in places where there are so many tourists that the locals are sort of jaded to tourism.

3 CHARACTERS YOU ARE LIKELY TO ENCOUNTER IN NIGERIA 

Haha, I’m not sure I have a great answer because I felt like everyone was different! Lots of chatty Uber drivers though!

FAVOURITE RESTAURANT YOU VISITED IN LAGOS? 

I really enjoyed Nok in VI. What a gorgeous terrace and delicious food to boot!

WHAT’S THAT LOCAL DISH THAT HIT THE SPOT? 

Does Hans and Rene’s ice cream count? 😊

Jollof rice was great too.

STREET FOOD? DID YOU TRY ANY? WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE? 

I had to watch everyone else eat suya, while I just had peanuts one day because I’m vegetarian. Will take recommendations for next time!

OWAMBE OR BEACH DAY? 

Owambe of course (just get me an invite please). I loved walking the beach though.

FRIED RICE VS. JOLLOF RICE 

Jollof rice

UBER OR PUBLIC TRANSPORT?

Uber was all I really tried when I was there since it was most familiar to me, but I’m always up to try traveling like a local!

WHERE DID YOU STAY? AIRBNB OR HOTEL? 

The Three Arms Hotel in Iyoki

FAVOURITE HANGOUT SPOT IN LAGOS?

I really loved the Hard Rock Café, where I was lucky to catch Vector the Viper performing randomly one day. He’s quite the talent!

COMPARED TO THE OTHER CITIES YOU HAVE BEEN TO, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE LAGOS CITY? 

It’s really chaotic and a bit inaccessible at first, but very friendly and energetic once you figure out where to go.

WHAT NEW THING DID YOU LEARN FROM NIGERIAN AND WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO TELL NON-NIGERIANS ABOUT THE COUNTRY? 

So much traffic! Everywhere.

Also Nigerians are very direct, which is a bit of a shock to the system as an American used to more subtle forms of communications.

But more than anything I would just tell them to go and give Nigeria a chance! Not that many people consider traveling there, but it’s an incredible place!

THREE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT NIGERIA YOU THINK EVERY FOREIGNER SHOULD KNOW? 

I think a lot of foreigners – wrongly – view it as unsafe, owing to depictions in Western Media of Boko Haram. That’s a shame because I feel that with reasonable precautions (the same as you would take anywhere), Nigeria is quite safe for travellers.

IT IS A NORM FOR NIGERIANS TO GIVE FOREIGNERS NIGERIAN NAMES. WERE YOU GIVEN ANY?

A bunch of folks asked me that questions, but I never got one! I guess I have to go back.

TIPS /ADVICE FOR ANY FOREIGNER COMING TO NIGERIA?

 

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