2019 in Travel

I spent some time scrolling through journals, photos and archived Instagram stories on my phone and I couldn’t believe how much detail I had forgotten about my travels — a reminder to document them for as long as I can. So for another entry into the digital archives, these are five memorable travel moments from 2019.

I lived in Laos for a month, spent the better part of a cold November night crying in Vancouver, sampled street food in South Korea, learned a 90s Brazilian dance style in San Diego and ended 2019 surrounded by love in Nigeria.

Living in Vientiane, Laos: I lived in the city of Vientiane for a month.

Before then, I had visited once and appreciated its calm atmosphere and delicious food. I walked almost everywhere; foregoing taxis and Tuk Tuks for alleys and sidewalks. I worked from cafes, ate and enjoyed diverse cuisine from restaurants, made friends, explored nearby cities with differing landscapes (like Luang Prabang’s mountains), and crossed the border into Thailand.

I shopped for Lao-made silks, lay down for soothing massages, swam in pools at the top of a waterfall, ate fresh bread and fruit, rode on motorcycles, and became a regular at the “Royal Tea” cafe near my hotel. I met 6 other black people and learned to ignore the weight of people’s stares. I missed my home in Oakland, but at the end of the month, I found myself reluctant to leave Vientiane.

Eating street food in Seoul, South Korea: Vendors filled streets and alleyways in Insa-dong neighborhood. The lingering scent of food in the air drew me to outdoor stands and indoor shops. I ate as much as my currency could buy including Bibimbap, green tea macaroons, chocolate filled crepes, steamed dumplings and snacks I bought for the road. Seoul, like Vientiane, is a great city to visit for food.

Crying in Vancouver, Canada: On my way back from London in November, I had a 4hr layover in Vancouver and a terrible case of airplane ear. The painful pressure in my right ear started when the plane was landing, subsided as I passed through immigration to leave the airport, and picked up again once I returned to the airport from dinner at a nearby restaurant.

I didn’t think I could get on another plane but I knew I had booked a basic economy ticket so giving up my flight would have required me to purchase a new one. As I stood in the departure terminal weighing my options, I felt a sharp pain in my ear and had to bite down on my lip to stop from crying out.

Teary-eyed, I walked to Air Canada’s ticketing desk, explained my issue, and asked the lady at the desk to take me off my connecting flight to Oakland.

In that moment, all I wanted was a place to lie down and pain relief. As if she heard my thoughts, the ticket agent showed me to a row of chairs without armrests, asked me to lie down and whether she could buy me painkillers. I nodded in response and thanked her through tears, overwhelmed by both the pain and her kindness.

While I waited for medication, her colleagues came over with pillows, blankets, and an eye mask for comfort. To help further, one agent re-booked my flight at no charge, then brought a steaming cup of hot water and asked that I place my ear over the steam to release pressure. I was still in so much pain that I didn’t question the remedy. After about 10 minutes of bending my head over a steaming cup, I heard my ears pop. Instantly, the pain disappeared. “Is it working?” the agent with the remedy asked. “Yes, yes, it worked, thank you so much!” I wanted to hug him, to hug all of them for treating me with so much kindness.

Learning Brazilian Zouk in San Diego, California: Around the outdoor fountain in Balboa Park, couples danced what looked like Salsa to music I could not recognize. Curious, I walked over to get a closer look.

When I realized it wasn’t Salsa, I turned around to leave but my housemate -Yemi- pushed me towards a smiling dancer. “Hi, can I ask what dance this is?” “…it’s Brazilian Zouk, would you like to learn it?”. In seconds, he pulled me into a partnered position to practice. I caught on quickly to the basics, mirroring each move my partner made and enjoying the dance even when I made several mistakes. After my lesson, my housemates and other dancers joined in. We formed a group of about 10 people, moving our feet and turning our bodies in time to the clap of our instructor’s palms and the catchy Zouk rhythm.

Celebrating with family + friends in Lagos, Nigeria: I might have danced more than I slept in Lagos, spent more time surrounded by people than I did alone, but I wouldn’t have traded the dancing for sleep nor the company for solitude. I spent 10 days in the sleepless city surrounded by love and laughter from friends and family.

My cousin got married to an amazing woman, a few of us from secondary school attended our 10-year reunion dinner, I hugged friends I haven’t seen in years, watched some of my favorite artists perform in concert, spent hours at a private beach and watched as wild ocean waves crashed on a pristine shore. I drank Palm wine, ate Suya, visited some restaurants with tasty food, and escaped the chaos of Eko Atlantic City with my cousin and sister in a convenient Keke Napep.

This trip was the longest period I’ve spent in Lagos in nearly a decade. If I had a choice, I would do it all over again and eat twice as much. 

2019 travels took me to Laos, Thailand, South Korea, Canada, Namibia, England, Portugal, Nigeria, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and Seattle. Thank you to everyone who shared time and space with me in 2019. In 2020, I’m looking forward to fulfilling experiences, domestic travel, and forming and strengthening relationships while on the road.

What was your most memorable experience in 2019?

As always,

thank you for reading.

same footprints, different sands