I casually asked a friend in the travel industry where she thought I could visit next. I have so many places I want to visit in the world, and the world being… well the world, large, there’s no fun being too organized about it. I said to her “you decide” matter of fact, gave her a budget and asked her to plan it with a stern warning of “No visa drama”.

A few weeks of teasing and taunting me, she handed me a packet that had my travel itinerary and the front said Senegal. To be honest, I was only mildly enthused before my love for travel and adventure kicked. Senegal is just down the road really, how I wished at the time I had agreed to Florida or Greece, somewhere far westernized, exotic with a dramatic landscape and a not so familiar culture. I got on the plane nonetheless with my powerful green passport, not a care in the world that I wasn’t welcome. No thanks to the airline whose name is not worthy of mention, our flight was over four hours delayed and so we landed at an ungodly hour. Got in a cab with a strange man (even though my friend had organized the pick up) and drove in pitch darkness for two hours to a beach town with very sexy name called Saly Portudal. Arriving in the darkness of 4:30am, there wasn’t so much to see but the smell of Saly was intoxicating. I’ve never experimented with questionable substances; however, the feeling I got from just breathing in the fresh air at the hotel was mind altering. I was happy to go to bed briefly and wake up in what smelled like paradise.

I woke up in heaven. Warm sun patches, cool breezes, shrubs like Palm trees, thatched huts and plenty of Ice cold Bissap(zobo), pumped up this Atlantic beach. Miami and Mykonos had nothing on this place. This was Africa, this was home. I was just  “down the road” so it was familiar enough and yet nothing like I had experienced in my home town. Don’t get me wrong, Lagos has her redeeming qualities but I have not heard the Atlantic slap against the shore like that since we literally buried Bar Beach and turned our Atlantic to a sea shell burial ground.

So that I got a bit of the touristy experience, my friend added a host of Touristy things to the list like Lac Rose(Pink Lake) which was thankfully Pink when we got there. I heard from the week before I arrived that it had been a bit bipolar. The main attraction for me though were the adorable little Malian and Guinean kids playing Peddling different salts  from the lake. It wasn’t the invasive chewing gum sellers in traffic in Lagos. Maybe the holiday combined with their warm smiles and hugs made me a bit more receptive. If Salt and Lac Rose had me tipsy, Dakar had me drunk in love! Dakar is a very heady city, warm during the day, cool at night. The food, God! French Gourmet influenced with portions for an African with a healthy appetite like me. The music scene, Arabic influence heavily laced with Davido and Wiz Kid. They love Nigerian music in Dakar. It was also a place were saying you were Nigerian was met with an aha! A warm welcoming smile and sometimes a question about Dangote. For a little bit of eye candy, at 5pm, their beaches become packed with extremely athletic and dark gorgeous shirtless men exercising.

So if my vacation could be like like this, it makes me wonder why we are  so quick to go sit down with an irritable Aunty, or uncles house in London and “pretend holiday” when our western neighbors, thanks to ECOWAS are ready to have us with no hassle…. Here’s what I say, skip the hassle, if the Western world won’t have you, you can still venture West.

Excerpt from Niyi Osidipe’s Why I Travel published in Genevieve Magazine’s September 2017 edition.

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