01 Jul Chilled Travel with Blogger Lola Akinmade Åkerström
Our latest interviewee is Lola Akinmade Åkerström of www.akinmade.com . Lola is a Stockholm-based award-winning writer and photographer.
Lola’s publication credits include National Geographic Traveler (US & UK), BBC, Fodors, AFAR, Slate, New York Magazine, CNN, The Guardian, amongst other major publications.
She is also editor-in-chief of Slow Travel Stockholm and her photography is represented by National Geographic.
Lola, are you a fan of cities, or do you prefer somewhere off the beaten track?
I’m a fan of both actually. But as someone who always seeks out culture and the nuances within cultures, I love being where a lot of people are and that’s usually cities or villages even.
What city have you most enjoyed visiting?
I’ve been to so many cities and enjoy various aspects of each city. I really enjoy visiting Lisbon and Edinburgh mostly because I can also see myself living in those cities. Cities that stick most in my mind are ones that have a relaxed vibe amidst the hustle and bustle of industry. Stockholm, my current home, is also that way.
What would you say is the most chilled city you have visited, and why?
It’s hard to pick just one city as the most chilled city I’ve visited but I have a super crush on Edinburgh.
I often associate human characteristics with cities I visit. Of course, putting aside the fact that they’re chock-full of living human beings who fuel certain stereotypes, I feel out cities through human temperaments.
For example, Edinburgh feels like a moody melancholic gentleman filled with more talent than he can use. And when the sun shines, you feel like the only person in the world that matters when his gaze lands on you. Edinburgh feels like a Daniel Day-Lewis.
Belfast in Northern Ireland reminds me of a raw rugby player; one who tries to put on a suit, who tries to brush his hair neatly, and be what everyone wants him to be. But there’s a searing passion beneath that forced jagged exterior that screams “screw your fancy makeup. I want you just the way you are.” Belfast feels like a down-to-earth man at his most basal element.
Stockholm feels androgynous to me. Very jean jacket with a flipped collar and white pants. A bit selfish about its space, keeping its very best secrets to itself yet with a bright-eyed bewilderment about the world. Stockholm wants you to find your own secret space and own it selfishly too.
Dublin – especially towns such as Galway and Cork that I’ve been to – always feel like chicken soup for the soul. They feel like your mother, someone in her 50s or 60s who is hip with modern times yet revels in classics and tries to weave the past into everyday life.
No matter how fancy that chicken soup gets – free-range raised organic chicken, caramelized onions, handmade pasta, braised garden-grown vegetables in a consommé of frothy broth – it remains accessible and grounded and you immediately feel at ease here.
How do you go about finding the hidden parts of a city, the ones you wouldn’t find in a guidebook?
I love taking evening strolls to first orient myself around the city. During the evening, shops start to close down, people are rushing home, maybe picking up dinner on the go or last minute items from the neighborhood supermarket. Locals start congregating in their favorite joints for the evening.
That is how I find the hidden parts of a city. When the sun begins to fade.
What has been your biggest, most exciting, hidden find?
My biggest most exciting find usually doesn’t have to do with a particular place but rather, particular experiences when interacting with people and locals on the ground. From getting local recommendations for best eats to finding some of the cool places to relax or explore in the city.
So metaphorically, my “biggest most exciting find” would be always try to strike up conversations with people around you when you’re exploring a city because they can further lead you to an actual big and exciting find in their city.
What would be the most delicious, chilled out meal that you’ve enjoyed in a city?
As a writer who also focuses on food and food culture, I’ve enjoyed several memorable meals but my most memorable to date were rustic pizzas my husband and I ate in the tiny village of Gratteri hidden away in the hills of Sicily. So not technically a city, but the most memorable.
We gorged on pizza topped with the freshest Gorgonzola cheese and salty prosciutto. Because in our off-the-travelers-track find – Gratteri, a small car winds through narrow roads to home-deliver bread, the vegetable guy rolls his truck through town every couple days, the main square consists of 4 gelato kiosks that moonlight as bars and a post office, and we couldn’t order pizza off the menu until the pizza guy came at around 7pm.
What are your best tips for taking the stress out of travelling itself?
I know it’s easier said than done, but going with the flow and keeping an open mind will exponentially take the stress out of traveling. So you missed your flight. Big deal. Find a place for the night, commiserate with the owner, and get some good recommendations for offbeat dining and cultural experiences to try while spending an extra night in town.
When visiting somewhere new, do you you have any rituals or things you do to help you get settled in as soon as possible?
I always grab a map and take an orientation walk, especially in the early evenings for the reasons I previously mentioned above.
Is there something you regularly do to relax – run, walk, meditate, go a to a yoga class etc?
I always find the local farmer’s or open market. I love the energy and vibrancy within local markets and as a photographer, it’s a gold mine for capturing some wonderfully vivid images of how life flows within a city.
What cities are on your wish list?
St. Petersburg (Russia), Singapore, Baku (Azerbaijan), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) are just a few cities I’d really love to explore.