An Interview with IB: Solo Female Traveler + 9-5er

IB’s mother was a diplomat for the Nigerian embassy, so she was exposed to travel and global experiences from an early age. She grew up in the west suburbs of Chicago, went to college at the University of Iowa, and later moved back to Chicago where she now resides. Her career in tech has allowed her to do quite a bit of travel. Outside from her 9-5, she loves taking (and occasionally teaching) dance classes, volunteering her time with some awesome non-profit organizations in the city, and of course, planning her next trip!

Tell us more about yourself and how you ended up the woman you are today.

During my senior year at University of Iowa, I studied abroad in a small town about 2 hours north of Venice, Italy called Paderno del Grappa. It was my first time traveling outside of the U.S. (except for Nigeria) and it is when I was bitten by the travel bug. I always tell college students that there will never be an easier time in life where you can drop all of your responsibilities and immerse yourself in a completely different culture / lifestyle. 

My family and faith are also a huge reason for why I am who I am. My mother is the hardest working person I know. She has taught me to always work for what I want, while maintaining a humble spirit. My dad has taught me to never take myself too seriously, I get my smart mouth from him. My values are rooted in my faith in Jesus Christ (I don’t like to use religious titles); growing in relationship with Him has ignited my desire to help the oppressed and live a life of true selflessness and love.

Where was your first solo trip and what was your experience like?

My first real solo trip was to Portugal in 2017; I had done a few trips prior where I traveled a few days solo and met up with friends, but I would count Portugal as my first real solo trip. I traveled to Lisbon & Porto for 9 days, and it was the most incredible experience. I am very much an extrovert, and it was the perfect time to spend uninterrupted time by myself to explore, eat (A LOT), read, and reflect.

I also was forced to speak to strangers when I felt the need for human interaction and I met the most incredible people; people that I would have never met if I wasn’t alone.

IB in Portugal!

At TravelCon, I listened to my favorite blogger, Gloria Atanmo from The Blog Abroad, share about her struggles with her foreign parents not understanding her travels. How have your parents reacted to your solo adventures?

Let’s just say that I tried to go to South Africa by myself the summer after I graduated from Iowa and my mom scrapped the idea immediately. Thankfully, we have family friends in Johannesburg, so I was able to stay with them. They think it’s weird, but they are used to it at this point and I make sure to check in with them on a daily basis when I’m traveling solo. 

IB and her mother

You work a full-time job, own a home, have a social life, AND travel the world. How do you make that happen?

Honestly, I spend a lot of time organizing my life and mapping out my priorities based on the season I’m in. There are some seasons where one aspect of life will trump others for one reason or another, and I have to acknowledge that fact and organize my life accordingly. I strongly recommend using Google Calendar and Wunderlist apps to keep organized.

Do you have any tips for women who want to travel, but aren’t sure where to start?

Just book the flight. I know it sounds easier said than done, but I always say that you won’t actually do it until the commitment is made. I love using Google Flight for flight browsing. It compares flight prices by date across most major airlines. A lot of times I don’t know exactly where I want to go, and I use their search by map and start from there. Once the flight is booked, you have no option but to go!

Related articles: How I Afford to Travel, How to Travel The World

While on a tour group in Peru, I witnessed an Asian American traveler get discriminated by locals. She was repeatedly asked, “but where you really from?” I quickly realized my experience traveling as a white woman is (or could be) much different than hers and other minorities. Have you experienced discrimination abroad? What’s your experience traveling as a woman of color? Do you have any advice for other minorities who want to travels?

I haven’t had anything super uncomfortable happen to me abroad; most of my questionable experiences have actually happened here in the U.S. I do notice that I get more stares walking down the street in most places than a white woman would get, but again, that is everywhere.

My advice to minorities that are going to travel is to do your research on the country you are in on their history with racism and act accordingly. I would give that advice to anyone also moving to a new city in the U.S. As people of color, we know that we often have targets on our backs, and we must be aware and stay alert always. Know what neighborhoods have a history of target racial / sexual harassment and do not go to those areas. The experience is not worth the risk. 

What is your favorite city in the world? 

This is so hard!! If I had to choose, I would say Amsterdam. I have now been twice, and I love the peace that I have when I’m there, the people and their easy-going attitudes, and of course, poffertjes / Indonesian cuisine. 

What countries/cities would you recommend for solo female travelers?

I advise visiting Portugal (I went to Lisbon and Porto). I never felt unsafe and there are a lot of organized (and free) events / tours for solo travelers to meet.

I also enjoyed going to San Juan, Puerto Rico solo, especially as a black woman. You are surrounded by people who look like you, which is comforting, and English is spoken in most places so it is easy to get around.

In terms of domestic travel, I totally recommend going to Portland. I had a blast on a weekend trip by myself; so many options for the girls who love the outdoors, live music fanatics, and the foodie chicks!

Related article: Solo Female Backpacking Packing List

Any last words of wisdom or travel tips?

Try to get a credit card with travel benefits; I can count the number of flights that I have paid for over the years on one hand. The Points Guy is a great reference for options that would best suit your lifestyle.

Also, when you’re traveling try your best to stay off your phone and enjoy the moment. There was a time that I spent my travels trying to get the best Instagram picture when the best experiences were right in front of me. 

Thank you IB for sharing your story with us, you are an inspiration and a badass human.

You can follow IB’s adventures on Instagram and Twitter: @ibonitt.

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