Lifestyle : Traveling with Steph

See how Stephanie, from The Travel Jawn, travels, what her must-haves are, and what she’s learned along the way!

image1                                                 Wat Pho Temple – Bangkok, Thailand 

-If you had to pitch yourself in 30 seconds, what would you say?

Hi there! My name is Stephanie Akanbi, and I’m a 20-something, Nigerian-American, living in the NJ/NY area. Most days, I’m a professional and graduate student, working in healthcare. I’m a connoisseur of music, lover of food, binge watcher of Netflix shows, knower of lit vibes, and enthusiast of all things travel. I’m a firm believer in the “work hard, play hard” ideology and try my best to live and enjoy a well balanced life!

-What would you say is your travel style? (Luxurious, modest, local)

Well, I would consider myself a bougie budget traveler, so I’m somewhat of a fusion of the three. Unfortunately, bills and student loans rule everything around me, so I fly mostly, if not always, using flight deals. Flight deals, credit card points, and saving apps help me save coins, so that I can splurge when it comes to certain aspects of my vacations. I’m not too picky when it comes to lodging; I’ve stayed in dorm-style hostels in Barcelona and Lisbon, but also in a plush villa with an infinity pool and helicopter pad in Phuket. In Marrakech, I splurged on a high end 4-course dinner with live entertainment one night, and the next day ate lamb tagine for less than 6 USD. I love of good balance of living like a local and indulging in bougie pleasures, especially when the currency exchange is in my favor!

2Q==El Yunque Rain Forest, Puerto Rico

-What are your top 3 traveling must haves?

My top 3 must haves when traveling would be my travel plug adapter, my silk robe, and my phone. I bought my travel plug adapter off of Amazon, for less than $10 and not only does it have all the outlet converters I need, it is has multiple ports where i can charge my electronics. It definitely comes in handy when outlets are few. I bought my silk, oriental design, robe in Patong Beach, Phuket and it’s just so damn comfortable! I get ready in it, walk around in it, it’s light, it’s pretty, and it reminds me of my favorite trip! My phone serves as the master of all things necessary while I’m on vacation: camera, notepad, gps, translator, iPod, calculator. I rarely am talking to people or checking Instagram while I’m on vacation, so it doesn’t bother me as much to have my phone.

-When & why did you begin to travel? 

I started traveling at a young age; it began with family road trips to Maryland and Virginia from New Jersey to flying on my first transatlantic flight to England and Nigeria at the age of 8. Nigeria was a big culture shock for my brothers and I, from growing up in America: the lights never stayed on for more than 3 hours at a time, food was made fresh to eat everyday, most from what grew on my grandmother’s farm, traveling on motorcycles as taxis, and more. Everything was unfamiliar but it wasn’t scary, more than it was intriguing to me at that age.  I thank my parents for opening my eyes to travel early and normalizing it. I can say it definitely sparked my interest in wanting to see more of the world. Fast forward to 2017, there is still an allure of flying to an unfamiliar place, experiencing a different culture, and meeting new people that excites me.

-What are your top fave:

  • Airline: Airlines have been catching major L’s lately, but I’d say KLM was my favorite. It had all the essentials (great service, comfy seats, on point entertainment selection, food was pretty decent-yes, I do eat airline food) AND it was clean!
  • Country: Thailand, hands down!
  • Food: I went to Puerto Rico to celebrate my 25th birthday and fell in love with this meal I had at a small restaurant in Old San Juan. It was mofongo, shredded pork, rice and beans and my Lord it was everything! Savory, filling, salty but not too salty, heaven on a plate!
  • Language: I love languages! My favorite language is Arabic. It has a certain beauty and complexity about the way it’s spoken and written, that I’m fascinated with. Granted, I didn’t pick up much Arabic when i was in Morocco. I only took away “shukraan” which means “thank you”, but I’m still working on it.
  • Beaches: The beaches in Curaçao are unimaginably beautiful! This was my introduction to the Caribbean, and I enjoyed it so much that I went back twice in the same year! I have yet to experience better water than the beaches of Curaçao. I’ve never seen water with such a rich hue of blue, which is native to that particular area, in my life and probably never will.

-What has been your favorite vacay so far? Why? 

Thailand, Thailand, Thailand! This trip challenged and excited me in so many ways. One, I’ve never traveled that far of a distance on a plane; there was a total of about 19 hours of flight time between Newark-Tokyo-Bangkok, and I did it alone at that! Two, everything from the cuisine, to nature and the activities we did, shopping, nightlife, to how cheap everything was, nothing disappointed. Lastly, I’ve never traveled and enjoyed time more with complete strangers. I definitely got called all types of crazy for this one! It was one the riskiest yet rewarding experiences I’ve ever felt (next to skydiving). I started the journey alone, and left with friends and a whole new travel family. Thinking about going back for round two hopefully, within the next few years!

image2                                             Jarden Majorelle – Marrakech, Morocco

What do you feel that you’ve learned from traveling?

Through my travels, I’ve grown to be a stronger, more resilient, and more open individual, which has overflowed into many other areas in my life. Every year, I challenge myself to take a leap of faith with new people and new destinations and I’m surprised how much I enjoy my experiences and the network I continue to build for myself. I am a thinker, tried and true, and i can get into my head and over think just about any and everything. Traveling has forced to relinquish some of that need to overthink, go with the flow, and be optimistic. Every time I tell people that I traveled to Thailand and Maylasia, they’re amazed and envious, but when I tell them I traveled there with 29 other strangers, they think I’m crazy. Yet, I’ve built lifelong memories with these strangers turned friends that I wouldn’t trade in for the world. Taking chances proves itself to be rewarding, time and time again. Sometimes, the best things in life are those that happen on the other side of fear and the unknown. The only way you’ll know is by taking that initial leap of faith.

Stay updated with Stephanie on IG : @chubbcheeks

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