Nuptials in Nigeria [Part I: The Arrival]//Adventures of a Destination Wedding Photographer

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“Nuptials in Nigeria” is a series of first accounts from an American photographer and inspiration/travel writer Travis Levius.   This was his 1st time on the African continent to photograph an exciting 2-day destination wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. 

IMG_8457via: Instagram, @misterlevius

Pre-Departure

Booking this destination wedding in Nigeria was a two-fold dream come true. I made it a goal late last year to travel to 3 new continents and to start doing international weddings. This would be my first time setting foot on the African continent, all while taking a huge leap in my wedding photography career. Most American photographers who perform out-of-country weddings usually shoot in Mexico and the Caribbean- close to home yet sufficiently exotic for most couples. This particular wedding, however- about 5,200 miles southeast from the U.S. Eastern Coast- is out there. How will I fare in this side of the world?

I felt both excited and afraid as the time to leave from JFK approached. As a traveler only used to Westernized frontiers (Canada, Western Europe, Australia), needing to take so many precautions did cause a bit of worry. A vaccine shot here…a “live culture” pill there…pills to continue taking after the trip ends…

These worries were not helped by multiple Nigerian expats consistently telling me to never walk the streets alone in Lagos, to take super care of one’s things, to only drink bottled water, to only eat cooked food, to keep an astute eye out for hustlers, to wear no jewelry, don’t take my camera out unless it’s for the wedding, etc. Geez, will I be able to actually enjoy this Lagos trip between the dire health hazards and alarming number of swindlers?

The Arrival

Before you read any further, I’d ask to remove all anticipation of the clichéd emotional-black-American’s-first-time-touching-ground-in-Africa narrative.

I wasn’t emotional once I walked outside Murtala Muhammed Int’l Airport’s doors and breathed the warm Nigerian air that morning- I was annoyed. I was already the target to 3 “helpful” airport staff members (or look-alikes) before setting foot outside to meet my host family. One uniformed guy hovering around the luggage claim area offered to bring a luggage cart to me for $10 (it was 15 feet behind me and it cost about a buck to check out, I later realized). “No thanks, I’m good,” I reply. “I am here to help you,” the older guy says, lifting up his employee or ID badge as if that makes him look more honest. Once I passed customs and finished using the restroom, one man sitting outside of the public restroom tries to casually smooth talk me into to paying/tipping him once I walked out.

I guess what my Nigerian friends warned me about was completely true.

The two were not outdone by the one uniformed young man who latched to me immediately after passing the customs area, soliciting offers for minutes like some tenacious gnat, after much polite insistence to cease doing so. At one point, he recited the same script as the other guy: “I am here to help you, look at my badge.” Ugh. He even followed me inside the damn bathroom to “hold my bags” as I relieve myself, even as I tried to shoo him away. I gave up ignoring him and decided to take his offer in placing a phone call to locate my host, the bride’s brother. It was a 45 second phone call at best. “If you have $10, that would be good,” the guy says. For a 45-second phone call and 7 minutes of unsolicited annoyance? “I’m not giving you $10, I’ll give you $4 but that’s it,” I replied firmly. He finally distanced himself soon after I went outside, and I was left in peace (for the most part) until the bride’s brother came to get me from the airport’s pick-up area.

Thankfully, the not-so-great-experiences never went beyond the airport, and my first hour-long ride through mainland Lagos that morning kickstarted all the intrigue and excitement I was wishing for.

**Much More to Share in Part II!*

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