"Travel is the only thing you buy which makes you richer”, said someone smart once, and we can't help but agree. We all have too many reasons to save and not spend – but we can’t help but think that travel is one luxury that must be prioritised. We are completely inspired by Ugandan-American Jessica Nabongo, who recently became the first documented black woman to visit all who visited all 195 countries of the world, all detailed in her book Catch Me If You Can. Travelling solo to an impressive 89 of these countries - she has so many interesting anecdotes - she really rated South Korea for example, which took us by surprise, and it really made it hit home to be bold and to look beyond the obvious travel destination.
In this round up we share five locations, both far flung and a mere train ride from London away, which we believe are worthwhile enough to justify a visit and the financial outlay! This being The Cornrow blog, these are destinations selected as being welcoming to all, where you can "do you"
"Jessica Nabongo, the first black woman to visit all 195 countries"
Destination one: Cartagena, columbia
From the UK, when thinking of Colombia often what comes to mind is only the phenomenal Sofía Vergara of Modern Family or the darker side of drugs cartels and crime. Well let’s all bin this thinking because, Colombia has come a long way and in fact Colombia is now regarded as one of the safest and most exciting destinations to visit in Latin America!
Three cities to highlight are Cartagena, Medellin, and Bogota. Each of these cities reflect Colombia’s beautiful melting-pot, influenced by its indigenous, African, and European traditions – in fact Colombia has the world’s third largest black population outside of Africa.
Must-do tour : The Freedom tour of Palenque . Palenque has the amazing accolade of being the first free town for enslaved people in the whole of the Americas. It is the heartland of Afro-Colombian culture. You can go on a 'Freedom Tour' with a knowledgeable local tour guide and you'll visit a variety of places that demonstrate how the distinct African culture (think food, music, dance) has been maintained for centuries.
Must do – wellness: Visto Totumo Mud Volcano. This tropical wonder is one of the few volcanoes in the world in which you can submerge yourself inside a volcano pit. The volcanic mud found inside has legendary healing properties and you emerge completely covered in this glorious goo! The surrounding area to the volcano is breath-taking and you can fill your senses with the nuances of the swamp; the colours and sounds of the different species of flora and fauna, the majesty of the mangroves, the beauty of the work of the fishermen AND the curious sculptures formed by visitors covered in gray mud from head to toe!
Book with these guys: Check out OMNoire, who organise retreats for Black women and women of colour across the world. Their Mindful Goddess Expedition to Colombia will be taking place from the 1-7th of December 2023.
destination two: liverpool, uk
We are all about the staycation and here is a recommendation which is easy to get to from the UK, the locals are super friendly (total contrast to London!) and there is so much going on - Liverpool is not just about the Beatles! Liverpool has completely redeveloped its port area which is buzzy, fresh and modern and a lovely place to wonder about. There is also great shopping, museum and night life
Must do – history: The International Slavery museum in Liverpool is a must visist. It tells stories of enslavement (a source of much of the historical wealth of Liverpool) in a dynamic, interactive and accessible way, with exhibits suitable for both adults and children. We wish there were more museums telling these stories in the UK but there are not, which makes this one a must visit.
Must do – wellness: We love the Maya Blue spa – an underground spa located in Liverpool’s Titanic hotel. The subteranial location seems to make it extra serene and relaxing and they do wonderful, reasonably priced ESPA treatments.
Book with these guys: Aberley House is a B&B located in a beautiful historic home which is both welcoming and super comfortable. Disclaimer alert it is run by Kemi and Lara’s mum and her partner Jonathan! It is set on Crosby beach which makes for gorgeous views of the sea and a wonderful setting off place for cycle rides and runs. It’s also only about 15 mins drive into the city.
destination three: accra ghana
You know we have to include Ghana in this round up! A travel destination known for its vibrant culture, welcoming locals and beautiful beaches. Accra is a great destination for anyone looking to connect and learn more about West African traditions and culture. With the popularity of ‘Detty December’-the festive period where Accra is ignited with the buzz of music, arts, culture and entertainment and bristling with thousands of people from the African diaspora it’s clear that Accra should be next on your travel bucket list.
Must do tour – culture: The Chale Wote Street Art Festival is Accra’s largest arts festival. It takes place each August and sees the district of Jamestown turn into a colourful outdoor exhibition. From graffiti murals, acrylic street arts and live Afrobeats music the cultural festival creates an unforgettable sense of excitement in the air.
Must do tour – wellness: Accra is one of Africa’s best cities for serene beaches and a chance to go for a refreshing swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Bojo Beach is great if you’re looking for a secluded and serene beach for a laidback day. If you’re looking for a beach with a great social atmosphere with some fantastic live performances with international artists Labadi Beach is the one for you.
destination four Chiangmai, Thailand
Thailand is a huge favourite on the global traveler scene, especially amongst solo travellers. Chiangmai, was the city we enjoyed the most in Thailand - spending a total of 6 weeks there! A highlight being the annual Chiangmai Flower Festival & Parade. Located in the north of Thailand, a few hours away from Thailand’s capital Bangkok, Chiangmai is a great destination for anyone looking for an affordable and adventurous city to visit.
Must do tour – culture: The city is well-known for its delicious food some of the best in Thailand. Our favourite dish t was Khao Soi the most famous dish in Chiangmai. It's a delicious curry noodle soup made with a rich and spicy coconut curry, served with chicken or beef and two types of noodles. Every Sunday night Chiangmai comes alive with a huge Sunday night market. There are endless rows of stores along the streets of the city selling anything from hand woven artisan pieces, Durain ice-cream (a famous delicacy in Asia) and Scorpions on a stick!
Must do tour – wellness: Elephants are a key tourist attraction in the city. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit an ethical Elephant sanctuary and bathe with Elephants in a mud bath (great for your skin). Visit the stunning temples across the city - Wat Phra Singh and Wat Sri Suphan being our favourites. If you’d like to interact with Buddhist Monks visit Wat Chedi Luang in the city centre for Monk Chats-a great way not only to be part of an exchange and discussion on faith and life, but also important in helping young Monks with improving their English.
Social media hook ups: Follow Victoria Ayodeji on Instagram at @navigatewithvictoria for tips and inspiration on travelling across Thailand and other countries in South East Asia.
destination five New Orleans, USA
New Orleans, Louisiana or "Nola" as locals refer it, is one of the most exciting cities to visiting the USA for its world-famous cuisine and unique blend of cultures.
Must do tour – culture: Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the city's historic neighbourhoods, such as the French Quarter and Tremé. These areas are filled with stunning architecture, colourful street performers, and incredible food. Book a tour at the Musée de fps - a historic house museum and one of the country's few attractions dedicated to exclusively preserving the material culture and telling the story of free people of colour.
Don't forget to try local delicacies like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets which are inspired by the multi-cultural heritage of the city. We couldn't believe how similar gumbo was to Yoruba okra stew from Nigeria, and a testament to the strength of the ancestral memories of the African Americans.
Must do tour – wellness: New Orleans is well-known for its vibrant music scene and home to some of the best live music venues in the world, with jazz, blues, and funk filling the air every night and the popular Mardi Gras celebration.Don't forget the Essence Festival on every summer in late June early July which hosts incredible speakers, artists and is a real get together for wonderful Black women from across America.
Social Media hook ups: For more travel ideas check out African-American Travel Influencer & Entrepreneur Stephanie Perry’sYoutube Channel. She helps Black women across the world embrace ease by taking a career break, traveling long-term or moving abroad.
so, what are you waiting for?
From soaking up the sun in Accra, Chiangmai and Cartagena to exploring cityscapes in Liverpool and New Orleans, the world is truly your oyster!
Before we go, gere are some travel agencies you should check out before you book your trip! Ajo Wellness, Travel Divas and Black Girls Travel Too for international retreats and OYA Retreats for UK domestic retreats.