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Exploring West Africa for A Year; all The Way From France: The Story of Ayoka

Updated: Feb 13

A young beautiful black lady standing in-front of the black star gate

1. Please introduce yourself and tell us about your travel experience to date!

My name is Ayoka. I am 24years old. I am a graphics designer; I live and work in France.

I think family is what gave me my travel big. When I was about 13, my family used to take family trips. We visited quite a number of countries when I was a child. So right from then, I guess it's always been in me to travel. About Zanzibar, Tanzania: Tanzania is a beautiful country. I felt so close to people, such free-spirits they have all over that country. I loved the food; the people were so kind. And oh, the beaches were my favorite.

Ayoka at the Black Star Gate

2. What inspired you to explore West Africa? Truly, curiosity is what drove me to West Africa. I was really keen to see West Africa So I went to the website 'work away' and volunteered with the NGO: handling social media, doing designs and giving french lessons.

It was a beautiful experience full of ups and downs. But of course the ups were worth the try than the downs so I really loved this experience. I really wanted to see West Africa, visit it for the first time; try new food; meet different people and interestingly, I wanted to see and feel the difference between francophone and anglophone countries.

Ayoka enjoying nature views

When I went to East Africa, Zanzibar, I was with my sisters. So this time I really wanted to see Africa differently so I got creative and decided to visit West African countries for a year.

3. How excited do you get when breaking the routine and booking a ticket for a vacation? Oh, I love breaking the routine! I can never work one whole year without at least one weekend of travel. It's been three years now and I never completed each year without at least a week of travel.

I do travel a lot. Almost every two or three months I am in a different country. Booking get-away flights have become quite a tranquilizer for me over the past few years.

4. What do you wish someone told you before your first solo-trip? Honestly, nothing!

I am that stubborn and if somebody told me something I would not trust it one hundred percent before I see it with my own eyes. You remember the Togo beach story I was telling you, aye?

Usually everyone tells me 'you have to see this or that...' but it is usually different how I come to see it. So I have a personal philosophy that you have to really live through something before you can really understand and really appreciate the realities of it.

For instance, in France, and most western countries, we read a lot of distressing stuffs online about the continent Africa, and you visit Africa to see quite a less strenuous and a less dire story.

So I am learning not to trust so much of what I hear and see, especially from main stream media and I am heavy on living it. It's just not the same when you live it. And you don't usually want spoilers before you try. So yeah, I love to experience rather than be handed too many lessons.

5. Having visited four West African countries (Nigeria, Benin, Togo & Ghana) which did you have the best time over which?

Ayoka doing some farm work in Togo

You know, it is super difficult to rate countries because I do love each for its peculiarities and to put one above the other seem unfair.

Nonetheless, I do love to visit countries with beaches and some fun, you know. So on that background I would choose Nigeria first - also because I spent the most time there I really explored it enough and felt so at home in Nigeria among the the other three. Second would be Ghana; third Togo and Benin.

6. Which other African nations would you love to visit? Can you name any five? I would love to do East Africa again. This time maybe Kenya. Aside East Africa, I do want to see Angola too.

For now in Africa that's what is on my bucket list for Africa. I would love to do Asia too: Vietnam, Korea and Thailand. And you know, since I was in Africa there wasn't this concept of 'black.' I literally had no incident of racism. However on different continents, Turkey for instance (though it wasn't aggressive), I had a number of random people saying and shouting rubbish like "mama Africa; hakuna matata; Michele Obama" and bla bla bla.

Ironically, there were times I rather saw mediocrity rather than racism though.

7. Being an experienced solo-traveler what top three safety tips do you have for your fellow female solo-travelers? a. Take a cab when it is late at night. Walking can be dangerous. Irrespective of the continent you find yourself

. b. Do not trust so many strangers. Always follow you guts - I am doing that a lot - and try to seek advice from a trusted local before taking some adventures.

c. Do not carry too much cash on you and try to leave your bank cards at your residence when stepping out. Many establishments, especially in Africa, do bot accept cards so its pointless and rather risky to have them everywhere you go. Extra: try to keep a printed copy of your passport and other identifying documents, health documents - and carry that with you always. You never know when they may be needed.

8. As an experienced solo-traveler how do you mitigate you spending when traveling?

Good one. I do try a lot road trips for very short and internal travels especially between neighboring countries where you can go by road easily. That is a very cheap option compared to booking flights between the little distances accessible by road.

For instance I only booked two flights on this entire one-year adventure and I am in my fourth west African country that's far: first ticket from France to Nigeria, second from Ghana back to France. For internal travels, its important to try public transport or uber, bolt, yango and the likes. Thus, depending on which is cheaper in the country you find yourself. That is another great way to reduce your budget.

Not trying too many fancy restaurants while on tour. I personally prefer to cook most of my meals. So I do visit the markets regularly. It saves me a lot of money too. Plus, visiting the local markets is a whole different vibe.

Ayoka catching breeze at the beach in Tanzania




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