Lola Åkerström knows a thing or two about travel and culture. Growing up in Nigeria, she moved to Sweden in 2010 and is now based in Stockholm. She’s an award-winning travel and culture writer and photographer, author of Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well, and heads up various other business and social impact initiatives. We find out what she’s been up to, what she has coming up, and some great recommendations.
You seem to have had a very interesting life so far, experiencing living in a range of countries and cultures! How have they all shaped who you are and what you do and led you to where you are now?
I’ve always loved getting beneath culture and the nuances of culture. I grew up in Nigeria with over 250 tribes speaking over 500 different languages and dialects, so learning what makes us similar and why we have to be different also informs my work as a visual storyteller.
I always say that isolation is borne from a lack of understanding of each other, and so through my work, I try to fight isolation in all its forms by creating bridges of connection and understanding.
As a travel writer and photographer, I explore culture through local indigenous food, traditions being preserved and lifestyles that define a place or space. Having visited roughly 70 or more countries, these are the types of visual stories I look for.
You are the author behind the wonderful Lagom: Swedish Secret of Living Well – what led you to writing something on this subject?
Based on my natural curiosity about culture, when I moved to Sweden in 2010, I started exploring and learning more about Swedish culture and its nuances. I also wrote about Sweden for several high profile publications as well as for Sweden’s official website.
Then in 2014, I wrote a deep investigative piece titled “The Silence of the Swedes” for Slate Magazine in collaboration with Roads + Kingdoms.
Fast forward to 2017, one of the world’s largest publishers, Hachette, found that article and approached me to write my LAGOM book.
My own book is very different from the others in that there are no recipes for baking anything and it deconstructs the Lagom mindset and how it interacts with itself, society and the environment.
Lagom is often described as not too little, not too much, just right… but at its core, it is the Swedish way of handling stress.
You can read more about the book here.
It looks like you have another book in the works too – tell us some more about that?
So I have another book titled “In Every Mirror She’s Black”, coming in Summer 2021 as a lead hardcover from Sourcebooks.
It’s an upmarket / contemporary fiction novel mostly set in Sweden and it follows the lives of three Black women tied in varying ways to the same white Swedish man. I’m excited about this book and having written LAGOM, it shows this mindset in action in various scenarios as well.
What other exciting projects have you got lined up personally and professionally?
Professionally, I am currently launching a social impact company called Local Purse that will support travel guides who have lost their jobs and local artisans who have lost revenue due to the pandemic to be able to regain some income – https://www.localpurse.com
Over the summer, I also launched my academy which aims to put the heart back into visual storytelling. I currently have two free and two paid courses available and will be launching the next two soon – https://academy.geotravelermedia.com
Tell us some more about the Nordic TB collective, and how might it help travel in the Nordic regions at such a critical time for the industry?
NordicTB is an initiative I co-founded that collaborates with various travel brands and destinations around the world who want to reach Nordic audiences by working with independent visual storytellers based in the region – www.nordictb.com
My co-founder Janicke Hansen and I have been speaking at conferences and summits about how storytelling needs to change post-pandemic. That the age of picture-perfect Instagram tourism is nearing its end and that the people stories in different destinations really need to be amplified.
Not only being an author but you also are a fantastic photographer, we love your Northern Lights images – where and how did you take those?
Chasing the Northern Lights is always a privilege and I’ve been blessed to see them in amazing locations in the Nordics. I have written an article to share my tips on how to photograph the lights.
I also share 25 of my favorite shots from chasing auroras in Swedish Lapland.
Where are some of your favourite places to visit in Sweden and anywhere else in the world?
Beyond Northern Sweden above the Arctic Circle, I love exploring West Sweden, especially island-hopping along the Bohuslän coastline. I love seafood and West Sweden is the best place in the Nordics to go hunting for the “Big Five” – crayfish, shrimps, mussels, oysters, and lobsters.
You can read some of my stories in my “West Sweden Files” here.
What have you been watching, reading, or listening to? Any recommendations?
I love reading and always participate in GoodReads’ annual reading challenge. I am currently reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, many years too late. I’m also making my way through Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. I recently finished Essentialism by Greg McKeown which I highly recommend. I keep re-reading bits and pieces of DH Lawrence who is one of my favorite classic authors.
I’ve recently finished watching Big Little Lies with Alexander Skarsgård, and I have also started watching the series Young Wallander featuring Adam Pålsson, mostly because I am considering both of them as the lead male character for when my book heads to the big screen.
Finally, what is your tip of the day?
At its core, a Lagom mindset wants to reduce stress in our individual lives, so my tip is this:
Do all you can to reduce stress within your control in your life so you can start creating a comfortable balance you can effortlessly maintain in your life.
Interview by Alex & Claire Minnis
Find out more on what Lola’s is up to on here links below:
Portfolio – www.akinmade.com
Books – www.lolaakinmade.com/books
Twitter – Https://www.twitter.com/LolaAkinmade
Instagram – Https://www.instagram.com/LolaAkinmade
Facebook – Https://www.facebook.com/GeotravelersNiche