Traveling to 50+ countries, Travelust Kofi Mensah, @noirewayfarer shares valuable travel insight for solo travelers and his cultural experiences.
Positive energy is a must when traveling. Sure, I like to have my phone, a good book, and other material items but none of those compares to the power of positive energy. – Kofi Mensah
Has traveling been a window or a mirror for you? Explain.
Traveling has been both a window and a mirror for me as I find that the more I travel, the more I learn about myself. It serves as a beautiful aperture that affords you the opportunity not only to visit destinations beyond your backyard but more importantly interact with people from literally all walks of life – different religions, cultures, political and social ideas will all intersect in ways you didn’t think imaginable.
But more than just a way of outward reflection on the world, perhaps one of the real benefits of traveling, especially if a frequent solo traveler like myself is the opportunity to learn more about yourself.
Being thousands of miles away from what is familiar, surrounded by foreign languages, dishes that you can’t even pronounce, and unique customs only serves to make you a more rounded individual – more caring, understanding and more cosmopolitan.
What’s one thing you’ve learned while traveling the world that no one could have prepared you for until it happened?
I’m sure this will seem cliché, but the one thing I’ve learned or rather reminded of over my travels is how at our root, we are more alike than different. Take away the separation of languages, beliefs, and ways of living, and you’ll find our shared humanity.
Most people in the world are just trying to be happy and provide for themselves and their families. Additionally, I will solo traveling does put your level of resourcefulness to the test.
You won’t experience this unless you’re thousands of miles away from home in Ella, Sri Lanka trying to figure out the quickest and most affordable way to get to the beach city of Unawatuna. After a friendly conversation with a coconut vendor, he arranged a ride for me.
What’s one misconception that people have about traveling abroad while Black?
I think a widespread misconception that people have about traveling abroad while Black is that it’s out of their price range and specific destinations are not for them. Travel does NOT have to be expensive and traveling while Black is more than just going to the Caribbean or Miami.
Black travelers will be surprised at how welcomed they will be in certain countries, referred to as brothers and sisters, and met with excitement.
Not adequately represented in international travel publications, a false notion is some international destinations are out of our reach, but take it from me, a budget savvy traveler, nothing is truly out of reach if you plan a bit and save.
When on vacation are you a planner or a free spirit?
I am more of a planner than a free spirit when it comes to trips. I’m a bit of a planner generally, so naturally, that just spilled over to travel. I travel primarily for work, either for my website and blog, whilstaway.com or as a model. I find that the best way to make the most out of your time while on a trip is to do a bit of research on accommodation, history, other popular sites, events taking place, nightlife, etc.
This way when you arrive at your destination you aren’t wasting time figuring things out and instead focus on exploring. Don’t jam so much into your trip itinerary so that you can be spontaneous and do something that randomly piques your interest.
Would you travel with a group? How many is the max number you would travel?
I would travel with a group and have in the past. I prefer active travelers whose idea of a holiday is more than just lying around a hotel or resort.
I can’t say I have a max number that I would travel with, but I’ll say traveling with more than 8-10 people becomes a bit of logistical problem, from finding the perfect accommodation to suit everyone, as well coming up with an itinerary that caters to everyone’s wants.
It’s not impossible to make big group trips happen, however, for someone like me, who likes to travel deeper and immerse myself in where I go, I find that doing it solo or with a small number is the best way to achieve that result.
What’s one piece of advice that you would give to someone that wants to inquire more about traveling abroad?
The one piece of advice that I would give to someone interested in traveling more abroad is to book a ticket and go. Honestly, step out of your comfort zone and go somewhere that you’ve always wanted to go and most importantly be OPEN.
You’ll be experiencing different customs, languages, and lifestyles and if you go with an open mind, coupled with a positive attitude, you’re bound to have a great trip.
What’s your one MUST-HAVE while traveling?
Positive energy is a must when traveling. Sure, I like to have my phone, a good book, and other material items but none of those compares to the power of positive energy.
Going forth with a mentality that your flights will be on time, your baggage won’t be delayed or lost, and the weather will be perfect – this can have a significant impact on the experience you have while traveling, and even if things go wrong, at least you didn’t begin the trip on a negative note!
The most memorable experience in your favorite city? Least favorite?
Although I can’t say that Nairobi is a favorite city, (it’s great, yes but not a fav) my most memorable experience was my stay at Giraffe Manor. I can’t recall ever feeling more catered to, but more importantly the once in a lifetime experience of having breakfast while feeding giraffes is unforgettable.
My least memorable experience would have to be in Nassau, Bahamas. On my first day there, New Year’s Eve no less, my phone, passport and other belongings were stolen out of my car. I tried to make the most of my trip, but it was rather hard to do when you don’t have easy access to funds. But I’ll return, and be will be more mindful of my surroundings!
Everyone must see (fill in the blank) before they finish traveling?
I’ve been to almost 50 countries thus far and always get asked a similar question to this, and the truth is I don’t have a favorite or one that I’d say is a must. I will, however, recommend a visit to Africa, especially West and East African countries.
There is just a sense of home that you don’t feel in other places, great hospitality, and experiences that you won’t find anywhere else. Also, Don’t overlook Middle Eastern countries. Do not solely visit the U.A.E. Explore deeper and visit Oman, Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan.
Hotel or Airbnb?
It all depends on the destination, but in the past two years, I’ve utilized Airbnb more and more. I love the feeling of being in a home, especially on extended trips, plus in most cases, they are more affordable than a hotel.
Also, as a Vegetarian and someone who thoroughly enjoys cooking, I like having the option to do so while on a trip, especially when I can cook with local ingredients.
I’m Kofi, a long time wanderlust that has let my passion for adventure and new experiences lead me to six continents and over 40 countries. You can follow my adventures of my website at whilstaway.com, where I not only share guides and experiences from my travels but also offer trip planning and other travel related services. My Instagram is @noirewayfarer. Looking forward to having you along the journey. Peace. Love. Travel.