Jessica Ufuoma is one of our absolute favorite travelers! An avid explorer who loves finding unique experiences around the world and sharing them with her community of travel lovers and enthusiasts, Jessica’s one of our favorites to follow on Instagram (and Twitter too!). When she isn’t traveling, you can find her at home in Toronto, Canada catching cocktail hours with friends.
Hi Jessica, could you introduce yourself and what you do to anyone who isn’t following you already?
My name is Jessica and I am a travel blogger who also has a corporate job, so I am often finding pockets of space in the year to travel and seek out new experiences. I am Nigerian and I moved to Canada about six years ago for a Masters degree in International Business and that really was my introduction into the amazing world of travel. I often use my travel platform to inspire people to go out of their comfort zone and see the world, any chance they get. Especially people like me who may not have previously thought the idea of travel was possible for them.
Why do you think it’s important for women, specifically, to explore the world?
Traveling is not just an opportunity to learn about the world, but to also learn about yourself. When I see women travel, it gives me a great sense of joy because travel is one of the ultimate expressions of freedom. Thinking back to ages ago, women weren’t allowed to go places themselves without an escort. Now, women are traveling, honing their power, learning about themselves and exercising their rights to just be.
Did you always want to travel the world? Where do you think your curiosity for adventure came from?
I’ll be honest – no. I wish I could say I rolled out of my mother’s womb with an immense desire for travel and I have spent my whole life traveling. That’s not the case for me. I always joke around with my friends and say I consider myself a “late bloomer” in the travelsphere as I only really started traveling frequently at age 24. I watched my parents travel so much in my childhood but I just didn’t think that was something I wanted for myself. Now, I can’t imagine what life would be without it.
My curiosity for adventure came after a study abroad program and my encounter with Machu Picchu in Peru. I remember being so awe-struck seeing the world wonder and proclaiming under my breath, “I’ll travel the world”. I stayed true to my words and haven’t looked back since.
What has been your favorite destination so far and why?
I’m always biased when I answer this question because I always say Peru all thanks to the reasons mentioned above. Peru has a special place in my heart. However, Japan is one of my favorites, Kyoto specifically. I found it full of soul, full of life and very different from everything else I had encountered. It was a sharp contrast of life as I know it and I learned so much from that experience.
What is your go-to item you always are happy that you packed?
My go-to item has to be my Anker portable power bank. I love to stay somewhat connected when I travel and it’s such a handy little device that keeps me powered up everywhere I go. Running out of phone juice when traveling just ain’t cute!
Do you have any tips or tricks for packing effectively?
Packing cubes! Ever since I started using them, I have been able to use my luggage space more efficiently. And oh, it gives me a feeling of being a tad organized so it’s great. Also, I have a packing mantra, “if it doesn’t fit, it’s not coming with me” so when I see that I am having too much trouble zipping up my luggage, that’s usually an indication that I have overpacked and I take items out one at a time until I am good to go. It’s mostly about training the mind too – you think you absolutely need something but when you let it go, you see how well you’re doing without it.
How do you show respect for other countries/cultures when you travel?
It’s important as travelers to always respect the countries and cultures we encounter. One of the ways I try to do it is to do my research before I get there. I learn about the country and what the people are like. I learn some key phrases of the language (it shows I am trying). I learn the red flags to avoid. Do they have a specific dress code in that country? I want to know so I can pack appropriately. I think when you genuinely care about the people and don’t just see the travel experience as a photo-op, it shows!
What experiences did you have on your first big trip abroad? Did it leave an impact on you?
My first big trip abroad was really my move from Nigeria to Canada. I went completely by myself – filled with a good balance of faith and fear. It was different – everything was. From the way things were done, to the way people spoke, down to the weather and what was in the air. That has been one of the most life-changing phases of my life. I cannot begin to say just how impactful that was for me. Forever changed by that experience.
What lessons have you learned from your experiences traveling?
I’ve learned so much! But one thing stands out – that the world is so big. And I don’t mean it just in terms of size and geography (there’s that) but also in terms of opportunities, people, vastness. There’s always at least one more person, one more job, one more thing. This helps me anytime I am feeling stuck, to realize that there are always going to be options available to me just because we cannot possibly run out of options in a world as big and boundless as this.
Why do you travel?
I travel for the ordinary moments and the extraordinary ones too. When I hop on a plane, I never truly know what to expect. I mean, most times I have an itinerary so that means I have a sense of what I might experience but there’s always one plot-twist that I never see coming. Maybe it’s the new friends I made, or the new restaurant I visited due to the recommendations of the locals, or it’s the way the travel has transformed my way of thinking. Many times, we never really know until we go. So we go – to find out!
Have you faced any struggles traveling as a woman? Can you tell us about your experience and how you overcame it?
My struggles of traveling as a woman mostly comes down to sometimes being fearful about the experience because everyone says it is risky to do so. Fear can be crippling, if you allow it to be. Many times, I feel the fear, I acknowledge it and I keep it moving. I’ve overcome the fear by doing. Doing leads to more doing and by the time I knew it, I had built enough muscle to tame the fear that would have once held me back.
Do you know any travel hacks or tips?
Pack light. Travel light. This will not only save you baggage fees, but will make your journey a lot smoother because you do not have to tote around heavy luggage. You also do not have to wait for your luggage at the luggage belt. It saves you time and money.
What are you tips to stay safe when traveling?
Research before you go. Always keep in touch with loved ones and share your itinerary with them. Talk to hotel staff and be friendly with them. Let them know every morning where you are headed – many times they give you tips on what and what not to do. Look confident, even when you aren’t feeling confident. Your posture masters. Stand tall, no slouching.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Book one more flight.
Thank your for sharing your story and travel tips Jessica, we can’t wait to see where you go next! Be sure to follow Jessica on Instagram and Twitter to see her photos and explorations!
Looking for more inspiring female travelers to follow in Instagram? Check out our other Faces Of Dame Traveler interview subjects!