#TravellingGirlfriends: You have seen pictures of them on social media, flaunting their bodies in beautiful swimsuits on the backdrop of blue water and white sand. They make us green with envy with all their themed outfits and now Hassan Ssentongo caught up with some of these travellers and finds out how they do it.
If you are an avid user of Instagram, chances are high you have chanced upon this account, which always fills our feeds with envy-inducing photos of the girls at sandy beaches in exotic locations across the world wearing barely-there bathing suits.you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is lethal,” Paulo Coelho, a famous writer, said. This is probably the reason a group of girlfriends, who go by the handle @travelinggirlfriends on Instagram, are on a quest to travel the world and while at it, have as much fun as possible.
We had a chat with two of the girls behind this account; Tinah Teise, host of NTV Login, and Fatumah Asha, a renowned fashion designer, about their love for adventure and how they make this group travel thing work.
Who are they?
The group is comprised of eight girls, although since a few of them are social media shy, only six appear in the photos. Tinah Teise, Fatumah Asha, Stacy Kyomuhangi, Mwaj Ahmed, Umy Lynn and Prim Asiimwe. “Others are usually in the background or play the role of photographer, that is why you never see them,” Asha explains.
How did it all start?
“It all started from all of us being friends,” Asha explains, before Teise chips in. “Fatumah and I were in Washington DC for the UNAA Convention when an idea popped up of me celebrating my birthday in the Seychelles.”
The TV presenter was eager to celebrate her birthday in style, and this meant having her friends tag along. Asha suggested that they each invite their friends along for the celebration, which they agreed to.
“I invited Mwaj, who invited some of her friends and also Tinah did the same,” Asha explains. “That’s how the love for travel brought us together.”
But, coming together because they love to travel might not necessary mean that they are friends away from it. This is something the two ladies believe, but, “For us it is different. We have bonded so much during our travels that we genuinely care about each other now,” Asha explains.
Teise adds that theirs is a very tightly knit circle that you cannot be a part of if you do not have a special and deeply rooted attachment to everyone.
Planning the trips
Planning to travel alone is not a breeze, and that means planning to travel as a group is even more hectic. However, these ‘travelling girlfriends’ make it look so effortless. A photo pops and suddenly they are in Lagos, Nigeria all wearing gele, an ornamental head wrap worn by women in the country. They look nothing but picture perfect.
They all burst out into laughter as if what I just shared has no ounce of truth in it.
“It is not as easy as it appears on social media. We go through months of planning plus back and forth brainstorming on themes and locations,” Asha shares. “Since we all have busy schedules, this is the hardest part of the process,” she continues.
“We have a policy,” she explains. “Once we’ve all agreed and some or all of us have confirmed that we are available, we each have to deposit some money to cover the budget.” This money is non-refundable. If anyone of them chooses to back out for any reason, they do not get their monies back.
They explain that this is their way of keeping everyone in check, considering that the trips are both time and money intensive. When this is done, they go ahead to book a hotel and air tickets before planning the itinerary of the trip.
One thing is clear as you browse through their pictures; they love water and the beach. Teise laughs at this but agrees.
“Since we love flaunting our bodies, because we work hard on them in the gym, we tend to gravitate towards water and the beach,” she explains.
“We also love to go to places with great food and a busy nightlife, of course because a trip is not worth the fuss if there is good food to eat and parties to attend,” Asha adds.
They have been to Washington DC, Ghana, Nigeria, The Seychelles, Thailand and more places as a group.
“But each of us or even two or three of us have travelled on their own either for work or vacation without the entire group being involved,” Asha adds.
Let’s talk financing
Rumour has it that each of them has a sponsor who bankrolls the budget. This is another thing that they will not stop laughing about. “Don’t believe any of those rumours,” Asha laughs. “We all work really hard for our money, and that is what sponsors the travels.”
“Besides, we plan smart. We do not go around spending money on for example places we cannot afford,” Teise explains. “Often times we book tickets and hotels in advance when the fares are more affordable. We also look out for hotels offering discounts.”
“Also, you need to understand that travelling alone is way more costly than when you are a group,” she adds.
They share that a few brands have reached out to them for collaborations, and those deals cover a portion of their budget as well. However, this is all they are willing to share about this because of the non-disclosure clauses they have signed with the brands.
This brings up the question of who is always behind the camera documenting these travels. They explain that they always include a photographer as they plan and the photographer gets paid for their services.
“Unless they fail to make it to the trip because they are committed somewhere else, then I have to put my personal camera to use,” Asha explains.
Balancing work and travel
This, they agree, is another challenge but they always find a way.
“Lucky for many of us, our businesses have grown to the point where we do not have to always be physically present for them to run.” “So we make sure we leave responsible caretakers at home and work to keep things moving when we are away.”
“Besides, we are not always travelling. We are very busy people whose work commitments might not allow time for such luxury, but we find a way to make time,” she adds.
Well, many people think that travelling is expensive, an assumption these two cannot help debunking. “It is actually not, especially if you are in a group of people you consider friends,” says Asha.
“You need to find the opportune time and also book beforehand. For example, during the summer tickets and hotel fares are hiked. You cannot afford to travel during that time or you will pay double what you would have paid if it was not summer.”
“It helps if you are with friends. There are things such as money that are very tricky to discuss. You would not be comfortable on a trip with people you barely know. What if you run out of cash, and you are not comfortable with the people around you?” Teise shares.
“Because of budgets and sometimes itinerary hiccups, you might find yourself sharing a room or even a bed in a strange city after a night of heavy partying. It becomes quite tricky to share a bed with people you do not know, yet in this case it can help you keep within your budget,” Asha adds.
“You also need to have a leader whose role is not to boss you around but to keep tabs with the travel agency,” says Teise.
“Travelling is fun when you have all things under control. Someone should be there to tell you that you have to leave because if you do not, you might miss your flight, which will mean incurring an extra cost.”
Asha shares that to add a little more fun to the mix, if you choose to travel as friends, get a joint theme which guides you on everything from the clothes you will wear to the kind of pictures you will post.
“It works for us like magic.”
Their goal? It is quite clear — to have fun. “We want to travel the world, see all the beautiful places away from home and basically have as much fun as we can,” Teise notes.
Who they are
Asha is a renowned fashion designer with a very successful label. She runs a fashion school called Tesi Fashion School where she trains and mentors up and coming designers. She also operates and manages a string of other businesses.
She is a businesswoman running an Internet café, gym and a salon. She is also a real estate dealer.
Ahmed is a fashionista who owns a fashion retail shop called Mwaj Store at Equatorial Mall. She also operates a wholesale shop downtown.
Owns and manages a travel agency.
Teise hosts the Login show on NTV. She also owns and manages her own production company.
Namulindwa is a money lender.
Asiimwe is an on-air personality at Galaxy FM