Travel: Drawing Cultural Inspirations From the Midlands

At exactly 5:58 AM on January 9, I typed out the first draft of this piece. More than 15 hours of travel lay ahead vis-à-vis an indirect flight to Lagos. Inspired, I sat beside the window in a quiet apartment Middle of England, reflecting on the last 2 weeks of what could loosely be termed a vacation. An interesting one given its primary objective was to ignite passions with the special one who was still fast asleep.

It’d been a quiet escape after Christmas. Long planned for and I mean that literally. In light of my realities, I’d managed to sneak out a vacation on my irregular stipends with years of careful planning. It didn’t have the trappings of vacations you see on the Travel Channel. Nah! It wasn’t life on Necker Island or Zanzibar with me strolling about half-naked, sipping coconut water and rolling in the sun. At least not yet! Rather, a secondary search for inspiration had necessitated a detachment from the daily grind of trying to breathe life to my passions in between surviving today and staying relevant years after I’m gone.

As the character Leigh Botts asked in one of my favourite novels - Strider - growing up, “what’s changed?”

The journey had changed. I’d come a long way from the insecure chap who took a leap of faith in making a living of his passions for Technology, Arts, Culture and Kids. To the man who now runs a fledgling business in Genii Games, managing relationships with customers, investors, partners, staffs… daunting combination of tasks.

Though inspiring, some things hadn’t changed. I’d suffered occasional burn outs and hit the realities that Lori Deschene captured brilliantly in her piece, 4 myths about doing what you love for work Jon Westenberg's Doing what you love is going to be efing hard also captured my reality check. Add peculiar societal factors and what you get are odds clearly stacked against you.

The escape...

Life in the midlands compares to the countryside back home; quiet, friendly and modest. I spent my days watching people skate in the Nottingham city center, window-shopping and taking strolls with the special one. Wee hours, I snuck out of bed to think and watch the skies; a fantasy that’s remained with me across borders.

And in the midst of all that beautiful escape, I was inspired!

I visited the Nottingham Castle, Museum and Art gallery where I found a trace of home in a 19th century shoe from Northern Nigeria. My excitement grew! I soaked up the Castle’s history of Robin Hood drawing inspiration for Genii Games 2016 workshop where we intend to foster a community of doers among Primary school kids building apps and videos around their stories.

Ever culturally conscious, I picked my native Yoruba language being spoken on the streets by 2 passersby. Cool!

I attended an offshoot of a popular Nigerian Church where I witnessed a common trait I’d seen in my short travel experience; folks with their feet in the West but hearts firmly tied to their roots. Home indeed is everywhere! When I introduced myself, a parent impressed me by calling out his daughter to greet me in Igbo. My face lit up seeing a British-born kid who’d never been home speak Igbo albeit with a heavy British accent. Awesome!

I spoke to a parent in Leicester who wanted a live class for her kids to improve on the bits they’d picked up from the Yoruba101 app. I connected her to Kolade Ogunbayode whose classes hold across the UK.

I met a Ghanaian customer at a community pharmacy who’s married to a Nigerian who was happy to share how he and his wife ensure their daughters pick up the Twi and Yoruba Culture.

A customer whose daughter was keen to show me how much she’d learnt with the Yoruba101 app treated me to a mouth-watering dinner with Nigerian menu!

I connected with the celebrated Cultural Evangelist Mr. Oladimeji Adisa of Osun Arts in Liverpool.

I could go on and on but I couldn’t be more inspired in just 2 weeks. I’d sought an escape from the very burn out that working to create these indigenous cultural values brought yet in my escape, found even more to keep the flames burning. Once again, I’d also managed to reinforce the unquantifiable benefits of the journey in amazing people from diverse cultures, places, the special one and customers.

The inexplicable excitement to this experiential journey is a realization that the mind has the capacity to beat obstacles. It’s a love and hate relationship. You hate the hardships but love the highs that come with constantly tackling them head-on to move you closer to the ever-exciting big pictures staring at you everywhere; in your head, sketch pads, notepads. Perhaps, an illusion but a worthy one since it gives my life a sense of purpose!

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