I first met the melodiously-named Lola Akinmade-Åkerström via her blog, Geotravelers Niche, a chronicle of her travels with photographs big enough to swim in. I eventually met her in person last summer at a travel blogging conference in New York and instantly fell for her gorgeous smile, easy manner, lilting accent, and ridiculous knowledge of the travel writing game. The girl’s doing it, as evidenced by her position as photoblogger for Sweden’s official site. And, ever community-minded, she was one of the people who forwarded me the magic email which landed me my current job (Assistant Editor at Time Out São Paulo, y’all). Now, she’s trying to snag a trip to the North Pole with Quark Expeditions, which is holding a contest for the blogger that will cover their June 2011 Arctic Expedition. It’s up to us to get her there…vote for her here!
Travel writer extraordinaire Kiratiana Freelon allowed me to repost her most recent interview with Lola:
Who are you? What do you do that has to deal with travel?
First and foremost, I’m someone with a truly big heart, quick to reach out, serve, share, and help out any way I humanly can. Passionate with a child-like curiosity, I am creative, constantly filled with joy, and very rarely get angry.
Nigerian-born, US-naturalized (lived in the US for 15+ years), now Sweden-based, I am also a professional freelance writer and photographer who resigned last year to fully pursue a location independent lifestyle as a writer and photographer.
Since then, I’ve written for major travel publications around the world – http://www.lolaakinmade.com/articles – as well as received numerous accolades for my work – http://www.lolaakinmade.com/notables, and also volunteer as a photojournalist with a couple NGOs.
I know that you are working in travel and photography right now. Everyone has that dream of becoming a photographer and travel writer. How did you do it?
First, one has to truly realize what their passions are, and then take little steps each day towards making them a reality. I worked as a programmer for 14+ years before resigning last year due to a variety of reasons. During my free time, I started writing and photographing more, looking for various outlets through which I could share work.
Then I stumbled across Matador Network (www.matadornetwork.com) – the world’s largest independent travel magazine and network – and across a fantastic mentor, Matador’s Senior Editor David Miller who was willing to take a chance on my writing.
Since then, it’s been a process of personal growth, perseverance, determination, small successes/many rejections, and an underlying belief than anyone can set out to do anything they truly believe in. Here’s a practical post I did at Almost Fearless about taking baby steps towards realizing your dreams – http://almostfearless.com/2008/06/29/essential-baby-steps-towards-living-your-passions/
You’ve traveled all over the world. If you don’t mind telling us, what was your best trip EVER?!!!
Every trip leaves such an imprint on my life and refuses to be just a check mark off some “I went there!” list, be it hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or doing some photojournalism work in Nigerian villages, but my most memorable trip was working as a volunteer field journalist with the (then) Eco-Challenge Expedition Race in the most remote areas of Fiji – http://lolaakinmade.com/2008/06/14/eco-challenge-fiji-2002/
As part of the web team, I got up close to the competitors and was responsible for up-to-the-minute press releases, interviews, and narrative travel writing from deep within the jungle. If they were kayaking down a river, we were in a long boat right next to them. If they were biking, we were driving alongside, and if they were trekking, we were trekking with them to get our stories.
The sights, sounds, and faces of Fiji were unique and absolutely memorable and the experience brought me closer to places and people I may never have met, and to some of the most remote yet breathtaking regions on this planet.
Your pictures on your blog are amazing. Us regular people only wish that we could take amazing pictures like that when traveling. Do you have any tips for our travelers on taking great pictures? What’s the best shoot and click camera?
Thank you so much! I’ve written a series of articles on Matador Network (www.matadornetwork.com) with tons of tips for improving your travel photography. I’m also part of MatadorU’s Travel Photography Course – http://www.matadoru.com – where we teach practical tips on how to be successful as a travel photographer.
I currently use a Nikon D300 but also own a Panasonic Lumix compact camera which is a fantastic point-and-shoot for traveling -> High resolution, solid lens, video recording, and just plain cool.
Here are some links to some photography tips:
* The A-B-C-D-E of Travel Photography
* 5 Essential Tips for the Budding Travel Photographer
* Photographing Children During Your Travels
* 5 Tips for Taking Better Photos of Landmarks
* How to Take Better Travel Portraits
Why do you want to travel to the North Pole?
I remember sitting in Mr. Kayode’s geography class (my favorite) in secondary school in Nigeria, an atlas in my hand looking at political boundaries; countries way beyond my reach at that time. I constantly joked about it with family and friends. “I will reach the North Pole,” I often said, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting in tropical sub-Saharan Africa and had never seen snow at that time.
I never, ever in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d be a few votes and judges away from realizing that dream. Never.
Here are my 10 reasons why I want to go to the North Pole – http://lolaakinmade.com/2010/12/06/10-reasons-why-i-want-to-go-to-the-north-pole/
Did you know that the one of the first people to reach the North Pole was a black man named Matthew Henson? Do you know of any other people of color who have traveled to the North Pole?
Barbara Hilary was the first Black woman to reach the North Pole at age 79! – http://www.takepart.com/news/2010/07/12/barbara-hillary-first-black-woman-north-pole-goes-south. Talk about inspiring. Women such as Barbara Hilary and 72-year old Alpha Bennett (http://matadornetwork.com/sports/meet-a-72-year-old-triathlete-alpha-bennett) constantly inspire me; forcing me to dig deeper to reach higher.
I’ve got some big shoes to fill, that’s for sure.
What exactly is the promotion about? Who is sponsoring?
Quark Expeditions (http://www.quarkexpeditions.com/) is a reputable adventure travel company that runs eco-friendly tours only to the polar regions – Arctic, Greenland, Svalbard, Antarctica and many more. They’re looking for an official writer/blogger to document their 20th anniversary 2011 expedition to the North Pole! – http://www.blogyourwaytothenorthpole.com/entries/15
What do people have to do to vote for you?
Every single vote counts!!
1. Click on my entry here. Under the picture, click the “Login or Register to vote” link – http://www.blogyourwaytothenorthpole.com/entries/15.
2. Connect with your existing Facebook account or create a simple Quark account here – http://www.blogyourwaytothenorthpole.com/login – Please make sure that the number of votes is incremented by 1 (yours). You can vote with each valid personal email address too if not using Facebook.
3. Please pass the link on via Facebook or Twitter (below):
Please send Lola to the North Pole! – http://su.pr/16OQzm – @quarkexpedition @LolaAkinmade #Arctic #Travel
It may seem like a hassle to login but Quark Expeditions is a reputable company and validating each vote this way is a form of fighting against vote fixing which I’m personally against.
My integrity and moral values are more important, and so I’m encouraging everyone to vote in a fair and honest way.
Do you have any tips on how people can potentially become established travel writers and photographers like you?
First decide if this path is truly for you. What may seem attractive may not be one’s own calling in life. Then -> Hardwork, persistence, patience, focus, drive, generosity, discipline, flexibility, sincerity, and above all, faith.