Diane Odero counts being a journalist (and contributor to SLA) among her growing list of accomplishments. She is also an avid travel lover and is able to do even though she was a student until just recently. For Diana, travel is an enriching experience and an opportunity for African women to get out there and see the world for what it actually is and not for what we think we know about the place.
Travel is more than just time to re-energize, reboot, press the reset button on life, it also helps bring in some Chi back into your life. Diana has only ever travelled on her own and has found that travel can be therapeutic.
Let’s talk finances, how do you find the budget to travel so widely?
I save constantly! I’m just like every other young woman who likes to shop, eat out and have a pamper day once in a while but then I also love to travel. And if you know anything about travel fares, they sure don’t come cheap. So I usually compromise on most things that I would like but don’t necessarily need.
I also make sure to put some money away with every income earned to keep up the saving habit. Also, I started travelling a lot while I was quite young, so I knew early on that I wanted to study abroad at some point and I was fortunate enough to do it twice for undergrad and for my Masters.
I also signed up for various sky miles programs years ago, not knowing how beneficial they would be in the long run. The miles started accumulating a lot while I was in college and before I fully understood the magic of sky miles. Now those miles have come in handy in the past two years and with more flights made, more miles are earned —it’s a beautiful cycle.
Lastly, I have mastered the art of finding really cheap flights. Would you believe me if I told you that my direct return flight to Italy from London only cost me £100 on British Airways? Insane. I couldn’t believe it myself, but booked it instantly before it disappeared. (Fares like those on such airlines don’t come by every day).
I’ve had years of practice since my college days with my friend Fiona who would scour the web with me at wee hours of the night (best time to find flights, also best days are Tuesday & Thursday in my experience). I also realized most of the travel packages out there put out a really good deal if you research very carefully.
What about visas? Have you faced any difficult travelling within or outside the continent as a Kenyan citizen?
The one place I have had minor issues was in the US where the Kenyan passport isn’t as valued as others. My visa was never an issue but the way I was treated compared to other people with passports from non-African countries, was really disappointing.
Nonetheless, America is still a second home to me and I know as more people of colour travel and even more Africans get out there, these unnecessary stereotypical discriminations will stop in due time.
In terms of visas, the UK visa was quite the struggle to obtain particularly for school. It’s not an impossible task, they just make it ultra difficult so you need to have a lot of patience when travelling to the UK. One single step missed in the application process and you’ll be denied one as soon as your interview is done.
Having applied for various visas before, I already knew what to prepare for and the dos and don’ts of the process; the lengthy process was what I had not expected at all. Within the continent, I haven’t had any problems with travel and visas so far.
What five skills does every African travel lover need? Why these skills in particular?
Time management skills
I have never missed a flight and I’ve only ever been close to missing one once in my life. That was because I had a 7:30am flight and woke up at 5 (the time I was meant to be at the airport). I literally got there as they were closing the gate; I had to beg them to let me in because I was rushing to school to make it in time for an exam.
Why I woke up late you may ask? I was up the night before until 4am —silly, I know but I really thought I would hear the alarm clock. Be very time conscious so as to never miss flights because rescheduling is such a pain and costs so much as well.
I’m usually a very patient person but some things can drive you insane. Traveling a lot has made me appreciate the art of being patient with people everywhere because not all places work the same as where you are familiar.
You have to be patient enough to scope out the environment around you, to learn how things work instead of forcing your ways upon someone who has no idea what you mean or are doing.
You need to be patient with the visa processes while going through security and customs at different ports, and you need to be patient when flights/trains get delayed over and over again. Keeping calm is much better than blowing a fuse believe me, you’ll get to your destination eventually.
An open mind
It’s really the only way you will enjoy anywhere you travel to including the traveling process as well. The world is a huge ball of diversity and with so many cultures living in it, no one person is the same so keep an open mind wherever you go to embrace what all these different places and people have to offer.
A lot of Africans are very rigid and very stuck in their ways, unwilling to embrace any type of change even while in another country. This will make your visit/stay quite miserable over time because the homesickness will overwhelm you and the longer you keep your mind closed to what’s around you, the worse the feeling gets.
Home is always going to be home but there’s no harm in making your new destination feel like home as well by being positive about all the place has to offer.
Please put down a budget! I can’t emphasize this enough. Always write down a budget before embarking on any trip especially if it’s a solo trip or one with friends where you don’t have family to rely on in case anything goes awry. Vacations, work trips, even road trips take up a lot of extra money that doesn’t come back to you so spend wisely even if you are on holiday.
Research on transport options in the area you are visiting, you’ll find it’s cheaper to use the local public transport than taking cabs everywhere. Eat at local spots; avoid the big brand names you’re used to, try something new that may end up being cheaper and healthier in the long run. Hotels are luxury exemplified for sure but the only purpose a hotel serves is somewhere for you to sleep and store your luggage, you hardly spend any quality time in there.
Instead of splurging on fancy hotels that you may never even eat in, go for an Airbnb or couchsurf, there are plenty of much more affordable accommodation options nowadays thanks to travel becoming a huge part of the millennial lifestyle. And all the money you’ve saved in hotel costs can go into extra shopping or activity spending money – win win!
I know I know… such a dull word to put together with travel and adventure but you knew it was coming. Once again, if at all this is a solo trip or a trip with friends; know that you alone are solely responsible for yourself. Your safety, health and your belongings – all you. You may want a vacation to just go turn up and have a blast, but always think, where is my passport? Where is my money? How is the security at this hotel, apartment or house?
I personally don’t trust hotel safes, so I keep my IDs/passport on me at all times. Money stays on me as well if I’m not using a card for purchasing items and I keep a look out for my friends whenever we are out. Others may have a different way of going about things but all in all, you need to remember where you are is foreign to you thus you need to be extra careful and stay safe.
Most travel packages provide you with a tour guide who can also double as your security because being local they know the ins and outs of the place and can guide you effectively.
Worst case scenario —something does go wrong, say an accident or robbery, the authorities in the area are always willing to help, and it will go by much smoother if you cooperate with them.
What will be your travel goals for 2017? How do you plan to make them a reality?
I have so many travel goals! I always start out the year planning out where I want to go which is usually 2-3 different countries or cities within my own country here in Kenya. But as you know, plans don’t always work out they way you want them to.
This year, I decided I’ll stick to the decision I made after completing undergrad —that I must travel to at least one new place every year and if more trips happen to come about, even better. It’s been about three years since I said that and true to form —I have travelled even more than once each year since. I believe in speaking things into existence.
Travel is a special part of my life and has been for a very long time and because I love it so much, I work hard to make it a reality. For 2017, I would love to go to Cape Town, it’s the one city in South Africa I really want to explore but I haven’t had a chance to visit yet and I would also love to go to Morocco. A few friends and I already have that plan in the works, so if God wills it, it will happen.My ultimate goal though is to secure a job that feeds into my passions - Diana Odero Click To Tweet
My ultimate goal though is to secure a job that feeds into my two passions in life —writing and travel. This will enable me to not only keep checking countries off my travel bucket list but it will also contribute to my career by giving me constant inspiration and content to write about —telling the world great stories of different places, people, and things.