London Today, Lagos Tomorrow: On The Road with Pelumi Nubi

By Aisha Kabiru Mohammed | Jun 1, 2024
PHOTO: This Day Style

Pelumi Nubi is a 29-year-old entrepreneur with a zest for travel and adventure who started her historic journey from London, United Kingdom, on January 31st. Over the course of her expedition, she passed through 16 different countries across Europe and Africa, ultimately reaching Nigeria via the Republic of Benin on Sunday.

On the 7th of April 2024, Pelumi drove into Lagos in a Peugeot 106, but before becoming the first woman to solo drive from London to Lagos, Pelumi had been to at least 87 countries. Her remarkable feat serves as a testament to her adventurous spirit and determination to explore diverse cultures and landscapes.

For Document Women, Nubi talks about her sense of adventure and being on the road. 

Aisha: Hello Pelumi, could you introduce yourself to us, who you are and what you do?

Pelumi: I love adventure, I love stepping out of my comfort zone. I’ve always been curious. I was born in Lagos and we migrated to London when I was 8. Being black and African in a white-dominated environment opened me up to bullying. I was bullied when I started school, which meant that I kind of found my freedom in the library; reading books and journals.

That's what planted the seeds for adventure. Over time, I did a student exchange program to India when I was in University and when I got there I thought  “oh wow, this is not what the media portrayed, where else are they misrepresenting this?” So, I used many opportunities to see other places, Exchange programs, and Backpacking across cities in Europe. I had a whole career in the sciences, I have a degree in Biosciences. 

Aisha: I’m sorry you had to go through the bullying.

Pelumi: It’s fine you know what they say, "what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger".

Aisha: We’ve seen a list of countries on the internet that people claim you’ve visited. And I wanted to confirm the number. How many countries did you travel to before you went on the solo drive from London to Lagos?

 Pelumi: I'm going to have to do a count to answer that. So, I would say 80 plus was already done before I took the trip from London to Lagos . Like, 82 was already done for April. So, an extra six was added to it. 

Aisha: That's a lot of countries, how were you able to achieve that number? You mentioned Exchange programs and backpacking. What else did you do? 

Pelumi: Social media is such a powerful tool, in terms of finding international friends. Because when you go to the country (where) you don’t need to pay for accommodation, it’s literally just the flight there. I've been to all 80-plus countries. If I have to wake up tomorrow and say I have to go to the country, I will find someone willing to host me. 

Which is amazing, you know? I also did it by working, advertising and stuff. People buy Gucci bags and designer pieces. I don't do any of that. I literally put all my money towards traveling and it's been so fulfilling. So, yeah. Just really paying for it. I've had opportunities to go to work for tourism boards or hotels and stuff. Through my content creation. But mostly, it has just been self-funded.

Aisha: Is traveling something that is really big in your family?

Pelumi: Yes, my mum, dad and my brother are all travelers. They don’t travel as much as I do though. My mum has always liked, you know, traveling for business, going to Switzerland to buy lace and going to America to buy clothes to sell. So, she's always been that kind of traveler. She loves traveling. And we used to travel to America when we were growing up to visit our family there.

In an earlier interview with Forbes, Pelumi said she had driven across Namibia, and also from London to Lake Como, so her family weren’t  exactly surprised. 

Aisha: For the typical Nigerian family, there's the typical vacations and travel we are used to. And then there's more adventurous travel. You mentioned that you used to backpack across Europe. How did your family first react when/if you mentioned it to them? 

Pelumi: I don't think I went into details about how I was traveling. Back then when I was in university, I was tutoring, working side jobs here and there to pay for my trips . And that's how I was able to afford my trips. My family just knew that I was traveling, they barely knew where I was going most of the time till I was there. They would call and ask “Where are you?”I would say “I went to Rome, I went to Spain” and they’d tell me “Okay o take pictures”

So, I don't think they knew that I was backpacking or something like that. They knew I had some level of income and a job. 

But strangers were saying it was impossible, that I was crazy. They were mostly curious as to how I would actually do it, so documenting on social media was important to show the step-by-step of how to do it.

Aisha: Backpacking is pretty uncoventional travel for most Nigerians. Many people, in fact. 

Pelumi: I don't think I have the most conventional mindset, in terms of what black people can do. I don't think I've ever even Googled how black people are treated in a certain place, for instance. It's just not been my thing. Like, if I want to visit somewhere, are you going to hold me? And, you know, I know that black people would want to be aware about racism and stuff like that. But It's never stopped me from just going for it.

Aisha: How did you overcome the challenges and dangers attached to being a woman traveling alone; backpacking through Europe and all the places you went to?  

Pelumi: I think the first thing was being aware that there are vulnerable spots. I was always going to be with people who I'm traveling by myself. And just taking preventive measures, you know. I always, for example, make sure I have data. Just so I can connect and I can send an SOS if I need the help. I usually say things like “My friends are coming”. “My partner is in the pool”. You know, that kind of thing. Just people don't see me and think “Oh, she's black she's a woman that’s all alone and I can take advantage of her”. It took some practice.

I’ve been on the road for many years. You get to meet people quickly and you have to know this person's intention or what they're thinking or something like that. So, as a woman, I think that's very important that I wanted to put out there. Society keeps on telling us that we are allowed to do this. This is our role. But there are lots of women who don't want to do the conventional thing. They want to do something bigger.

It's just very important for us to just keep pushing and keep doing these things, you know. As I said earlier, representation matters. Both as a black woman and as a solo traveler and everything. Different stories. But, yeah, I don't think there's anything men can do that we cannot do, period.

Aisha: I followed you on Instagram from when you started. What exactly did it take? How much, in terms of willpower, money and everything? How much did it cost to start on your journey from London to Lagos? 

Pelumi: In terms of money I’d say  about 30,000 to 40,000 pounds through the 16 countries. It was very tasking mentally. You’d have to be very resilient. I mean I had an accident but still had to go on. You need a lot of strength to go through it. 

Pelumi's journey across Africa was marked by numerous challenges, including a 24-hour hold at the Liberian border, and being denied entry into Sierra Leone. These obstacles forced her to extend her travel dates from March 23rd to April 7th. Between eye issues in Morocco and a car accident in Ivory Coast, she prioritized her health above all else. She had disclosed a collision with a truck that had no warning signal.

Aisha:  According to your posts, you were back on the road shortly after the accident.

Pelumi: So I posted after the accident and I was back on the road. It was also a safety measure. I would always post once I’m away from the place. 

Aisha: What did you do to make your car fit for the journey?

Pelumi: We had to fix a camera to make sure the engine was working right and generally prepared it for the journey. 

Aisha: What plans do you have for the future?

Pelumi: Focusing on building myself and my businesses, I run an agency where we organize vacations, Bridal shower trips and curate these experiences for people. 

For possible next trips, Pelumi eyes Lagos to South Africa. but she "would love to explore regions that I’ve never been to before. But something different, maybe the American Route 66."

Pelumi Nubi's trip has earned her the prestigious title of brand ambassador for Lagos State tourism. The Lagos State government honored her courage and bravery with a warm reception when she returned, where the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-olu presented her with the keys to a new car and gifted her a house in Lagos. 

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