Growing up, I couldn’t wait for my father to return from his business trips. Working in the travel industry his business trips took him to places such as Amsterdam, Tokyo and even Honolulu. Whenever he came back, he had a new word to teach me or a snack from the airplane. The salted peanuts were always my favorite. More than two decades later, travel has become such an integrated part of my lifestyle.
According to my parents, my first international trip was to Lome, Togo when as a baby I got sick in Accra. At that time, there were shortages on certain food products and they couldn’t find the right formula for me. The story goes that I was so sick and they were so nervous, that the whole family had to take the four hour drive to Lome just to make sure I had the right food and medicine. When my family moved to the United States, travel represented an opportunity to build a new life and design a better future.
After university, I couldn’t imagine staying in one place. There was so much to do and see and I felt that this was the time to go out there and explore. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I wanted options as I figured out what would happen next in my life. Thankfully my parents were supportive or they realised that there wasn’t much they could do to stop me. I applied for the opportunity to work on political campaigns supporting women candidates and my very first campaign was in a location that required a 13-hour solo drive across the United States. I was so nervous to be driving by myself but that journey helped me build up a level of independence and confidence that I’ve been carrying ever since.
The next couple of years found me travelling all across the globe. I lived in Malaysia for nine months as a Fulbright Scholar and had the opportunity to travel all across Southeast Asia.
Travelling to Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore introduced me to incredible food and culture, but also took me to places where the people weren’t really used to seeing that much melanin. I definitely put my diplomatic skills to work trying to navigate the people the stares, requests to take a picture or the sticky fingers trying to touch my hair. Trips to Costa Rica, Australia, and Kenya brought out the adventurous side in me with day trips in sea plans, safaris and even skydiving.
While travel was initially about securing a better livelihood and then about exploring the world, at this point in my life, travel is all about opportunities to grow and expand. When deciding to start a business, I didn’t want it to limit me and with She Leads Africa, the world is definitely our playground. With offices in Nigeria and South Africa and an audience that spans more 135 countries, there is absolutely no way that I can sit still. There is not one month that goes by where I’m not on a plane for a speaking engagement, interactive event or business meeting. There is so much opportunity for young Africans, and I am determined to take advantage of it.
Afua Osei is a Creator, Investor and Entrepreneur who is a Co-Founder of She Leads Africa, a media platform for millennial African women.
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