Photo Credit: Jess
Traveler Story: Travel And Culture With Doctor And World Traveler Road2Culturedom
Meet Jessica, a doctor by day and traveler by night (well, almost!). Jessica’s traveler story is a true stand-out because she finds ways to fit travel into her busy 9-5 while exploring culture internationally and in her home of the UK.
There is nothing like exploring new cultures, living in them and learning something new. Jessica figured this out and created a life around constant contact with new cultures afar and at home. Jessica has seen it all, from living in Cuba to the best secret spots on her doorstep in London. In this Travel Noire interview find out how this traveler learns to appreciate culture on all trips.
Tell us about yourself
My name is Jessica and I’m a British born Ghanaian from South London. I’m a doctor by day (and sometimes evenings!) and in my free time I enjoy Pilates workouts, socialising on rooftop terraces and travelling, of course. I’ve been running my travel blog, Road2culturedom, for the past 4 years, which started as a way to document my Central America travels, and since 2021, it has evolved to include London and UK experiences alongside my international travel.
How did you start traveling the world?
I’ve always wanted to travel extensively but it was limited in my childhood to a few family trips. So once I started getting my own money at 18, it was my time to shine. I started cheap and locally to different parts of Western Europe with friends before going further afield and finally becoming confident to start exploring solo as well.
What was your first ever solo trip?
My first solo trip was to Cuba! I spent 6 weeks there as part of my last module of my medical degree (elective) where you experience healthcare in another setting. Everyone normally goes abroad for this and I chose Cuba as I didn’t know anyone who had been before and knew it was quite a unique country. You have to speak the local language to interact with patients and your medical colleagues on the elective and none of my friends spoke Spanish so I decided to go alone.
I spent a few hours a day working with Cuban Medical students and doctors and then had plenty of free time to explore Havana. I also visited a few other Cuban cities and made so many great connections with other travellers and Cubans.
Due to the nature of my trip and length of stay, it was the first time I was fully immersed in and understood the local culture (having to speak Spanish everyday, living with a Cuban family and going out to less touristy spots as recommended) and that was an incredible experience.
Two months after that trip, I did a two week solo mini Inter-rail around Europe as I loved that first taste of solo travel so much!
We recently saw (and loved) your post about making friends while solo traveling - what has worked for you personally?
View this post on Instagram
I’ve always found making friends whilst solo travelling is easier than you anticipate. I believe it’s because you seem more welcoming and open when you’re solo!
The best ways for me have been on tours (free walking tours are always a success) and sometimes in accommodation if I’ve stayed in hostels or guest houses which are a bit more sociable. My favourite example is meeting a lovely Brazilian girl on a walking tour in Prague, we kept in touch and I managed to visit her in Portugal a few years later (as my trip to Brazil couldn’t go ahead) and now we plan to travel together again soon!
Instagram has been a great app for me to connect with fellow solo travellers over the years too.
Why do you value connecting with culture so much in your travels? Is this something you have always prioritised?
Exploring culture on your travels is the difference between going somewhere and actually being somewhere. Until my trip to Cuba, I didn’t really understand that but since then, it’s been my number one priority and my travels would feel incomplete without it.
In this day and age you can find out everything about anything online but nothing can beat that on the ground experience. And even if you’re lucky to live in a diverse place (like London) where you may have eaten foods from around the world, it’s always tastes much better in the country of origin!
I truly believe you can find culture everywhere you go, even on party islands where you would least expect it. I’ve been impressed by the local culture in Ibiza and Mykonos – it’s not as obvious, but easily found.
Favorite Black-owned spots in London to experience the culture?
My favourite Black-owned spots in London are a mixture of food places and also art spots as that has become a recent interest of mine.
– Black Cultural Archives – This community space in Brixton is known as the home of Black British Culture. They have informative exhibitions about the Windrush generation as well as other ways Black people came to live in the UK in history and important events that have happened since.
– Tafeta – An art gallery which displays the works of modern artists of African descent. They usually have one main exhibition on at a time.
– Institute of International Visual Arts (INIVA) – They offer residencies for artists of British born African (and Asian) descent, often with free workshops and talks.
– Prince of Peckham – A vibrant Black-owned pub in South London which is fun for everything – brunches, watching football games, weekend DJ events and even hosting your own party.
– Peckham Palms– An Afro hair, beauty and wellness space in Peckham which has many talented resident Black hairdressers. They also hosts events and community theatre shows.
– Dark Sugars – This incredible chocolate franchise is inspired by the owner’s West African roots and also travels to South America. They also do amazing ice cream!
– Uncle John’s Bakery – This family-owned Ghanaian bakery sells iconic baked goods -I think the bread here is the best!
There’s always fun events and pop ups around London to enjoy the culture and other Black-owned businesses.
Two great examples are DLT brunch (whose next event in August celebrates Lewisham, the London borough of culture at Horniman Museum – an incredible museum which always has black exhibitions on) and Black Culture Market where many Black-owned businesses will be on display in Brixton.
Keep up with Jess on Instagram.