Diversity Interviews

Black is Beautiful: Interview with Dame Traveler Sophia of Sostyles Escapades

Could you tell us a little about your story and what you do, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet?

My name is Sophia, founder of Sostyles Escapades – a platform I created to curate customized trips for groups of people who are inspired by my adventures. I am a Travel Digital Content Creator who aims to educate and inspire through social media. I have been to almost 30 countries and lived in 3. As a nomad at heart, I make it a priority to immerse into foreign cultures as a way to not only raise my sense of self awareness, but also to tap into my empathy for locals from an open minded stance. Travel truly depicts how interlaced we are. It makes me appreciate the commonalities as well as the differences. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What change would you like to see change or happen in the travel and photography industries? What advice would you like to give to brands?

As a Black female creator, I would love to see more inclusivity, fairness, and diversity in the travel and photography industries. And this also includes leaders and decision makers for said company or brand. Take a look at the stats. Black people spend approximately $65 BILLION on travel annually. We contribute a great deal yet are still underrepresented. It does not add up.

Also, brands should invest in long term partnerships as opposed to only reaching out to Black creators right before Black History Month as a means to cover face and ‘amplify black voices’. Black people are not just a token to tick a box. We need systemic change that is non-performative, supportive, and effective. Representation matters, and this is why I strive to partner with brands who share the same values.

What are some challenges or issues you have faced as a Black female traveler?

First off, thank you for capitalizing the B in Black. White male dominated societies have definitely played a big role here. Especially where they have less focus on gender equality. Mostly via the internet, I have had middle-aged to older white men offer payment in return for sexual pleasures. It is usually referred to as being a ‘Sugar baby’ and sometimes they turn out to be people who have a whole family, which makes it even sicker. Makes me think- is the entire family in on this? This only goes to show that Black women are constantly hyper sexualized in the media and in return deemed gold diggers.

On one of my recent trips, I experienced a taxi driver (happened more than once) who would not let me get into his car. Even after I offered to pay double for something that was going to be maybe a 5 minute drive. I cannot make this up. I could have walked, but I was running late for an important early morning appointment, and I wore heels.

What piece of advice would you give to new Black female travelers?

Know your worth and trust your gut. Research is key. Get some credible reviews from experienced travelers. Learn how to be comfortable with uncertainty and change. Comfort zone? Never heard of her. Keep an open mind and get excited to be filled with everlasting jaw dropping knowledge. Be open to failure and chances of not always getting it right. Be prepared for some glares, but remember that the obstacles are only a set up for bigger and brighter future opportunities. I would add that it also helps to be street smart. Never appear flashy, trust me – you already stand out as is. Be curious and ask as many questions as you find necessary. Have the time of your life and journal your experience to its entirety.

Piece of advice to give non-black travelers?

Research is key. Keeping an open mind is paramount. Drop the stereotypes society has made you to believe. Seek to understand how to treat others who do not look like you without placing them in a specific category simply because of their race. You just may find that you are more alike than you are different.

What are some myths and misconceptions about traveling as a black female solo travel that you’ve found to be untrue?

‘You must be rich for all the travel that you do.’
NO. Please kill this idea that you must have tons of money to travel the world. Do your googles, there are countless blogs on how you can travel for dirt cheap. On average my flight tickets usually range in the $200s-300s (yes, international destinations included!). Personally, the most I have paid for a RT ticket was right around $600 and that is only because I waited longer than I should have since I had not quite made up my mind yet. This has only happened once.

‘Traveling alone is dangerous.’
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard this, from my peers and even family. While I understand for the most part, this comes from a caring place, I wish people who often said this spoke from first hand experience. This is a horrible misconception because where are you ever really safe? If anything, living in America has taught me to exercise maximum caution anywhere I go. Plus, I hate that this idea can discourage aspiring solo travelers.

The notion that because you are Black, you are unable to do ‘white people sports/activities’. Swimming is a typical example of this. I have heard people say swimming is not a ‘Black person’s strongest suit’. As well as playing the violin, golf, snowboarding and so many others! I am not sure where this originated from but I can only speak for myself when I tell you I have checked off so many bucket list experiences in my lifetime, and there will be plenty more to come! From rappelling a 200 ft waterfall in Costa Rica, Scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to Skydiving just to name a few. I have and will always be a thrill seeker, and will continue to incorporate this in my travels so I can continue to share what IS possible to do these things regardless of your color, race or background.

What are some states or countries that have been kind to you?

Thailand, Switzerland, Colombia, Cuba, Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama. There are so many! And this just reminds me of the fact that as many bad experiences I encounter along the road, the good experiences always outweigh the bad.

What are some states or countries that haven’t been so kind?

Spain was surprisingly not so kind. I only visited the Southern part of Spain, so I am open to giving it another try in the future. Sadly the USA, where I call home, is at the top of the list. It TRUMPS all! See what I did there?

Once again, while some of my not so kind experiences have placed a bit of damper on my travels, they certainly do not define them. For every bad experience I encounter, the universe rewards me with 50 x more treasurable moments.

Tell us what you’re up to next and where we can find you

Like the whole world, I am honestly just waiting on things to get back to normal or close. I was supposed to be heading to Jamaica the beginning of August, but that does not look like it’s happening. I am eager to travel again, and I cannot wait to travel even harder!!! I can be found via my Instagram: @sostyles or @sostylesescapades. I also have a Tiktok account and YouTube channel. Additionally, the website for my business is sostylesescapades.com where I also share free travel advice, tips and hacks.

Thanks for having me! I hope everyone reading this stays positive, hopeful, and safe 😊

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