After 2+ years of living through a global pandemic, a trip to anywhere probably sounds good these days. But the pandemic has also given us a chance to sit and reflect on what’s important to us. Getting back to our roots has definitely risen to the top for many. With our obvious challenges of tracing our lineage all-the-way, all-the-way back, simply stepping foot on the continent of Africa can be that link that gives us a closer connection.
We spoke with travel consultant and influencer Jovita Coppage about her globe-trotting experiences. With her next trip marking her 50th country, she’s sharing stories from her African adventures and giving us insider info by sharing her insights with us.
MBIB: What’s the best part of travel?
JC: Travel is everything to me. It is therapy. It’s healing. It’s empowering. It’s humbling. I’m a cultural person. So, I love to see the world through other people’s eyes. And I think the best way to do that is to travel and immerse yourself in different cultures.
MBIB: What’s one of the biggest surprises of travel?
JC: The biggest surprise for me was a personal one of not knowing what to expect. Some think of the African continent, and you think underprivileged, you might think poor… and there are parts of that, but there are other parts that are urban and beautiful, and they aren’t widely shown.
MBIB: Does the language barrier ever make things hard?
JC: So, as U.S. citizens, a lot of us don’t speak dual languages. In these African countries, many people can speak four, five, six languages, including English. When I travel internationally, the first thing I do is I try to learn at least five words in the local language just to show respect. When you do that, it takes you so far. Like in Swahili, thank you is “Asante sana.” So, if I just say “Asante sana,” when I receive something, people are so much more friendly.
MBIB: What was it like visiting the continent of Africa?
JC: Especially as a Black person, a Black woman, they love to see us coming there. They’re like, “Welcome home, welcome home.” It’s an amazing feeling.
MBIB: Have you had any concerns about traveling to Africa?
JC: There’s this constant battle of, oh, the Africans don’t like African Americans. But once you get there, it’s not like that. I’m just like, “Where are you guys… where are you all hearing this from?” They love to see us. They say, “Welcome home.” What they don’t like is ignorance. So, just don’t go there thinking that you’re better than them. Don’t go there thinking you’re entitled. Don’t go there, and the first words out of your mouth are, “Do you speak English?” Just be respectful. You give them respect; they’ll give it right back to you.
MBIB: What are your favorite aspects of travel?
JC: The cultures, the people, the food! Senegal is one of my favorite countries, and I can’t wait to go back. The people there are so kind, and the food is amazing. The history is amazing. And in Ghana, I love how every year now toward the end of December, they have the “welcome back.” It’s their way of welcoming Black people from the States.
MBIB: When you travel, do you suggest checking your bag, carrying it on, or are you a straight-up backpacker?
JC: Team carry-on. All the way! International travel can sometimes mean lost or delayed bags. Skipping on the checked luggage and opting for the carry-on can help you get to your destinations more quickly. If you do check a bag, always, ALWAYS take a backpack or big purse or something with you for these international trips. That way you’re with a change of clothes, a toothbrush, your toiletries, because you just never know.
MBIB: What about your hair? How do you stay ready for anything when you’re in a new place?
JC: Two words: protective styles.
We recommend keeping Golden Milk Curl Cream in your bag, too. It reduces frizz and gives you an all-day hold, so you can stay on the go.
MBIB: Do you travel in a big group or keep it small?
JC: Even if you’re traveling solo, you never want anyone to know that. When booking or checking into hotels or Airbnbs, always put down two people. And if a chatty taxi driver asks you who you’re traveling with, you’re never alone. Always say you’re meeting a friend or cousin or are with a group.
We’ve learned so much from Jovita and we’re ready to start packing our bags. You coming?
Follow along on Jovita’s adventures on Instagram: @whatsjetlag.
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