“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough”
― Oprah Winfrey
I’m still reeling over the fact that the year is over. As cliché as it sounds, I honestly don’t know where it went. 2017 was an action-packed whirlwind of emotions and events that left me feeling like I’d been dreaming all along. There were (and will be) lots of changes in both my personal and professional life, and I’m crafting my pie charts and focus word for the new year to share over the next few days.
If 2017 started out as my year of “self-care”, it sure ended up as my year of “gratitude” in so many ways. When you witness a culmination of years of hard work and passion slowly crystallize into living your dreams, the main emotion bubbling up to the surface for me was a profound sense of thanksgiving. I am so grateful to the friends, family, colleagues, collaborations, partnerships, and communities that brought me this far.
And while it happened to be a year which was hard to line-item every wonderful good thing that occurred, I did want to do my 2017 reflections month by month to spotlight some memorable events and travels in photos.
January – Finland
In January, I headed back to Finland and kicked off the year by speaking at MATKA and exploring the region of Lahti in depth – from experiencing traditional Finnish saunas and ice swimming, husky sledding, enjoying some outdoor sports like snowshoeing and snowmobiling, as well as digging into local gastronomy and exploring its slow food culture. My time in Finland was a precursor to the rest of 2017.
You can view my Finland image bank here.
February – Malmö
Malmö was the very first Swedish city I visited when I explored Sweden for the first time so it was great to head back down on assignment for Lonely Planet to explore its diverse and multicultural food scene.
You can view my Malmö image bank here.
March – Gothenburg
I love Sweden’s west coast. I absolutely adore that region of the country. Mostly because of its fishing and seafood culture. So, I was excited to take over West Sweden’s official social media accounts to share live stories from the prestigious White Guide Awards and Gala. Think of it like the Oscars of Gastronomy in Sweden.
April – Greenland
One of my most memorable trips to take was exploring Greenland. It was so surreal to be there – from sailing with icebergs and snowshoeing to dogsledding and eating everything from Narwhal blubber to fin whale and seal. I published pieces from Greenland for National Geographic Traveller (11-page photo spread!), Adventure.com, and Fodor’s.
You can view my Greenland image bank here.
Launch of Book 1 – DUE NORTH
Due North is a collection of travel observations, reflections, and snapshots spanning two decades across colors, cultures, and continents. It’s a very open book that lays bare my inner journey – political correctness aside – from when I started traveling solo, trying to make sense of the world as a Nigerian. These are stories I’ve written in the past and I’ve compiled them into sections called SOUTH, WEST, EAST, and NORTH. You can learn more about the book and process here.
May – Jordan, United Kingdom
If there was one country I fell deeply in love with culturally, it was Jordan. I am still in the depths of editing photos (I took sooo many that it’s taking awhile to edit them down) from Jordan so stories from this country – while delayed – will definitely be coming soon. In the meantime, watch this short video I made which I call my visual love story to Jordan.
I also took a mother-daughter trip back to the UK to attend my cousin’s wedding in Cornwall. Before the wedding festivities, we got to enjoy some quality time exploring London’s sights again. This will never, ever get old. London that is. And exploring the world with my daughter who is nearing her 20th country mark at 5 years old.
June – Iceland, Faroe Islands, Nepal, Qatar
June had to be my most intense month when it came to travel. From the far reaches of the Atlantic to the foothills of the Himalayas and a stopover in the Middle East along the way. I was in Iceland for the NonfictioNOW writing conference where I was speaking on an enriching panel alongside fellow contributors and editors at Panorama Journal about travel writers as cartographers. But spending tons of time in particular with my friend Leslie and her family of six (four kids in tow) taught me what it actually means to raise pioneers.
You can view my Iceland image bank here.
If there was one destination that physically blew me away, it was the stunning Faroe Islands. From seeing the magnificent Mulafossur Waterfall at Gásadalur, crisscrossing spectacular scenery via car, serendipitously meeting a group of artists, and abandoning my own itinerary and sailing with them to the island of Hestur – population 12, my time on the Faroe Islands was truly magical.
You can view my Faroe Islands image bank here.
Exploring Nepal on assignment for Lonely Planet and G Adventures is truly the way I love to travel. Slow and deep. I spent a week in Nepal, most of it in Kathmandu and the relatively quiet community of Panauti which has launched a wonderful homestay initiative to help empower local women within the community.
You can view my Nepal image bank here.
On my way back from Nepal, I did a much-needed luxurious rejuvenating stopover in Doha during Ramadan to also experience the city during this very important Islamic observance in partnership with Qatar Airways and Four Seasons Doha.
You can view my Qatar image bank here.
July – Latvia, Ireland
Located in the eastern part of Latvia, Latgale is known for its centuries’ old crafts and pottery as well as a strong cultural identity and warmth towards strangers, and I got a glimpse into the richness of their traditions, soulfulness of their stories, and full-bodied flavours of their local cuisine through our NordicTB #LatviaRoadtrip campaign.
You can view my Latvia image bank here.
End of July took me and the entire brood to Dublin for U2’s historic Joshua Tree tour and back to Croke Stadium where it all started for my favourite band in the entire world (yes, I’m a rabid U2 fan). The atmosphere was electrifying and charged, plus the Irish Airforce did an amazing flyover while streaming colours of the Irish flag – green, white, and orange. Needless to say, our time in Dublin (including exploring the city and other sites) as a family was everything!
August – Northern Sweden
Launch of Book 2 – LAGOM: The Swedish Secret of Living Well
August was a very special month. A certain blue book called “LAGOM: The Swedish Secret of Living Well” was finally released into the world. I also wrote about the process that got me to writing this very special book in a piece called The Power of Breadcrumbs. This one book now has 17 different language editions around the world and is doing quite well. We’re hoping for even more translations as this “lifestyle trend” is set to continue dominating the first half of 2018.
The first part of August was spent in Northern Sweden with extended family. It was a lowkey affair of just resting as much as we could before starting our autumn schedule of activities. August was also special because it was time to finally update photos I use for interviews and press, and my wonderful husband was behind the camera this time, capturing who I am today and this current milestone marker along our journey.
September – Italy, Spain
I was honored to be invited to Matera, Italy, to photograph my friend Silvia’s wedding. Weddings are deep wells of raw emotions and I was especially honored to be given the full freedom and flexibility to be able to capture those unfiltered moments of pure joy and happiness, and to commemorate them in a way that feels down-to-earth and relatable.
After Italy, I headed off to Madrid, Spain, where I did a series of press interviews to promote my LAGOM book. Madrid happens to be my favourite city in Spain so it was fun to head back as well as connect with friends while there.
October was filled with lots of interviews and press but the biggest news was being named the 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year by the prestigious Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). This is a huge honor for me and means so many things on so many levels for me.
I canceled all travel plans so I could catch up on work and editing photos including more interviews and press surrounding promotion of the book.
December – USA
I was finally able to catch my breath when the entire brood and I headed over to the United States to spend Christmas with family. I was able to mentally disconnect a bit, revel in their presence, and just… sleep.
Looking towards 2018
I already anticipate 2018 being a year of positive transitions (putting this out into the universe while knocking on wood!) with some exciting travels already in the works. I’m leaving 2018 open to serendipity as well but I will also recalibrate priorities. I will continue to cull time-wasting endeavors and nurture relationships that are most important to me.
And above all, I will not forget to breathe and prioritize sleep amidst it all.