African immersive travelers are envoys of Africa’s culture and heritage.
By Moni Baruwa
It was a lovely day in May 2014 and I was ready to experience the beautiful island of Hvarin Mediterranean, Croatia, the latest stop on my 3-week solo journey across Eastern Europe. As I climbed the Hvar Fortress to get a spectacular view of the entire island, I passed an older couple that apparently were intrigued that a black girl is climbing the fortress solo. As we arrived at the top, the couple, who were from New York, immediately asked my name and where I was from. The ecstatic look on their faces when I mentioned the word “Nigeria” was hysterical. They had never seen a Nigerian, let alone a female Nigerian, exploring a foreign land solo. They asked me the obvious questions about Nigeria, probably trying to figure out if reports portrayed by the media are our reality. In that moment, I knew it was my responsibility to educate them about the rich culture and history of Nigeria that foreigners can only experience, if they visit. Our conversation, which spanned almost 2 hours while sipping wine and overlooking this breathtaking view, was perhaps the best impact I could have made to change their negative perception of Nigeria. I vividly remember the excitement in their voice when they expressed their desire to visit Nigeria. This is the power of immersive travel. Encouraging Africans to embrace legitimate global immersive travel will foster both economic and individual development. How, you ask? Well, here is what I mean.
Economic Development: Immersive African travelers are real-life ambassadors of our heritage and culture wherever they go, dispelling negative opinions in the media and encouraging others to visit Africa, thereby growing Africa’s tourism revenue and contributing to the economy. This is far more powerful than anything a potential tourist to Africa would see on the Internet. Furthermore, engaging more Africans in immersive travel can help to develop tourism relationships, which will further improve global perception of the typical African and encourage inward investment.
Individual Development: Africans engaging in immersive travel will undergo a mindset shift that will transform and positively impact the way they interact with their community when they return home as coined perfectly by Jonah Lehrer: “We travel because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity; when we get home, home is still the same but something inside our minds has changed, and that changes everything.” In other words, immersive travel enlarges your appreciation of what is possible, opens the door to new opportunities that in turn will empower Africans to change their individual and collective narrative.
That simple yet powerful encounter in Hvar is one of many examples of how we can leverage the power of immersive travel to positively impact the African continent and change the narrative of African travelers globally.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.