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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 😊

Diversity Interviews

Black is Beautiful: Interview with Dame Traveler Onyi Moss

Onyi is a self taught photographer based in Manchester, UK. Originally from Nigeria, she moved to the UK to advance her career as a chartered accountant. She later discovered her passion for photography that eventually led to the creation of her blog. We discovered Onyi years ago and instantly fell in love with her beautifully curated romantic feed. She has curated one of the most beautiful galleries on Instagram. Be warned, once you click through, you won’t be able to stop scrolling. You can also find her in our recently published hardcover book, Dame Traveler: Live the Spirit of Adventure where you can find her featured!

Thank you so much for chatting with us today! Could you tell us a little about your story and what you do, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet?

Thanks for having me. My name is Onyi and I’m a self taught fashion, travel and lifestyle photographer and writer. I fell into photography by accident when I was unemployed and was trying to find a job as an accountant because that’s what I studied. While binge watching reality TV shows, I stumbled across one that really caught my eye called “Fashion Bloggers”. It featured a group of women who were all self taught photographers taking amazing self portraits and writing about their journey. It piqued my interest so much so that I ordered a camera with my rent money to begin teaching myself photography. Seven years later, photography remains a passion of mine and I can’t see my life without it.

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?

I’d like to see a diverse range of people given the opportunity to take part in travel experiences and getting their unique perspective on it. My advice to brands would be to become more inclusive when it comes to representation as they’ll reach a wider range of real people who connect with their story.

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

I’d say the key challenge I’ve faced is actually getting the opportunity to travel. Because I hold a Nigerian passport, it means I usually have to apply for visas to travel. This means more costs on my part and the potential of being rejected. Sometimes the visa requirements are too bureaucratic, I find myself abandoning it altogether.

Another challenge I’ve faced which doesn’t happen very often because I now do my research, is dealing with unreceptive people who don’t necessarily welcome tourists in their area.

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

My advice would be to look for shared travel experiences from black travellers. Travel Noire is a good example of a place where you can find this community. I’d suggest travelling with a group of people you trust where possible.

Piece of advice to give non-black travelers?

It’d be to also do their research on the area they’re going to so they know what’s acceptable so as not to break any laws. Researching a place can lead to finding hidden spots and truly taking part in the experience.

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

St Lucia and Barbados, Lisbon.

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

Paris.
Porto, but that was because of the treatment I received at the airport which separated me from my husband and I had to find my way back home alone. But the people in the city were kind.

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

At the moment I’m spending most of my time indoors. I hope to resume travelling once it’s safe but have no destination planned yet. In the meantime, you can find me over on my Instagram and blog.

Diversity

Black is Beautiful: My Words by Dame Traveler Nancy Lova

We stand with our Black sisters around the world and we are making it even more of a priority with our new series: Black is Beautiful to amplify their voices in order to make the world and the travel world a more diverse and inclusive space. Please read the words of one of our favs, Dame Traveler Nancy Lova.

My words:

I’m tired and my blood has boiled more than ever recently but I’m curious to know what each and every one of us can do within our immediate surroundings to encourage change but I’m also irritated by the fear and worry of another repeat performance of a Black life taken away once the protests stop and the volume of stories and posts, lessen.

I want to share my thoughts and I guess, ideas, some of which are based on my experiences to help spread awareness and if this resonates with at least one person then I’m proud.

This anger and frustration, the support and this movement has to go beyond Instagram and should not stop at the protests but instead must begin to be exercised within our comfort zones. Because racist opinions and uneducated views are often formed where we feel safe and once they are accepted within our homes, work and social circles then it begins to branch further with the ability to cause unpredictable consequences.

Family, I find are probably the most difficult to challenge. Out of love or fear, so many times racist comments and opinions are dismissed or ignored. So many times a blind eye is turned to the relatives or parents who may have encountered a negative experience with just ONE Black Person yet go on to put ALL Black People in the same category of either “a thief or a criminal”.

So many times the grandparents who “are from a different world” or “from a different era” to us and are “set in their ways” are left to continue to believe in their racist views simply because they are older and probably “wouldn’t understand” what we as Black People today are going through.

Well, you’re never too old to unlearn what you’ve always believed and reeducate yourself to open your mind.

The more we ignore, the more acceptance is formed.

To non black people, challenge your loved ones. Challenge them so that you or your children do not grow to live a life that is acceptable to them but uncomfortable to you, just because they are family.

So many times by even those that barely know me, have suggested that because I am mixed race, I should marry a white man so that my children will look white, so that my children will have pretty hair and cute noses and not be too dark!

This or topics similar are being discussed in too many households and social circles whereby parents, older generations, relatives or friends and their racist and distorted views pressure the future of others, of our children, creating hate and separation from Black People.

Accepting racism in homes creates an expectation for loved ones to stay away from Black People, to perhaps only go as far as accepting Black People’s music and fashion but not Black People as individuals into homes and families. Accepting racism and not challenging family members creates the expectation whether directly or indirectly to not marry, date or be friends with a Black Person.

Colleagues and friends are another. Many have not had to encounter the daily comments and experiences a Black Person has to face up to whether directly or indirectly. And whilst I genuinely appreciate my non-black friends and colleagues in the past who have tried to learn more about me, ask the right questions about where I am from or what my cultures are, others are sadly not as clued up.

“You have long hair for a black girl”

“Your hair is pretty straight for a black girl” 

“Your food smells fragrant”

“Do you eat that with your hands?”

“Your surname is a mouthful, how do you say it again?”

There is so much more to add to this list from lack of diversity, lack of promotions to companies failing to employ Black People whatsoever.

Also regarding friends how many times have Black People tried to explain a scenario on where we have felt uncomfortable by a racist comment made by a colleague or another person and our non – black friends become uncomfortable by the conversation and try pass it off like “don’t be silly, I’m sure he didn’t mean it that way” or “I’m sure she was just curious but didn’t know how to word her question”. This is not ok, it’s not ok to dismiss your Black friends and their concerns regarding race simply because it makes you uncomfortable.

Whether Black or not, if any of this is witnessed, then it should be challenged, if you’re unsure but you feel like something doesn’t sit right, then it should be challenged.

If you have a friend or colleague who is Black, who you love, who you appreciate then you have every bit of responsibility to take it upon yourself to educate yourself and others to prevent the spread of racism and work towards the goal of killing racism.

To make a change, we must start from within ourselves and build the confidence to say when something is not ok to whoever it may be and take an active approach in educating  non-black people.

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