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black is beautiful

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Black is Beautiful: Following Your Dreams and Finding Your Passion

Our Journey from Travel Book Idea to Landing a Collection at Nordstrom

A few years ago, shortly after I became a mother, I got itchy feet. I could remain where I was, with a comfortable life enjoying new parenthood, or go on an adventure, living and traveling around the world, as I’d long desired to do. After much planning and preparation, my husband and I decided to leave the United States and travel full time with our daughter Asha, who was just shy of turning two years old. I was uncertain of where we would land, or the long-term professional outcome, but I was open to the journey and the excitement of doing something different.

Over the next two years, we lived in four different countries, across three continents and traveled with Asha to over 20 countries, including Ethiopia, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Iceland, Greece, Oman, Tanzania, and Senegal. In the course of our travels, I saw how much the world has to teach young people and how open the world is to children.

At a very young age, Asha, now with her baby brother, has seen so much of the world. They have met children all over the globe, heard the languages they speak, learned the games they play, the songs they sing, and tasted the foods they eat. These experiences led us to create our children’s story book collection, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete, which shares some of what we’ve seen and learned with other children and their families.

The idea behind our books was to share with children the little things we learn in new places, like what languages are spoken in France or England, what are some foods you could find there, what kinds of currency they use, and what are the key landmarks. But we also wanted to convey the intangible elements of travel, like compassion, understanding of cultural differences and appreciation of our shared humanity. Even if children can’t travel themselves, they could still experience the magic and wonder of exploring and learning about other places through a beautiful book. Plus, there is something truly magical about seeing the world through the eyes of a child!

Our journey to creating Aya & Pete started with an outline for the books, and the lead characters. Aya is inspired by our daughter, and Pete by her favorite stuffed animal at that time, a toy monkey named Frenchie. We wanted our books to be informational, but also fun, so we created character-driven narratives with a good dose of adventure and cheeky banter between Aya and her stuffed sloth, Pete.

We published our first book, the Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in Paris in December 2017 under our publishing company, Ashima. Since so much of our story is inspired by Asha’s lived experiences, it was important that she be the co-author, and co-owner of our publishing business. This was an opportunity for her to learn how to create something, how to build a business, when to pivot if necessary and to get back up if you stumbled. Most importantly, I wanted her to have ownership of her story.

While the first two years of this project were one fledgling step after the other, we realized we had something interesting when we launched our second book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in London, in the spring of 2019. We organized a five-city “book tour” and in each stop, bookstores and libraries welcomed us and readers and supporters showed up! The day after Asha turned six, we hosted a reading at our local bookstore, and a roomful of nearly 100 people sang her Happy Birthday. That was a very special moment.

In the fall of 2020, we launched our third book, The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete in New York! One of the keys to succeeding in whatever it is you want to do, is to be passionate about it. Sometimes you’re in a full sprint, and it’s easy to keep going. Other times it’s a slow crawl and you question whether it makes sense to continue. But we never stopped, and our tenacity eventually caught the attention of Nordstrom, which started carrying our line of books and products last fall. With a national platform, more children have access to Aya & Pete and imagery that shows a little girl who looks like them, or perhaps who doesn’t look like them, boldly exploring, trying new things and just being herself – a kid having fun!

At a time when we cannot travel as freely as we wish and it seems like all of our vacation plans are on extended pause, we believe these books are more relevant than ever. We hope our books can inspire excitement for little ones to see new places, and spark their imaginations with adventures that lay just around the corner. But our story and our books are really not about the act or art of traveling. It’s about our core belief that you cannot dream what you cannot see, and we want all children to know, whether they are traveling, or simply traveling in their imaginations, there’s a big world out there, there’s a place for them, and they belong in it as much as anyone else.

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 where I also share free travel advice, tips and hacks.

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

Truth in Travel

Dame Traveler: Black is Beautiful – Two Brown Eyes & a Lens

Hi my fellow Dame Travelers, my name is Ty! Professionally, I am an Analyst and passionately, I am a travel content creator on Instagram. My travel journey started as an adult in 2012 when I was afforded the opportunity to Study Abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Akita Japan. From then on, I became enamored with travel.

I’ll address the elephant in the room – lack of diversity! That has been a huge challenge as a Black female traveler. I would love to see more Press Release opportunities open to people who look like me and who represent the growing number of People of Color (POC) who DO travel. Shortly after I began travelling with companies aimed at young, professionals, I noticed very few people were POC. I didn’t see myself represented in brochures or on websites. So, my advice to travel companies, brands, hotels and tourism boards, is to actively hire people from all ethnic backgrounds.

To my black traveling sisters,

Sis, do not book a trip without first learning about the tolerance of Black people in the destination you want to travel to. Use Instagram to research hotels, scroll through tags to see if anyone looks like you, search for pins on Pinterest, read blogs about other Black experiences in “x country”. I literally google “x country, Black travel experience”, “safest countries for Black solo travelers”. You should not have to do this, but the reality remains, not all destinations in the world are as forward thinking as you would hope them to be.

To my non-Black travelers,

PLEASE SEE COLOR! I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to hear non-POC dismiss the idea of color or want to keep things “positive”. It is offensive! See my color, see my see my uniqueness, see the beautiful hues of Black skin and please take it upon yourself to learn more about US. Yes, it will make you uncomfortable at times, especially if you have taken the pledge to become an ally. I also ask, when you see or hear something that is being done or said to lack travelers that does not seem just, SPEAK UP. It could potentially save a LIFE!

Let that sink in.

Some misconceptions I’ve heard of regarding traveling solo as a Black female: that are untrue:

1. You won’t be able to find hair products to care for your natural hair.

The grocery store has plenty of natural ingredients that you can use to whip up natural hair products, such as coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, and avocado for deep conditioning treatments. When in doubt, bring your own products with you and or research alternatives before you arrive to your destination.

2. It will be hard to meet people.

If you have an okay time with meeting people at home, you will be okay when traveling. You may find it easier to be open-minded when traveling. Hostels make a great environment for meeting like-minded travelers such as yourself. Go a step further and hang out at a local café

and strike up a conversation with the barista or book a group tour! Your options are virtually limitless, you just have to put yourself out there and take a chance.

Whenever someone asks me what country my favorite is, I always say Japan! I spent about 6 months there and felt completely immersed in the culture. The people of Japan are some of the kindest, funniest, and welcoming people I’ve ever met. Their hospitality is unparalleled, and I always recommend that POC should visit Japan. My skin tone was unique – yes – but it was not a repellent. People were intrigued and wanted to learn more about me and I in turn, wanted to learn more about them.

South Africa was an interesting experience. It was the first country I visited alone, and I had so many expectations about visiting “The Mother Land”. Many of the expectations were met with disappointment. It was the first time I had experienced “colorism” (discrimination based on skin color). As a woman of medium-deep complexion, I was often followed around in shops as a presumed to be a “thief” until owners heard my American accent.

It was the country where I learned how valuable my “American Privilege” is. It was an eye-opening lesson.

As we all learn to navigate the new, post-covid world, I will most likely be at home in California until I feel safe traveling internationally again. Until then, you can check out my previous travel content on IG, @thatgrlty.

Be safe, travel intently and often,



Black is Beautiful: Interview with Joy of Travel the World With Joy

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

My name is Joy Iromuanya. I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. My dad came to the United States in the late 70s from Nigeria, and my mom joined him shortly after. I always wanted to travel because I heard my parents talk about their life in Nigeria, and I had a childhood friend who spoke about her father being a sailor in the Philippines and meeting her mother. I knew there was so much more to see and learn of the world and that is what prompted me to enlist in the United States Navy in October 2010. Once a year, the Navy would send me somewhere to complete my two-week annual tour, but I realized that I wanted to travel full time. So, in January of 2018, I applied and was hired by Delta Air Lines as a flight attendant.

2. Have you ever faced any challenges or issues as a Black female traveler?

I’ve traveled to many places around the globe in the last few years, but this past year, I spent two weeks in Naples, Italy, for my two-week annual Navy tour. While there, I downloaded a dating app thinking it would be an excellent way to meet local men. However, I was surprised by the number of men who asked me if I was African or American. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to answer; I consider myself African American. Nonetheless, it became abundantly clear that I would be treated with more respect if I identified solely as American. When I answered that I was African–just to see if there was a difference–Italian men would assume I was a sex worker.

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

Many Black women were taught that the world is dangerous, and we are especially vulnerable as Black women. We fear that our skin color will make us more visible. We fear that we will face racism and stigma. We fear that even when we are endorsed, it will be through dehumanizing fetishization. Despite these very legitimate concerns, I encourage you to be unapologetically black. Wear your braids, afros and locs. Do things that you might not ordinarily do. Go horseback riding, take a cooking class, go ziplining. Date men who you wouldn’t typically date. Give other men a chance. In sum, get out of your comfort zone. Do research. Join black travel social media groups. They have a wealth of knowledge. Ask other black female travelers about their experiences, both good and bad. Ask if they experienced any overt or covert racism, listen to their stories. On my website,, I also provide travel guides, including a list of places I would highly recommend for Black women to experience safe and respectful travel. I also list the names of excellent professional tour guides, accommodations, restaurants to eat, and activities to do.

4. Piece of advice to give non-black travelers?

Research the country you are visiting before you arrive in the country. Learn a few phrases of the native tongue. Learn the local customs, courtesies, and traditions. Does the culture expect women to dress modestly? What is going on in the country politically? Often, I meet non-black travelers who have no idea about the culture of the country they are visiting. They don’t even know basics like the currency,

conversion rate, and on what side of the road to drive. Visit places off the beaten path. Many of my non-black traveler friends stay at resorts and refuse to leave their cruise ship when it docks, but instead of playing it safe, spend three days in a resort and then three days in an Airbnb so you can mingle with locals and experience more of the vibrant everyday life and culture.

5. What are some myths and misconceptions about traveling as a Black female solo traveler that you’ve found to be untrue?

When I first started traveling, I didn’t know how I would be received. Would I encounter racism? Would my gender make me vulnerable? Indeed, sometimes locals do touch my hair and ask me questions. But I don’t feel disrespected. Usually, they are genuinely curious and admiring the beauty of my texture and style. (Of course, I would prefer that people not touch my hair without first asking for permission.) Some of the people in the country are also proud to be an ambassador, showing me their hometown. They want to make me feel accepted, welcome, and safe.

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

During a Belgium layover, a few friends of mine decided to take a train to Brugge. We had a fantastic time touring the city and eating. On the way back to our hotel, I realized that I had left my cellphone on my train seat. I was distraught. One of my friends suggested that I text, “This is my phone that I lost. Can I please meet up with you to get it back? Please text this number.” To make a long story short, a kind man texted us back and told us to come to his workplace to retrieve my phone. Once we arrived, he handed me my phone. I tried to offer him money, but he refused. We also mentioned that we were going to eat nearby. He told us that it wasn’t the safest neighborhood, and he wouldn’t advise it. His kindness meant the world to me because it showed me that good people still exist.

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

As a flight attendant, when I am working on certain international flights, passengers see me as their servant. During a flight to Lagos, Nigeria a few passengers left their luggage at the boarding door. They expected me to retrieve and stow their luggage for them. It is my company’s policy that customers are solely responsible for stowing their carry-on bags in overhead bins. Carry-on bag related injuries are a top driver of flight attendant injury each year, causing approximately 25% of In-Flight’s total injuries.

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

Due to the COVID-19 global health crisis, I am currently on leave from Delta Air Lines but I’m hoping to return in November and resume travel. I also plan to blog about my Annual tour trip for the Navy to Connecticut this summer. In addition, I was also selected as the LimitLes Zion giveaway winner, so I will be going on a hiking trip this fall. You will find these blogs on my website Travel the World With Joy and Instagram. I would love you hear from you. Feel free to email me at Thank you.


Black is Beautiful: Interview with Catia Dombaxe

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?

I am Catia Dombaxe. I am Angolan and currently I am living in the US studying Chemistry and Forensic Sciences. I am a part-time traveler and a travel photographer. I have visited 52 countries and I use my social media platform to inspire people, mostly women and minorities, to travel without breaking the bank.

In the past seven years, I have lived in three different countries and I have learned to adapt to any situation. In fact, traveling is the reason why I am such a flexible and happy woman.

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 would like to see more diversity and inclusion and when I say “diversity and inclusion” I mean true diversity. Completely inclusion of minorities and mostly black women. The lack of black people and women artists in the travel and photography industry is contempt. Black people and other minorities are very neglected, and I believe that my people just want opportunities. An infinity amount of opportunity to show that we are capable of achieve and create great things. Hence, my one and only advice to brands is to stop stereotyping us and genuinely give us the opportunity to show to the world how great we are.

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

This is a question I receive all the time and it is devastating to me because I or any other Black female traveler should not be receiving this question, but this is all due to how society portray and treat black people. Along with that I can say that I have encountered many challenges and issues due to the color of my skin and because I am a woman. In many countries, I was stared at, taxis refused to ride with me, I was filmed as if I was a horrible thing, and I was treated less than an average white person because I was black.

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

My women please do not ever give up of your dreams. Be ambitious and strong minded. Be spirited and explore the world with no fears. Many times, you will encounter obstacles along the way, but learn to turn these obstacles into opportunities. Be willing to get out of your comfort zone and mostly importantly please learn to accept and love change. CHANGE can be uncomfortable, but CHANGE is bold and that is what you are… You are bold and you should conquer the world.

Piece of advice to give non-black travelers.

To my non-black travelers, I would give the same encouragement/advice I give to my black female travelers. Explore beyond your roots and find the different personas inside of you. If you are given an opportunity to travel and change, please use it well, so well that you help others. Be respectful of others and do your research. Get informed and please do not get caught on the stereotypes associated with other races. Do not judge others because the system/society taught you that some are better than the others. That is not true and should treat everyone like you would like to be treated.

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

“Women should not travel alone.” This is a great myth and people should stop sharing this misconception because it only scares women from exploring the world. Women should do whatever they want, but at same time and like everything in life, do your research and be knowledgeable of what you want and the places you want to visit. Be open-minded and understand that the new country you will visit is completely different from yours and should respect their norms and traditions because you are the guest in their house.

“It is impossible to travel while in college.” Another huge misconception. It is damn possible to travel while in college. In fact, this is the best time of your life to travel. A great amount of universities offers amazing study abroad programs such as Semester at Sea and many others. Traveling while receiving school credit is very satisfying due to the fact that you are “killing two birds with one stone…” You get to travel – sometimes free of any cost – and you get to continue your education.

“Traveling is too expensive.” A completely lie instigated by, mostly, people who does not travel. Yes, traveling can be expensive if you do not do your homework or if you just like luxury and can afford it. I am not rich, I am a college student, but I have explored many countries and a great number of cities. If I did, you can do it too. All you need is to be opened to the different doors’ life opens to you. Be sociable and do not be scared to mingle with different people. Research and plan your own trip. Thankful we all have Google and internet, use it to the fullest. Follow travels who do not have a big platform and ask questions. Be curious and just do not accept the first price, learn to bargain, and buy flight in advance to get the best deals.

“Couchsurfing is dangerous.” Couchsurfing is everything, but dangerous. I have been using couchsurfing for over 3 years and I just love the Couchsurfing community. For who does not know, Couchsurfing is an online platform/community for travelers who need to find a host or wish to host travelers in their home country. Couchsurfing grows every year and the fantastic aspect of this platform is that you do not need to pay for the place you will stay. Instead of paying your host, you will provide cultural exchange and perhaps cook a warm meal from the place you come from. Couchsurfing is safe if you are responsible and you research before deciding to use of deciding to request to stay with someone. Additionally, Couchsurfing is not a perfect platform and you can find people who are not the best people. I have had my “not so happy” moment with Couchsurfing, but that did not stop me from continue to explore. Every time I visit a new city or country, I tried my very best to stay with a couchsurfer host.

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

Most of the states or countries I have been the locals were kind and very welcoming to me. I am going to list any specific place because I do not have a favorite place. Every country or city I have explored taught me something new and introduced me to one of my many personas.

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

So far, I would say that China is the only country that I felt stereotyped at all times and overall, I was not comfortable in this country. I experienced pure racism and it was a horrible experience. However, I would still advice my solo female travelers, especially black women, to still travel to China and explore it. China is an exquisite country with a rich culture and splendid traditions. One day, I would like to go back to China and hopeful have a better experience.

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

Right now, due to COVID-19, I am in Virginia and for this summer I plan to only explore this state and perhaps other states, but I am not planning to do any international travels until 2021. I spend most of my time on my Instagram: @cdombaxi, but also, I am on my website where you can find travels tips, advice, and overall ask me questions. I love to help travelers. Additionally, I have been selling my travel book and prints, in canvas, of my travel photography. Everything is available on my website:

Some of Catia’s work