Yejide Runsewe (Naija Nomad) is the head nomad at Naija Nomad, a travel blog for the green passport holder.
By Ayandola Ayanleke
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
I am the third child out of four siblings; I grew up in a pretty opinionated household. My parents were all about chasing your dreams and whatever doing whatsoever your calling is. If it’s running an online travel platform, by all means go for it. I’m the Head Nomad at Naija Nomads which is pretty much an online travel company that curates and creates experiences for the Nigerian traveller.
Take us to the beginning, how did you start travelling and what inspired your love for travel?
From the beginning it was always a trip to the United States to visit my brothers or a trip to the United Kingdom to see an aunty or two. The cliché destinations a typical Nigerian will visit. It was convenient and my parents did not have to wad out any extra cash on accommodation. Family friends were always willing and ready to accommodate you for a couple of weeks.
My love for the travel I currently do now, which is pretty much experiencing people and places in the real sense started in 2011. I got bit by the travel bug when I enrolled in my LLM Media law class at Queen Mary University of London. My first day of school I was so overwhelmed at how unique and diverse my classmates were. People from all over the world, from countries I had never heard of and the ones I couldn’t pronounce. “This is not what the media shows you” I said to myself. I got curious and wanted to know more…I took my first trip to Morocco in December of the same year.
Where was the destination of your first trip (within and outside the country)?
First trip was definitely to the United States like a typical Nigerian lol. First trip within the country, outside my home base, was to Owerri. My mum is Igbo and we used to take a lot of road trips to see my grandma every Christmas.
What was the inspiration behind Naija nomads?
I was pretty much inspired by the dearth in information about travelling from a Nigerian perspective. There are tons of travel resources out there but none of them addresses the Nigerian struggle. They make travel seem like you literally pick up your passport and go which is not the case for us here. You need to be sure of the airlines available go there, be sure you do not require a visa and so on. This is why I started this platform to address these struggles.
What are some of the challenges you encountered when you started?
When we kicked off it was just stories, my personal experiences and curating people’s experiences too via both visuals (Instagram) and text (blog posts and tweets). We had no issues honestly and people were excited to see the world through the eyes of fellow Nigerians. The challenges started when we began to organize group experiences. People were reluctant to sign up; they didn’t trust this “new brand that just sprung up from nowhere”. They were not sure if our prices were at par with our services.
Many Nigerians who desire to travel believe you have to be wealthy to do that conveniently? What is your opinion on this?
The term ‘wealthy’ is super relative. For a Nigerian traveller, you will always have to part with a substantial amount of money to travel (via flight) anywhere outside Nigeria. Even within Nigeria. The cheapest tickets you will ever find are to Ghana and they cost about N100, 000. When you think about that in line with the average salary earner, that’s a lot of money to let go of just because you want to “travel”, which is what the problem is. Most people still see travel as a luxury they cannot afford and not as a necessity for personal growth or development. Once people see travel as education, experiencing new cultures, learning and unlearning and all the good stuff travel brings, it will stop being expensive.
What are some of the requirements one needs to join your nomads?
“None at all … oh one, don’t be a party pooper and don’t be salty! We do not want people who will nag or complain throughout the trip.”
What are some of the challenges a young Nigerian traveller is likely to face?
Definitely visa struggles are almost inevitable. These embassies feel that “young” Nigerians don’t have any strong ties with the country and are likely to run away. It is a sad misconception.
Another challenge is definitely being harassed by our very own immigration officers. It has happened to us twice; first on our trip to Morocco then to Lebanon. We were accused of human trafficking and asked to get consent letter from our parents. It was an extremely ridiculous situation as the youngest person on this trip was 25.
What advice(s) do you have for a potential or start-up entrepreneur in your space?
The road is not easy but it is totally worth it! There are so many areas of tourism/travel still untapped so think outside the box and offer your potential audience something different.
How do you think the government can help the travel and tourism industry?
To grow the industry in Nigeria they need to be willing; security, good roads and adequate power all need to come together. They also need to see every aspect of our culture and lifestyle as an opportunity. I just got back from a trip to Mexico and booked a tour which included going to a Mayan village. Everyone there (except me of course) was in awe of the village. I was just thinking of how much this village looked like my mother’s village in Owerri but we are in Mexico, paying to see it. Every single aspect of our culture is an opportunity, we need to grab it!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read more articles.