Why you should visit Lagos, and toward a new philosophy of travel

Those are the topics of my latest Bloomberg column, with side remarks on sex tourism, the Pulaski Skyway, and the Ruhr-Gebiet as well.


Very thought provoking.

Sex tourism?! Did he say sex tourism? R@@y L@@pez l@@king.

Sounds like a decent place that needs its homegrown talent to stay put.

Hopefully columns like this chip away at the Narrative that the rest of the planet is some sort of prison where xenophobic Anglophones and Europeans keep everybody else locked up.

I'm a regular visitor to today's Ruhr-Gebiet -- it's a fascinating post-industrial cultural experiment. Coal scrubbers turned into museums! Gasometers turned into light-art installations! I'd live in Duesseldorf in a minute.

Well, the scorning sneers of a multitude of Kölner would be a fascinating thing to see, if one was to make such a pronouncement during Fasching.

During Fasching in Köln, of course.

Inside joke? Do you care to tell the rest of us? I hear btw sauerkraut is best eaten fresh, not from a can or pasteurized jar, something about probiotics. Will try that next time.

I believe the joke is something along the lines of how the citizens of Dallas might talk about the poor ignorant folks from Fort Worth, or perhaps Seattlites about Tacomans.

Cologne and Dusseldorf are neighbor cities and competitors

I've been to Fasching in Koeln - and Pride. I'd fairly happily live there, too. Duesseldorf along the Rhine is more pleasant in sunny weather, though I can't testify to Duesseldorf in the winter. Christmas in Essen was fun. My own stuff is better represented in Koeln (the Romano-Germanic Museum - dreamy!), but the Kunstsammlung NRW is one of the best museums I've been to in the 21st Century.

I spent a month teaching in Abuja. I am the son of a third-world social worker, so no poor-country naif, but still some things shocked me. For instance, the traffic anarchy. If there is a traffic jam going one direction on a thoroughfare, cars will just jump the meridian and start driving against the traffic in the opposite direction.

From a positive standpoint, I'll take your point on the intellectual capital there. I remember buying a newspaper and being bowled over by the literary quality of the op-ed page... frankly, superior to the New York Times. And the people are so warm.

Abuja is probably more disciplined, I would guess, compared to Lagos.

But iit appears at times that literally one can buy everything from the hawkers at the "go-slow" (local lingo for traffic jams) and never need to go to a shop.

That's the most fun I've had reading a Tyler Cowen piece since 2014. Well done. The mental image of you being mistaken for a sex tourist is hilarious.

That said, I work in Washington DC, where we have a lot of what I'm going to call "signal travelers" - people with lots of income to spend on vacations, and who pick their vacations based on a desire to signal sophistication and superior knowledge of global events. I suspect other cities have signal travelers as well, but ours are more focused on showing off their knowledge of third world development and geopolitics, since the state department, USAID, etc. are prestige employers and working on foreign policy is seen as more prestigious than working on domestic policy.

DC's signal travelers discovered Lagos a few years ago, so much so that I've already heard people who signal their down-to-earthiness by mocking signal travelers making jokes about how everybody in DC has already been to Lagos and is now planning a trip to Conakry.

'The mental image of you being mistaken for a sex tourist is hilarious.'

This time, without mockery (and without having read the column), I find it sad - generally, sex tourists are people who are unable to find sex in their own countries. Of course, possibly Prof. Cowen un/intentionally ventured and/or strayed into an area like Amsterdam's Red Light District, in which case, it is safe to assume that a tourist is at least curious to see what an open market for sex looks like.

Good column, but weighted more on the Tyler Cowen's Quirky Travel Habits theme than the This Is What Lagos Is Like theme.

Yep - I was hoping for more description of Lagos's GDP centers. But perhaps that is forthcoming in another article.

Probably "Lagos GDP centers" are not in Lagos but in kidnap-ridden oil producing regions...

Pretty superficial to cite GDP ranking as a reason to visit but not acknowledge oil's role in that ranking.

Having lived and worked in Lagos , that was my first thought too.

Can someone clarify what the rebasing mean which brought Oil share of GDP from 32% to 11%?


You've lived and worked in Lagos, but think oil plays a large part in its GDP?

It literally became oil producing this year.

I didn't say oil plays a large part. It was a technical question as to on what basis it was calculated as 32% by the Government.

"Visitors should avoid the mistake of judging living standards through appearances alone, because that tends to overweight the value of infrastructure. Prague in the late 1980s looked pretty splendid, largely because of its historic buildings, but good consumption opportunities were hard to come by. "

This is great advice, I felt the same when I visited Mumbai (which was far safer, more fun and alive than the 'cleaner' looking but corrupt and rape-heavy Delhi that I subsequently visited)

On living standards Tyler... appearances are great to judge, believe me. And you will get a peek of what it's like in 6 days but you will not have time to see how bad the picture really is. In your upscale hotel you will probably have running water and electricity 24/4 so will miss a big part of the Lagos experience, or at least the experience of the majority of Lagoans.

Visitors should avoid the mistake of judging living standards through appearances alone, because that tends to overweight the value of infrastructure.

Great point but I think it goes even further, IMHO people often see sloppiness as poverty but it is not. So they for example often they think rural life is better than city life.

I loved the column too, and having just finished reading "Stubborn Attachments", Cowen's interest in GDP makes good sense to me now. But, I'm wondering, how does Lagos score on Cowen"s modified "wealth plus" metric?

Terrible title. I know authors generally don't write their own titles. Bloomberg usually has great headlines. Did the editor even read the story?

I highly recommend this report on Lagos -- it's one of the best things written about the city in recent years: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/governing_lagos.pdf

Tyler's real reason to visit Lagos was to see his secret black baby!

I would recommend a tour of Pakistan too, particularly the larger cities of Punjab like Lahore and Bahawalpur which have plenty to offer for one looking for historical sights.

No, there's nothing to see in Pakistan, just guns, scared women and minorities and cruel jihadists. I wouldn't recommend a visit there.

I found this article to be more than a little smug and condescending.

"I travel around the world to obscure, poor places to see just how bad it is, in the guise of an economic indicator. But you wouldn't understand, because you're not an economist."

I thought GDP was a dead metric.

My personal travel observations are typically economic, revolving around quality of life and cost of living. I have lived in places like Ballston, and I am not convinced that a Ted Turner restaurant is worth the high price of living there, and the social scene is, well, flat. I am not picking exclusively on NoVa, but I keenly believe that high quality living can be had for significantly less than the average American is paying for it...

Also, I wanted to remark before I go about another "economic" indicator which I observe when I travel: the aesthetics of poverty. How much of poverty is a perception on our part, based on the kempt lawns and corniced ceilings of our upbringing? There is room for exploration there.

I'm commenting here in your final point. I agree fully that the average American gets bad ROI as to lifestyle quality for his money. There are amazing things available for low amounts of money (and I grant some things are simply expensive but awesome). Most people just imitate the spending habits of their social set/parents and hence don't look to spending on what they really love in life.

Comments for this post are closed