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Lessons from Insead MBA 2016 Valedictorian, Kemi Onabanjo's Experience Visiting 30 Countries Before Her 30th Birthday

22/09/2016 11:19

I met Kemi "Ajala Travel" Onabanjo during my visit to Idanre hills about 2 weeks ago and I noticed she was extremely competitive and passionate about everything she did. From distributing banana bread in the bus to the concentration game which I won by the way, and finally to the countries and capitals game which she won beating me by about 15 correct answers to my eleven.

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First meeting on the Idanre trip

During the game, Kemi revealed her love for travel and that she had visited 30 countries between 2000 and 2016 reaching a 30-countries goal before her 30th birthday. I was extremely intrigued by the revelation and despite my noisy contributions to conversations in the bus, I still had time to run a goggle search for "Kemi Onabanjo" and the first search result was her LinkedIn profile revealing she worked at Mckinsey which she mentioned during our bus conversation; her BellaNaija article on visiting Japan and her valedictory speech as part of Insead's MBA class of 2016.

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Google search result screenshot

Listening to the Valedictory speech, eavesdropping on her descriptions of her travel experience and seeing pictures of different cultures on her mobile phone convinced me that she had a knowledge that needed to be shared with people like me who had passed our age goals for travel but still had hopes of seeing more countries with our green passports and humble earnings.

I approached Kemi to write an article and luckily she had already promised a few blogs travel content and after one week of micro managing her, including a late session at her office, she has finally written a wonderful must read article on her personal blog with the title "Kemi Onabanjo's Journey to 30 Countries Before Her 30th Birthday".

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Kemi and I after a crash office wordpress course at 1am

From Japan in Asia to Mauritius in Africa, you will learn about the countries she has visited and see beautiful pictures in her post here, but the purpose of my post is the 5 lessons I have learnt from her experience;

1. Be Deliberate About Your Dreams And Goals: Reading volumes of children encyclopedias, setting up her project 30 by 30 dream early, deliberately creating a travel account and saving from her first pay check, deciding to visit 2 countries yearly, etc. were some of the very deliberate things that Kemi did to help her achieve her travel goals. Borrowing from something Aramide Oliyide, another friend I made on the Idanre tour said in summarizing the deliberate rule, "Not all of us will desire to travel the world, but there are things in our lives that we earnestly desire to achieve but sometimes we think they are above our reach. We need to genuinely know that nothing is beyond our reach if we set our minds and work towards it, whether its travelling, owning a home having a specific amount of money in our accounts before a certain age or even going back to school"

2. Use The Opportunities That Life Gives You: 12 of the countries that Kemi visited were work related trips and she took the opportunity to explore them on the weekends, and paid out of pocket to add extra days for some countries when work didn't allow her explore. Slightly changing the famous statement about lemons, when life gives you lemons, don't just lick them, why don't you look at all the possible uses of lemons from lemonade to lemon biscuits to lemon scrubs. A lot of people complain about the cards that have been handed to them in life and end up missing out on the amazing opportunities that exist. The Nigerian athletes at the recently concluded Paralympic games are a great example of people who have risen above their physical limitations and used the opportunities that life has given them, winning 12 medals at the Paralympic games in Rio, Brazil.

3. Ask Questions Now, Do The Search Now: My favorite part of childhood was my sense of urgency, lack of fear/shame and inquisitive nature. As I have grown older, those traits have been overtaken by life, and I miss them. Children learn by asking questions. Students learn by asking questions and people who think that they know it all no longer ask questions. This was another important lesson for me from Kemi's article. The Nigerian passport has been abused so much that you wouldn't know that so many opportunities still exist with it. Do some research today my friends, In Kemi's words "I constantly do a lot of research on visa hacks for that lovely green passport of mine. I am always looking out for countries I can visit without a visa, or where I can get a visa on arrival. You cannot imagine how elated I was to find out that you don't need a visa to enter Mexico if you already have a valid U.S visa and that if you have a valid U.K visa, you can get a visa on arrival in Turkey. Plus, the fact that I only had to pay US$50 for a visa-on-arrival to get into Tanzania was a huge relief! These seemingly little visa workarounds make travel-life a little more pleasant".

4. Do Not Be Discouraged by Stereotypes, Processes and Timing: Victor is single and works at the same organization as you, Victor went for an American visa interview but failed, you won't get the Visa. There are so many failure stereotypes around us that keep us from taking those steps that could really transform the normal lives we live. No matter how long it takes to achieve that dream, whether it's on the eve of your 29th/ 30th birthday or on your 50th birthday, continue to pursue those dreams and look for opportunities that will help you achieve them faster.

5. Do It With Passion Or Not At All: Whether it's becoming 2016 Insead Valedictorian, reaching her travel goals of 30 countries before 30years or toping her Covenant University Computer Science class, Kemi has been extremely passionate about everything she does. This should be a golden rule in whatever we do, whether in work, family or in our everyday interaction. If every one of us is passionate about making changes in our areas of knowledge, and put in the work to achieve those goals, a lot of things would have changed. A recent initiative of the Nigerian government that might have come at the wrong time is #ChangeBeginsWithMe movement. I believe that passionately contributing to whatever area you find yourself is the change that we require.

I end my article with this quote by one of my mentors Steve Jobs,

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes.... The ones who see things differently--they're not fond of rules.... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things.... They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do."

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