No Fear: Lola Akinmade on life, travel and Stockholm

[tweetmeme]Lola Akinmade-Åkerström is the type of person we admire. Traveller, writer, photographer, artist, designer, techie and mum, she can pretty much do it all. Plus, she’s been everywhere. Before recently starting her own new venture, Lola was a geoscientist and a contributing editor at Matador Network. Her works has appeared in Vogue, National Geographic and on the BBC. Hg2 recently sat down with Lola to pick her brain about travel and her favourite spots in Stockholm, where she lives.

Lola Akinmade

Where are you from and where do you live?

Born and bred in Lagos, Nigeria, I moved to the US when I was fifteen to start college. So my late teenage years and early adult life were spent in the US carving out a career in the IT field at 18, discovering who I really was, developing hobbies, playing rugby, travelling like crazy. I finally resigned from a successful job in 2009 to focus solely on my freelancing career as well as to move to Sweden for love.

Tell us about your new company, Geotraveler Media – what inspired you to strike out on your own and what type of work do you do?

I’ve been a sole proprietor for several years now, and my new company, Geotraveler Media, really is just a rebranding of my old company as well as a mothership for consolidating all my creative interests – travel photography, writing, art, cartooning, programming, design, social media, photojournalism, and more. My goal would be to hopefully bring on someone to assist before the end of the year – be it in an intern capacity or a mid-level professional so I can delegate better – as well as bring on new meaningful partnerships beyond one off articles and assignments.

In addition to working as a travel writer, you are a successful photographer. What are your favourite places to take photos and why?

I love culture and lifestyle. I’ve often said that if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now, I’d probably be an anthropologist or human/social geographer, so naturally I’m drawn to photographs that tell a human story, and positive human stories at that. I personally believe that even in the darkest of times, there’s usually some glimmer of hope and I try to capture those moments. So my favorite places to photograph would be any place where culture is being celebrated and certain lifestyles are being spotlighted – either subtly or consciously.

Right now, I’m currently the photoblogger for Sweden’s official website and my task is to show everyday lifestyle in Sweden – both the exciting as well as the boring stuff – so people can see and form their own opinions about the country.

Totally up my alley.

Sunset in Luxor, Egypt. Photo: Lola Akinmade.

You’re also a painter. How has travelling informed your artistic process? 

I’m drawn to color in all its form and traveling has definitely opened my eyes to how colors complement and work together in various settings. How Peru’s blue skies complement its burnt-siena orange soil in a totally different way that the cloudy blue skies of Nigeria complement its thick orangish-red soil. So color plays a huge role in my painting process. Undertones of my African background – strong colors with lots of contrast – can also be found within them. 

During your travels, which places have you completely fallen in love with?

I’ve been fortunate to have explored roughly 40 countries so far, and plan on traveling a lot more. The older I’ve become, the more the way I travel has changed. I’m no longer in a rush to conquer anything, and I’ve stopped counting countries and ticking things off some arbitrary list, Rather, I travel to let a place tell me its own story. I want to travel in a way that properly respects the place I’m exploring.

There are a few places I instantly felt at home in the “I could totally live here!” sense. Both Berlin and Lisbon fall into this category. Poland pleasantly surprised me in a way I wasn’t expecting in terms of the warmth of the people I met there, and I fell in love with Fiji while working with the Eco-challenge expedition race, and would love to go back as well as island-hop around the South Pacific while there.

Lola Akinmade - oil painting - Lisbon

Where do you generally hang out in Stockholm – which are your favourite restaurants, bars and galleries? 

Sweden’s “fika” culture – small social meet-ups over coffee and some sweet pastry of sorts – means Stockholm’s café culture is amazing. I love going to Café 60 on Sveavägen. There’s a crazy watering hole rowdiness to it that appeals to me.

I love hanging out with friends in Söder – Stockholm’s “bohemian” district which has tons of ethnic food restaurants, one of my joints being Sonjas grek, which serves up the freshest Greek cuisine, and I always order the very same item (Garlic marinated lamb fillet served with basil sauce, lettuce, and potato wedges) off the menu whenever I’m at Helenes Krog.

Fåfängan is also one of my favorite lunch spots (and the place I had my wedding reception). The view from its hill across the Stockholm harbor of Gamla stan and the island of Djurgården are spectacular. I love heading over to Djurgården which has tons of parks, museums like the Vasa and Skansen, as well as one of my favorite restaurants, Rosendals Trädgård.

Stampen is a cozy little pub in Gamla stan which is great for catching wonderful jazz and blues bands like the Derek Conyer Xperience.

These are just a few.

What about elsewhere in the world? Any standout dining experiences, hotels or nightlife you always return to? 

The “Travesseiros” – sweet flaky pillow-like pasteries that melt in your mouth – sold at Café Piriquita are well worth the hike to Sintra, Portugal outside of Lisbon.

When I feel too lazy to cook myself, I hit up Yellow Chili, a fantastic restaurant in Lagos which serves up traditional Nigerian foods from various regions of the country.

Tucked high up in the mountains within the Sicilian countryside is a little boutique hotel called Belli Spa Resort in the super tiny village of Gratteri.  What a find it was! While its breakfast spread isn’t its strongest point, its remote location makes it perfect for completely unwinding and unplugging from everything.

I’m a sucker for Southeast Asian cuisine particularly Thai food, and outside of Asia itself, when I used to live in the DC area, I was always on the prowl for Thai restaurants.

Shrimp-deviled eggs - Easter tradition in Sweden. Photo: Lola Akinmade.

You’re a writer, photographer, artist and programmer, as well as a new mum. How do you make it all work while still travelling?

I recently wrote a post about the traveler’s greatest fear – which really is the fear of not being able to travel as much as they used to.  Being an avid traveler myself, I fully understand this fear because I also recently had a baby girl just two months ago.

I also understand that the fear is irrational and that sitting in one place for a few months so one’s child grows strong and healthy enough to travel is the least one can do. Like I mentioned, I’m not racing through some bucket list in life. I’m exploring and savoring each day, each experience, and each journey with enough time and respect to the culture. My daughter already has her Swedish and American passports, has taken her first 12 hour road-trip along Sweden’s coastline, and has gone snowmobiling with me in Lapland all within her first 2 months.

Who knows what adventures the next few months will bring, and I’m already planning lots more travels. I feel super blessed to be able to do what I love, make a living from it, and lead a super flexible lifestyle.

Keep up with Lola’s many adventures on www.geotravelermedia.com and follower her on Twitter @LolaAkinmade.

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