Vivienne Okafor is a travel content creator, content strategist and coach. She is a Nigerian-American, a healthcare consultant and an avid traveler. Vivienne loves to explore a variety of destinations and to share all of her travel tips on her blog. In this interview she shares what it’s like to be a travel blogger, what travel will look like post Covid-19 Pandemic and a lot more.
Tell us a bit about you and your blog?
Hi My name is Vivienne Okafor. I am a travel content creator, content strategist and coach. I am Nigerian-American, a healthcare consultant and an avid traveler. My brand thevoguide was born out of the need to provide detailed descriptions, tips and resources for avid travelers as myself who are also working professionals but take advantage of their vacation days. On my blog, I share pre-travel checklists that give you a run-down of what you need for the country and a travel guide that details my day to day adventures. Essentially I like to package my information in a way that you can use it when you travel to said country.
How has your blog evolved since you started your blogging journey?
My brand journey started just a year ago and has evolved significantly. I still blog about my travels to different countries but have also switched gears into teaching other content creators how to tell their stories and use those experiences to provide teachable, transformational and timely content to show up for the communities they are building. In addition my perspective of blogging has changed too, I started blogging and writing pre-travel check lists and travel guides to certain countries but I recently introduced an audio series on my IGTV called VO Travel Guide series where I talk about different aspects of travel from how to stay inspired to how I achieve work/travel balance. You can check it out here.
How do you fund your travel? (Savings/ Work whilst travel/ other)
I primarily fund my travel from money I get from my 9-5 and allocate it to a specific travel savings account. I set this account on autosave to receive exactly $100/weekly from my paycheck checking account. I also take advantage of work trips that I have been on and try to maximize my time and stay on my companys’ dime when I do travel (which is not that often).
I should also mention that I mostly travel with my partner and we split our costs evenly when we take a trip together.
How do you find cheap flights for your trips?
I have a post on my blog that details how I find cheap flights here.
But my most popular way is checking google flights almost daily while being flexible with my travel dates and signing up for flight deal subscriptions to agencies like Scotts cheap flights to get notifications for flight drops to anywhere in the world.
How many countries have you visited?
This is a hard question but although I do not country-count I know that I’ve visited over 30 countries and have also revisited multiple countries over the years. I did start traveling when I was 1 years old so my passport has an early start.
Have you had to cancel a trip because of the Covid-19 Pandemic?
Yes I’ve had to 3 trips due to Covid-19. Those trips were to Guatemala, El Salvador and Brazil.
Can you tell us a little about your longest trip away from home? How did your family feel about it?
I’ve never really spent a prolonged period of time with family, because for a good period of my life I was away for either boarding school or when I moved to the USA for school. But if we are talking specifically about vacations and my family knowing I was away, it would have to be my first 10-day trip to Bangkok, Thailand in December 2016. I know that my mom was particularly worried because I was so far away from my home and in a foreign land and made sure I sent my itinerary, thai phone number (because I always buy sim cards in-country) and messaged her daily so she could know where I was and what I was doing.
What were your biggest obstacles?
I don’t recall any big obstacles to travel. In my particular case, I grew up traveling so I knew that there was more to the world than where I lived and I have been privileged enough to know what I needed to do in order to take a trip.
What were your favorites moment?
I have a lot of favorite moments and they usually constitute some type of local experience. My favorite moment from my last trip to Bali was attending a group Balinese cooking class in the home of a local. There was so much information shared about customs, language, family norms and history. It was more than a cooking class and felt more like an in depth look at Balinese culture while cooking and eating the most delicious food.
Please share a picture from a recent trip and give us the short backstory?
This was taken in the northern parts of Bali at a famous picture spot known as Wanagiri Hidden Hill. It is a famously photoshoot venue that has the most instagrammable set ups for those who love to take pictures and love a great view. However, don’t be fooled, it is literally set up for pictures, there’s nothing more to it. A little back story to this picture, theres a little stool that was used to climb on the swing but it was also a particularly windy day so my dress was not fully cooperating with me.
This second picture was a beautiful experience walking through Gion district dressed in a Geisha attire in Kyoto, Japan in May 2019. It took about 20 minutes to put on and took the efforts of 2 women. This attire consists of 2 inner lining, the kimono and the obi which is wrapped tightly around the waist. The first one is me sitting on the edge of a building tired from all the walking on an incline and the second one is me about to devour my match ice-cream which is a staple in Japan.
What is it really like traveling as a black woman?
I should first start by stating that I am not a solo traveler so my experience is not confined to just me traveling to countries. However, as the planner and blogger, I usually take the lead with what activities we are doing. Locals ask interesting questions about my hair, or where I am from but I see that more as them being curious and I’m always excited to have conversations. On the other side, traveling as a black person in certain countries can lead to some unwanted stares and unwanted photography but after traveling for so long I invite the stares as mere curiosity and take photos if I’m willing and politely let people know if I don’t want my photos taken.
What are your hopes for Black Travel bloggers community?
There’s a lot of unity now with black travel bloggers who are collaborating and being super supportive with each other. My hopes are that this continues but that black travel bloggers use this time during COVID-19 to share other parts of themselves and allow their audience to know a bit more about why they started traveling in the first place and why travel fulfills them so much.
What has travel taught you?
Travel has taught me how to still, how to ponder deeply, how not to judge others at face value but most importantly travel has taught me to value of story, how to own it and find a way to share it more often and know that everyone has a story. I remember a golf cart ride from my hotel room to the gym in Tulum and striking up a conversation with the driver which ended up with us talking about immigration between the US and Mexico. I remember him telling me about his immigration story and his real reason for being in the US at the time that he was. It was a heartwarming conversation and now those are the experiences I seek out when I travel. There’s always something to learn.
How will travel experiences look like post Covid-19 Pandemic?
I believe travel experiences may be altered. Without the presence of a vaccine, travel may still be limited, sanitation will be a big consideration when getting on any means of transportation. Also international travel may slow down because vaccine distribution takes a while to get everywhere so as a precaution, I see travelers avoiding areas that are still prone to an outbreak and sticking to countries that aren’t. On the other hand, I believe people will opt for more road trips, more inter-country travels and possibly more staycations but all of this depends from traveler to traveler.
What are the best ways to support the travel industry during the coronavirus pandemic?
I think the biggest way to support the travel industry is to postpone trips and avoid cancelling them all together because although this opens the door of uncertainty, airlines specifically are providing credits and extending its use beyond this year. That way its value doesn’t change and it can be used when one feels comfortable with taking a trip.
Outside of airlines, for travel bloggers in the industry that have been hit hard, a great way to support is to support their new ventures since many have had to pivot or even buy that ebook that they published in preparation for a future trip you might take.