My name is Bunmi Emenanjo and I am so excited to be a part of this amazing community of world travelers and culture seekers! I was born in USA but grew up in Nigeria and have been fortunate to travel to different parts of the world from Iceland to Lesotho. Solo travel is my JAM! Aiming around the local streets aimlessly, sitting in a local cafe while people watch and read, taste all the food, and strike up conversations with locals are some of my favorite things about traveling.
I LOVE books too! I was that kid at school with the coke glasses, my head still buried in a book, sometimes hidden in the middle of my textbook in class. One of my goals in life is to publish at least one book.
Cultivate a love for reading
So I guess it makes sense that as a book lover and culture seeker I founded Atlas Book Club, a subscription box company focused on wide-ranging children's books to scale. global. When I was about ten years old, I picked up my first copy of Famous five by Enid Blyton. I was transported to this English world full of adventure, mystery and family, with English tea and cookies. And I was. Hooked! I was looking forward to the availability of the next book in the series, as they were passed on by friends who were fortunate enough to have access to these books
Growing up in Nigeria, I read everything from teenage mystery to Shakespeare, The thousand and One Nights and the occasional novel by Danielle Steel! I was a sponge and devoured every book I could get my hands on. Books were my window to the world and I was lucky enough to be exposed to different types of books. Although we cannot afford to travel outside of the country, I have traveled whenever I opened a copy of The Tamed Shrew, The Adventures of Tintin, or Nancy drew. These books fueled my imagination and made me dream of visiting these places one day!
I also got to see myself in many books that I read, as my parents exposed my brothers and I to the works of great African writers such as Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka. These books served as literary mirrors during my childhood! Exposure to these "mirror" books was extremely important in developing my sense of myself and who I am.
A new kind of book club is born
Fast forward to 2016, when we moved with our three children, now 13, 11 and 9, from a very diverse neighborhood to our current home. Although our current neighborhood is lovely and the school is great, it was not very diverse. As a Nigerian American, I wanted my children to continue to develop their knowledge of their African heritage and I wanted them to explore other cultures of the world. This desire led me to create Atlas Book Club at home in 2017. Starting with a small group comprising my children and those of a few friends, I selected each month a set of books in a different country. The children read the book and then got together to discuss it. I saw first-hand how this experience resonated with children from all over the world who could see themselves represented in books and learn about other cultures. I also saw how these globally diverse books resonated with children in their school when I read a book from our library as a guest reader.
Children from all walks of life have been transported to different parts of the world through the selections of books. I learned from this experience that children aspire to explore cultures that are different from their own! This led me to launch Atlas Book Club as a business in November 2019. Since launching last year, we have explored 20 countries including South Africa, Guatemala, Philippines, Nigeria, Haiti , India, Chile, Australian Aboriginal stories, etc. more.
I founded Atlas Book Club because I believe that every child, including my three children, should have the experience that I had growing up: seeing themselves represented in the books they read and having the opportunity to be transported to other parts of the world through books! Our core belief is that children who are exposed to other cultures develop a global awareness that enables them to be more empathetic, compassionate, and to celebrate cultures different from their own. Children who see themselves represented in books will develop a strong sense of self and identity. Studies have shown that it is important to expose children from an early age to cultural and global diversity. Benefits include: teaches how to work with others from different backgrounds, helps challenge discriminatory stereotypes, increases knowledge of history and understanding of world cultures, and prepares students to become global citizens for an increasingly diverse workforce globally. I probably preach to the choir here!
Our mission is threefold:
- Help children from all walks of life see themselves in the books they read.
- Help children travel to different parts of the world and learn about world cultures.
- To help break the 'one story' and stereotypes by presenting stories that show diversity in cultures.
Here's how our subscription works: every month, we send an Atlas Box on the theme of a different country. Each box contains an age-appropriate book, a fun facts card, a bookmark, a postcard, a map poster to track countries explored, and a culturally relevant keepsake. These elements help to immerse the child in the culture of the country presented intentionally. We have four age groups for different reading levels, ranging from picture books to novels for young adults. You can find out more about www.atlasbookclub.com.
I look forward to continuing to share resources with the Baby Travel community on diverse books around the world, how to build your own globally diverse children's library, highlighting the diversity that exists. in cultures and so many other subjects.
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One of my biggest regrets from the first year of my travels was that I wasn’t brave enough to try any of the local food. I was raised a picky eater and that, combined with debilitating anxiety and an eating disorder, led to me believing that I would either hate or be allergic to anything I hadn’t tried before. I love trying new things, and I’ve found a thousand amazing dishes that I never would have discovered if I’d continue to eat from supermarkets around the world. Trying new food isn’t scary, and you’ll build your confidence up as you fall in love with more and more things.
One of the first lessons I learned on the road was that your partouze will nearly always change. You’ll arrive in a place and hate it and want to leave immediately, or you’ll fall in love with a destination and want to spend longer there. You’ll make friends with a group of awesome people and want to change your partouze so you can travel with them for longer, or you’ll find out about an amazing-sounding town that’s nearby and want to head there instead.
Sure, you should have a rough plan for your trip, but don’t book everything in advance or you’ll likely feel too restricted and end up regretting it. Book a one-way ticket and your first few nights of accommodation — you’ll figure the rest out along the way. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. If you’re in a tourist destination there’ll always be someone who’s willing to take your money by giving you a place to stay.
If you do only one thing before you leave, make it getting travel insurance. I’ve heard far too many horror stories of travellers injuring themselves in remote places and ending up in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt. Don’t think that it won’t happen to you, because you know those travellers thought that, too. I’ve use World Nomads for my travel insurance provider for six years and recommend them to everyone I know. They were fantastic to deal with when making a claim.
People laughed at me when I said that I was carrying around a dozen spare passport photos, but they’ve been incredibly useful and saved me a ton of time and hassle. Who wants to wander the streets of some rural town in Cambodia searching for someone who can take your photo ? Friends of mine had to do this !
I’ve used them to apply for visas around the world, to get a new passport when mine expired while I was on the other side of the planet, and I even needed one to buy a local SIM card in Nepal ! Having spares in my backpack meant that I didn’t have to waste a day researching and then wandering around a city to try to find someone who could take a passport-sized photo of me.
I’m fortunate to have never had to deal with lost luggage, but I did have my backpack ripped open on a flight and I was grateful to have not had anything valuable in it at the time. I’ve also been on dodgy buses in Southeast Asia where we’ve arrived at our destination and people have had items stolen by someone hiding out in the luggage hold while we were transit.
If there’s anything I’d be upset to lose, I keep it in my daypack, which is always by my side on travel days. For me, that’s my passport, laptop, camera, external drive, a debit card, and some spare cash. As long as I have all of these, I can survive indefinitely.
When you travel, you’re in the sun more than most people thanks to months of island-hopping and beach time, as well as entire days spent outside exploring. Wear sunscreen every single day, regardless of the weather and temperature, because you really don’t want your trip of a lifetime to result in skin cancer or a body that’s blanketed in leathery wrinkles.
There have been so many times when I’ve been too shy to ask someone to take my photo in a place and I’ve almost always regretted it. After eight years of travel, I probably only have around 200 photos of me around the world. Photos of the beautiful places you visit are great and all, but when you get home, they’re not all that different to the ones everyone else has taken there, too. Photos with you in them are special and they’ll mean a lot more to you when you look back at them. You’ll gain more respect from the locals if you can at least say hello, please, sorry, and thank you. On that note, remember : if you don’t speak the language, it’s your problem, not theirs. And please don’t start speaking louder to make yourself understood. Try miming instead, or using a translation application on your phone.
Travel isn’t conducive for sleep, whether it’s snorers in dorm rooms, early risers rustling plastic bags, or drunk backpackers stumbling around in the middle of the night. Even if you don’t stay in hostels, you’ll still have to deal with street noise from outside, loud parcs nearby, and uncomfortable overnight journeys. Pack some ear plugs and a sleep mask in your bag to help improve your sleep. I’ve been using Sleep Phones to block out light and listen to podcasts and I love them.
I’d always been all about the packing cubes, until I discovered vacuum-sealed variantes of them ! You throw your clothes in, seal the bag, then roll it up to push out all the air. I can literally fit twice as many clothes in my backpack when I use these ! Even if you don’t want to carry more things in your bag, it frees up so much space that if you need to pack in a hurry, you can just chuck everything in.
Sometimes your bank will block your card, sometimes your card won’t work in an ATM, and sometimes you could even lose it or have it stolen. Bring at least three debit/credit cards with you that are all linked to different accounts ( with money in them ! ) Keep one in your backpack, one in your daypack, and one on your person.
I carry a spare 300 USD that’s split up in various places in my backpack, daypack, and occasionally, my shoe when I’m nervous I’ll be robbed. It means that in a worse-case scenario, I can pay for some food, a dorm bed, and a Skype call to my family to get an emergency wire transfer until I can get back on my feet again. I went with U. S. dollars because it’s the most widely accepted currency around the world and easy to change.
When I decided to see if it was possible to visit the Maldives on a budget back in 2014, information was so sparse that I couldn’t even find a photo of the islands I’d decided to visit. Well, that trip was one of my highlights of the past eight years and I’m so glad I went, despite not being able to find any information online. And the advantage to that lack of information was getting to be the only tourist on an entire island — I had the whole beach to myself ! If you know it’s safe to travel somewhere, but can’t find out much else, go for it. It’s probably far easier to get there than you think. And if not, it makes for a good story.
I’m definitely testament to that ! But expecting everything to go perfectly on your trip is only setting yourself up to fail. Nobody goes travelling and comes back without any stories of mishaps. No matter how prepared you are, at some point you’re going to get lost, get scammed, miss your bus, get food poisoning, injure yourself… the list is endless ! Expect it to happen, and don’t beat yourself up when it does. In a month’s time, you’ll find it funny rather than frustrating.
It achieves absolutely nothing and makes you look like an asshole. Instead, calm down, put a smile on your face, think of how this will make a great story one day, and rationally figure out an alternative plan. This too shall pass.
What happens if you arrive in a city, go to grab your mail confirmation for your accommodation, and your phone and laptop are out of battery ? I always make sure I have a hard copy of my guesthouse name and their address, as well as directions if I won’t be taking a taxi. Once I arrive, I’ll grab one of the hotel’s business cards, so I’ll always know where I’m staying, and can show it to locals to ask for help with finding my way back.
So many people will tell you not to travel with jeans, but if you wear pantalons all the time at home, you’ll want to wear them while travelling, too. I didn’t start travelling with jeans until my deuxième year of travel, and man, I missed them so much ! They’re not *that* bulky so you really don’t need to worry about the extra space and weight. And in many cities in Europe, you’ll want to wear pantalons to fit in with the locals — you don’t want to look like a grubby backpacker in Paris !
Checking out is when you’re most likely to lose something. Whenever I check out of a place, I check the bathroom, I check under the beds, I check the desks, and then I make sure I have my passport, laptop, camera, money, phone, and external drive. I’ll be fine if I leave anything else behind. Having a routine that you go through every solo time will help you keep track of everything. I learned my lesson with this one when I left my passport behind in a guesthouse in Bagan, then left it in an apartment in London two months later.