Wakawaka Doctor is a practicing Medical doctor with interests in Mental and Public Health who just loves to explore. Seeing new places and cultures, and meeting new people helps him to achieve this. His job has taken him to 5 countries and 3 continents and he has visited 60 countries and 84 cities.
The content creator and social media influencer has more than 500,000 followers across social media platforms where he shares his travel experiences to educate people on various travel experiences and migration options.
In this interview with Taiwo Okanlawon, the Nigerian tourist and founder of Urban Nomads Travel Community speaks on what led to his “WakaWaka”, benefits as a tourist, and how he created a proper work-life balance among other issues.
You have been to about 60 countries, what triggered this journey and when did you start?
So, my love for travel started in 2014 when I left Nigeria for the first time for work purposes. It took me to the Middle East where I had an opportunity to tour the Gulf Corporation Council (GCC) countries which include Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar. This exposed me to an array of cultures, traditions, and values and opened my eyes to a new world I had never even conceived of. This experience ignited an inquisitiveness to explore and discover cultural differences across the world.
Tell us about your background
I was born and bred in the outskirts of Lagos State, Nigeria to very hardworking Yoruba parents who sacrificed everything for their children. I am the first of 3 kids, and I am a practicing Christian. I graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery from one of the most prestigious Universities in Nigeria. I also have a Master’s in public health and I am currently wrapping up another Master’s degree in neurology and psychotherapy. I have worked and practiced as a medical doctor in Africa, The Middle East, and Europe.
You said you switch between Travel and Health, do you still practice your profession?
Yes, I do. I have a 9 to 5 as a medical doctor in a field that offers me the flexibility to create a proper work-life balance. Therefore, I can travel as I like in a bid to actualize my dream of exploring the world.
How do you balance your life as a health practitioner, tourist, and social media influencer?
There is a popular saying. “Do what you love and not love what you do”. I love my job as a doctor and tourism is a hobby for me. Helping people is also a core of who I am which I do on my social media platforms for people who want advice on moving abroad amongst other things. So, it is quite easy for me to strike a balance and switch between these three in a dynamic manner.
What were your colleagues’ reactions when you started this “Waka Waka” journey?
This is a funny one. While some of them were thrilled, others thought it would be impossible to achieve consistency considering our workload and some other people found the name “waka waka” laughable but here we are today. I remain grateful to God.
Where did you reside at the moment?
My apologies, but due to my social media presence, semi-anonymity is something I seek to achieve. However, I would say I live somewhere in Europe.
You started with traveling tips on Twitter and now you have gained popularity off the platform and other social media platforms. What inspired you to start on Twitter?
Beach, grilled fish, and wine. Believe it or not, it started as locker room banter between two friends- me, and my established social media influencer friend. He encouraged me to share what I do as a hobby with people who are interested. So, from taking pictures of places I visit and sharing different foods I eat on trips, this hobby morphed into me helping people act toward moving abroad.
What are the challenges that you face as a Nigerian tourist?
The biggest one is the green passport which limits the freedom one should have. It stands as a profiling tool because of the reputation a handful of Nigerians have created abroad. Another is the color of my skin. Being a black man (more than often) makes me a target at airports and tourist gatherings.
You have helped a lot of people looking to migrate abroad through your platform, why did you choose to do that?
It was inspired by a movie called “300” which shows that the success of the Spartan strategy was dependent on helping their neighbors achieve their full potential. So, I thought that the more we can encourage people to learn about other cultures, and experience other systems of Government and their lifestyles, the better for all of us in Africa.
What has been the biggest reward since you started this journey
When I get an email from people that used my tips to relocate or travel abroad, the satisfaction I derive knowing that I helped in a way, is the most rewarding feeling.
You started Urban Nomads Travel Community, what is the project all about?
Urban Nomads is a travel community where people can join by subscribing to various travel packages and gaining access to exclusive materials and my pool of consultants. These consultants work on their study or job applications in a bid to help them move abroad. Urban Nomads is all about legal migration.
What were feedbacks like, do you get negative feedback, probably from people who were denied visas?
Feedback makes me elated, especially the positive ones because you realize you are doing something right. The negative ones make you want to do better. For instance, the success of visa applications is not set in stone so there is no 100% guarantee. Unfortunately, when the client is refused, they take out their frustration on me (which is understandable) but I have grown to realize that this is part of the travel business terrain. While we do our best to educate you on necessary documents to facilitate a successful outcome, we always inform clients of the possibility of a refusal as this is a decision made by the Embassy and not us.
There are many travel agencies that didn’t know much about traveling, but your tips have exposed many of them, do you get called out by some?
Honestly, I am not really bothered by comments.
As an individual who has been around the world, do you get profiled when they know you are from Nigeria?
Absolutely, yes. The most memorable was in Greece when they had to call the Greek Embassy to confirm that I really sent in an application and that the stamp on my Nigerian passport was authentic.
What is the advantage of being a Nigerian abroad, what do people appreciate about you as a Nigerian there?
One huge advantage of being a Nigerian is you can adapt and survive anywhere. People admire our lively nature, our diligence, happy lifestyle and culture, our industriousness, and who we are as Nigerians.
What are the general benefits of being a tourist; how have you personally benefited from it.
One of the benefits is networking. I have met so many prominent and important people during my travels. One time, I lost my baggage from South Africa to the UK but since I had previously met the head of Baggage Control of a popular airline on one of my trips, I just put in a call and got my luggage in under 12 hours. Travelling has also enhanced my creativity, given me street education, and given me an opportunity to understand myself better. It has also improved my social skills.
What are the common mistakes that people make when planning to travel that get them rejection letters?
I have seen people make a plethora of errors in their applications such as having inadequate funds to support their trips, submitting false documents, not providing proof of economic ties to their home country, not disclosing past refusals, and not having a clear purpose of travel amongst many others.
Many Nigerians are relocating because of bad governance, and an unwholesome working environment, with these we are losing our best brains to developed countries, what’s your take on this?
Brain drain has been in existence for many decades, and I am unsure that it will stop anytime soon. The concept of migration is as old as the time and people generally move from one place to another based on different reasons. Therefore, if the current environment people find themselves in isn’t working, the logical alternative is to move to one that works.
What is your advice to the Nigerian government to make the country work again?
If I speak, I might get in trouble. Next?
Nigeria is rich in Culture and Tourism, how can we make it a destination for tourists across the world as a means of generating more revenues?
So many things. There are so many things we can do. This question is such an understatement. After being to over 60 countries, I can tell you for free that Nigeria has a high potential of being one of the most tourist-friendly and revenue-generating countries in the world. We need to invest in security, transportation, and pertinent social amenities such as electricity as well as create policies, and educate Nigerians about the value tourism brings.