Wambui Gichobi is a visual media producer based in Nairobi, Kenya with Survival Media Agency. Over the last 8 years, she has produced short films on issues regarding adaptation and mitigation for environmental degradation and social justice issues.
While working with SMA, she is currently trying to travel to all the countries of the world with her project Adventure 197. She is currently on country number 49 and hopes to cover continental Africa by road.
 
Wambui is an Environmental Science graduate from Kenyatta University, Keny, and a keen environmentalist with a specific interest in climate change and media for climate change. For the entire time of her career, she has followed the yearly international climate negotiations creating media with SMA yearly for environmental awareness.
 
She has been at the forefront of environmental activities in Kenya, initially heading Sustainable Africa Youth Foundation (SAYF) in university, which promoted environmental awareness and tree planting, especially in schools. 
She has also worked for the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Kenya Wines Agencies Limited (KWAL) in the Quality, Safety, Health, and Environment sector.

Tell us about #Adventure197. What was your biggest motivation to start this journey to travel the 197 countries?

Prior to my decision to start Adventure197, I had traveled previously on work assignments.

In 2017, I read an article about Cassie De Pecol, who was the first documented woman to have traveled all the countries in the world.

Further research showed that they had been no black or brown person who had traveled all the nations in the world. Adventure 197 was born of the need to travel the world as a black person and show the world that it is possible for a black person to accomplish the same.

The visa processes are much more challenging while traveling with a Kenyan passport as compared to other travelers i.e. with American or European passports.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world.

How do you believe travel impacts you as an individual and a professional?

Travel has impacted me in very many ways.

As an individual, I have been able to build my confidence through meeting and interacting with new people and sharing our stories. Traveling solo teaches you to have fun by yourself and to bond with others.

It has also taught me time management. Prior to the start of Adventure197, I was always late to meetings and appointments. Being responsible for my own flight schedules, train rides among other details has taught me to be time conscious and manage my time effectively.

I have also learned to measure growth by the clarity of progress. Traveling to different countries is very quantitative and there is no grey area in the number of countries you have traveled.

This is a measure I have adopted in other areas of my life whether emotionally, financially, etc. It is important to be clear on the position you are at any particular point in life in order to measure your progress.

Having to fund my own travels have also taught me how to manage my own finances. I have to learn how to get the money I need and plan for all my expenditures and be financially stable while at it.

People and cultures differ from one place to the next and it is important to learn and take note of the important cultures of the place you are visiting. Additionally, I have also learned financial management in terms of what jobs to pick up as there is always a need to get more income for my travel.

Travel has impacted me in very many ways - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

How do you manage work and travel at the same time?

When I traveled my first 14 countries, I held two jobs where I worked an 8-5 and also worked with Survival Media. I would schedule my travel to coincide with weekends and or public holidays.

In other instances, if my job with Survival Media required me to travel, I would apply for leave days at my 8-5. Most of my travel at this period was work-related.

When I made a decision to start Adventure197, I had to quit my 8-5 job. I currently work with Survival Media. The job is purely on an online basis and I will, therefore, go where the job takes me.

This has created flexibility in my schedule as I can work and travel at the same time.

In the first leg of my journey, I worked while I was in the United States at St. James, Louisiana, and also covered the caravan moving from Honduras through Guatemala in Mexico to the United States border.

Some of the benefits of my job are that I can pick up jobs from clients whenever duty calls or when the need arises. Once the job is done, I can then pick up from my current location and continue with my travels.  

As an environmentalist, you have purposed to offset your carbon footprint as you travel around the world, how do you intend to undertake this?

I am an environmentalist by profession and have been passionate about the environment from a very young age.

Through research, I discovered that most of my travels via air or trains would be very carbon intensive and I would have to offset as much of my carbon footprint as I possibly could.

I try to travel green as much as possible and in cases where this is not possible, I will try as much as possible to offset my carbon footprint. Cycling is one of the most effective ways of traveling green and this was very easy in the Eastern European countries where cycling is a huge part of their culture.

In addition, I have to be a mindful traveler which means traveling to countries close to each other thus reducing the distances covered by air or train and also avoiding plastic straws and Styrofoam packages.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

This is quite challenging especially in countries that package their food in Styrofoam which means that I have to research and try to find restaurants that will serve their food in plates rather than Styrofoam.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint. I have set to offset my carbon footprint through the planting of trees which I started before I started Adventure197.

I have partnered with schools and individuals on tree planting projects. In my former primary school, I partnered with the school to plant mango and avocado trees on their land. I have also planted about 200 trees on our family land and over 1400 trees in a parcel of land that belongs to a friend.

I also plan to plant at least 1000 trees in Kirinyaga before I set out on the African leg of Adventure197.

What has been your biggest challenge meeting this target?

My biggest challenge has been getting land to plant trees. Most of my tree planting initiatives are centered on working with schools to plant fruit giving trees which are beneficial to the environment and to the school in terms of food provision.

I have come to realize that schools are very receptive to my goal of offsetting my carbon footprint and they will be willing to assist by holding tree planting initiatives.

49 countries down! What lessons have you learned and will carry forward to the next leg of your journey?

My biggest lesson so far has been “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and to always do my research. When I started Adventure197, I would worry about what to do and where to stay when I arrived at a new place. I have since learned to let go and enjoy my journey wherever I am at.

The second leg of my journey is to travel the African countries. I have traveled 10 so my goal is to travel the remaining forty-four.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

What advice would you give to women looking to travel in terms of saving and planning for their travel?

It is important for people to travel solo. Solo travels will help you learn about yourself quicker, faster and much deeper due to lots of quiet time. You will get to learn about yourself and your character.

Additionally, it is important to save for your own dreams. Nothing in this world is given for free, you have to fund for what your dreams look like.

Here are my top tips for achieving this:

  • Be financially savvy.
  • Learn to manage your money and save whatever income you get whether you are earning at ten or fifty.
  • Have different accounts for different items and if you have plans for travel, have a specific account for this expenditure.
  • Invest and keep money aside. Whether for emergencies for your own dreams.

Any last words that you would like to share with our audience?

Of all the lessons that I want you to take home with you from my journey, the biggest one is to have a sense of confidence. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.

As an African traveler, there will be a judgment at every turn i.e. at the visa applications, airports but have the confidence to go after your own goals and dreams. I hope to inspire people whether male or female to travel.

In the words of Lupita Nyong’o “Your dreams are valid”


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