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Soweto, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Jessica Nabongo

Tips for First-Time Solo Travelers

The Catch Me if You Can creator tells us how to plan for that first trip.

You always remember your first time. Mine was November 2007. I can't remember the exact day, but I remember how I felt—so nervous. I had bought the necessary supplies and I was well prepared and all I could do was wait for the day to come. When it finally came, I packed my bags, headed to the airport and boarded the plane. For the first time, I would be traveling to a new country by myself.


I knew no one on the flight from London to Paris. I was slightly uncomfortable, wondering if people were looking at me oddly since I was traveling alone, but they weren't. No one was paying me any attention. When I landed in Paris, I was nervous. I was meant to meet a friend, but I couldn't find him. I hopped on a kiosk that allowed you to connect to the internet. He had not emailed me. We hadn't made proper plans and I didn't know what to do. I waited for an hour, checking my email incessantly. No new messages. I decided to book a hotel and send him the confirmation to meet me there. I knew nothing about Paris, really. I just booked a four star hotel near Champs-Élysées. It seemed safe. I asked for information on how to get to the hotel from Paris' Orly airport. I was told to take the train.

When I arrived in the city center, it seemed no one spoke English. I used my French to ask for directions, but the Parisians seemed exhausted by me. While my sentences were perfect, I am sure my accent was horrendous. After a long struggle trying to navigate the subway, I gave up and went above ground. I was in tears. I was frustrated and had no clue where I was going. I found a taxi driver and told him where I wanted to go. He gladly drove me the 15 minutes to the hotel. I later found out that where I'd picked up the taxi was a five minute walk from the hotel. Bastard. I checked into my room, expecting a big comfy bed that would swallow me whole and make me forget the whole ordeal. Instead, I walked into a cramped space with two hard twin beds. Welcome to France.


Since that trip to Paris I have traveled to over 20 countries alone on five continents. Sometimes I am "alone" the whole time, sometimes I am able to meet up with friends or friends of friends, but I would not change that first experience in Paris for anything. While thinking about that experience still makes me anxious, I survived and it helped me realize that I could really do this traveling thing. If you can survive being a tourist in Paris, you can survive being a tourist anywhere.

Cartagena, ColombiaPhoto courtesy of Jessica Nabongo

We have all seen the memes about group trips. In the planning stages it starts with 20, then falls to ten, then five and then it is just you. Many people rather cancel than to travel by themselves, but I am here to tell you to just go! Will your friends ever travel? Maybe, but what if they don't? Are you going to put off seeing the world until you can convince someone to go with you? By the time that happens the Maldives could be completely submerged.

Traveling solo is not as scary as you think, but as with anything you should ease yourself into it. Here are a few tips for first time solo travelers.

You are never really alone

  • Traveling solo is a great opportunity to meet new friends. Whether you are staying at a hostel, hotel or Airbnb if you are open to it, it is very easy to meet new people who you can travel with in the future! Try eating your dinner at the bar instead of at a table. That will make it easier to talk to people.

Pick a location where you will feel comfortable

  • When traveling solo, being safe is essential and the key to feeling safe is to be comfortable and confident. Finding a place where you feel comfortable might mean going somewhere where you speak the language or perhaps visiting a place that a friend has previously visited and can fill you in. Regardless of where you go, walk through the streets of the new city with your head held high so people are less likely to take advantage of you. Make sure you check your directions before leaving the hotel, rather than constantly looking down at your phone. This way you will also see more of the city. We miss so much by always looking down at our phones, plus someone can catch you off guard when you aren't paying attention to your surroundings.

Pick countries that are known for solo travels

  • Great places to start your solo travel journey are typically cities that have the infrastructure to accommodate solo travelers. Some good ones include: Kigali, Johannesburg, Cartagena, Chiang Mai, Bali.

Jessica Nabongo is a wanderlust, writer, photographer, entrepreneur, podcaster, public speaker and travel influencer. At her core, she is a dreamer crafting a life and career that interconnects her passions and talents. She has visited over 100 countries on six continents. You can follow here on Twitter and Facebook and Youtube.

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Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.

EXPERIENCE 100 WOMEN 2020

The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

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Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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Davido's Fiancé, Chioma Rowland, Tests Positive For Coronavirus

The Nigerian musician made the announcement via a heartfelt Instagram post on Friday.

Chioma Rowland, the fiancé of star Nigerian musician Davido, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The artist shared the news via Instagram on Friday, writing that he and 31 people on his team decided to get tested after returning back to Lagos from abroad. While he and the rest of his team received negative results, Rowland's test came back positive.

"Unfortunately, my fiancé's results came back positive while all 31 others tested have come back negative including our baby," wrote Davido. He added that they both showed no systems, but would be self-isolating as a safety measure.

"We are however doing perfectly fine and she is even still yet to show any symptoms whatsoever. She is now being quarantined and I have also gone into full self isolation for the minimum 14 days," he added. "I want to use this opportunity to thank you all for your endless love and prayers in advance and to urge everyone to please stay at home as we control the spread of this virus! Together we can beat this!"

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Juls Drops New Music Video for 'Soweto Blues' Featuring Busiswa and Jaz Karis

The Ghanaian-British producer heads to South Africa for the music video for the amapiano-inspired track.

Heavyweight Ghanaian-British producer Juls shares his first offering of 2020, and it does not disappoint.

The producer enlists South African music star Busiswa and London's Jaz Karis for the jazz-inflected "Soweto Blues," which also boasts elements of South Africa's dominant electronic sound, Amapiano. The slow-burner features airy vocals from Karis who features prominently on the 3-minute track, while Busiswa delivers a standout bridge in her signature high-energy tone.

"The song dubbed "Soweto Blues" is a song depicting the love, sadness and fun times that Soweto tends to offer its people," read the song's YouTube description. The video premiered earlier today on The Fader. "The energy is amazing, the people are lovely and I've found a second home — especially the vibrancy of Soweto," the producer told The Fader about his trip to Soweto for the making of the video "Jaz Karis is singing a love song, which is symbolic of my new love of Soweto and I'm honoured to have worked with Busiswa whom I have been a fan of for a long time."

Fittingly, the music video sees Juls traveling through the township, taking in its sights and energy. The video, directed by Nigel Stöckl, features striking shots of the popular area and its skilled pantsula dancers.

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