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Interviews

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, www.traveltheworldwithjoy.com., 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 traveltheworldwithjoy@gmail.com. Thank you.

Entrepreneur Interviews

The Faces of Dame Traveler: Interview with Stephy, co-founder of Moonlit Skincare

Hi Stephanie, thanks 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?

Hi! I’m Stephy, co-founder of Moonlit Skincare. Born and raised in Southern California, I attended Parsons School of Design and lived in NYC for 8 years before returning back to the West Coast. I worked in the corporate ecommerce and beauty industry (Dr. Dennis Gross, Kerastase, Obliphica, Shu Uemura) prior to launching Moonlit in 2017 with my former Parsons colleague Kriszta.

Dedicated to overnight skincare and sleep wellness (think overnight facial oils, silk eyemasks, pillowcases,), Moonlit has been featured in Marie Claire, VOGUE, WWD, and is carried by over 50+ retailers in the US and Canada, including Urban Outfitters and Pop-In@Nordstrom.

We believe in bolstering communities and linking arms with production partners around the globe who align with our core values.

I’m the proudest of our genuine relationships with our partners (from import/export team, production, silk manufacturer, packaging), the fact that we remain self-funded, but above all, Kriszta and I remain best friends!

Tell us a bit more about the trip that changed your life.

Moonlit was created during a time where dreaming was a way to ride out the current pain. It was 2016, the US was buckling under the weight of a frenzied presidential election news cycle as well as a sudden emergence of rabid misogyny and racism. It did not help that my corporate 9-5 job at the time was a stone’s throw from Trump Tower.

All year, I created a space of solace (and mentally escaped for an hour or so a day) around this little indie beauty project in a folder titled ‘moonlighting gig’ which eventually contributed to the development of the name. It looked like a smattering of design doodles, mish-mosh moodboards, and lots of pricing charts; but this microcosm of sleep-focused beauty was everything that I needed in a sleepless city.

With my cortisol levels drained and the sheer, gritty stress of corporate grind, and polarizing noise around me, I booked a very spontaneous (but at the same time, long overdue) solo flight to Bali. No computer, no hotel plans, no social media, and a terribly packed carry-on.

Instead of traditional journaling, I created lists (what feels good vs. what doesn’t, travel bucket lists, my favorite foods, 10 people I treasure the most, movies I love, what my ideal morning looks like). Being alone allowed me to hear my thoughts, turn the dial down on external noise, and prioritize what I wanted to accomplish. While I was there, I was able to connect with a female-owned manufacturing lab through a friend whom I worked with during my corporate beauty years.

The lab we work with in Bali is an embodiment of everything that Kriszta and I believe in: employing and empowering women, sustainable, zero carbon emissions (handmade), a strong commitment in preserving a community and not automating away.

It felt good to invest our own funds into a place that had a strong foothold on bettering the lives of women and gave us the fuel to continue building out the brand, eventually launching mid-2017.

What has been your favorite destination so far and why?
Besides Ubud in Bali, I’ll say The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.

It’s a corner of the universe that is so well-preserved and respected. There are lots of rules (the number of tourists per season is limited, a certified guide must take you on specific paths, stay 6 ft away from animals) but it was clear that’s what it takes to sustainably support its wildlife and terrain. It’s made me think differently about the way I should conduct myself back on US soil at National Parks and in nature in general.

As the writer G.K. once said: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”

Through your experiences, what has travel taught you? What lessons does travel bring to those who experience it?

When I was 10 years old, I spent a summer in South Korea. It was difficult to connect with other kids there because I didn’t speak the language and was an outsider in the truest way. One day, I was listening to my walkman in the park, studying the CD case, and a girl my age comes over to me and asks excitedly, “Britney Spears?” It blew my mind because well, I didn’t think people knew about Britney Spears outside of the US (this is pre-internet) and certainly not in South Korea. I mean, how famous was this woman?

Totally different upbringings, languages, continents, views on governments, spice tolerances but yes, this gal and I listened to “Stronger,” bonded, and became friends. We found an overlap and were way more open with each other in accepting new ideas, trading CDs, eating Korean ice lollies, and teaching each other our homelands’ funniest words.

Just because something is different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. We can open our eyes to new methods, novel designs, and figure out what works best for us moving forward.

As a side note, I think about K-pop’s influence on the world and smile about that Britney summer.

Have you ever faced any hard circumstances or issues as a female travelever?

I’d say the most common challenge I’ve faced is not being taken seriously because I’m a solo Asian female traveler but oh boy, I’ve definitely learned to speak up for myself over the years because –heck, who’s going to?

What piece of advice would you give to new female entrepreneurs?

Protect your creativity. Nurture it because it is a valuable extension of yourself when it’s integral to your work. Be gentle and give yourself the breathing room to grow and navigate yourself. Time is a tool and you can learn how to preserve your energy, sanity, and train yourself to be as efficient for the long run.

How do you think you will view travel moving forward?

The reasons why I travel are distilled down to discovery and connection and I don’t think it’s mandatory to get on a flight to find those.

During this lockdown, I’ve been looking up flights and creating itineraries just for kicks. Destinations range from 1 hour by car to 16 hours on plane. I don’t care if it’s silly or deemed futile. Let me dream. It’s getting me through this time.

Interviews

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: www.zungueiramundial.com

Some of Catia’s work


Interviews

Black is Beautiful: Interview with Adrienne Jordan of @ajeveryday

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’ve been an adventure travel writer with a focus on health and wellness for the last 9 years. My favorite thing to do when traveling is to get my blood pumping in some way and then write about my experience for various publications. I’ve run half marathons in Philadelphia and Washington DC; swam in the Devil’s Pool in Zambia; road biked through Angkor Wat, Cambodia; and scuba dived with hammerhead sharks in Bimini, Bahamas. My work has been featured in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, The Washington Post, USA TODAY, Travel + Leisure, AFAR, Esquire, Forbes and many other outlets over the years. I also recently launched my own adventure travel blog.

Photo by @emitoms

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 more recognition and equal pay for black travel influencers so that we are given the same opportunities as other influencers in this space. I recently heard of a beauty blogger press trip to the Caribbean where white bloggers were paid, and the black women were not. I would like to see black travel writers, influencers, and photographers being recognized for their powerful influence over the multibillion-dollar spending power of the African American community. When reaching out for partnerships, I would recommend brands acknowledging the disparity and then telling the influencer how they want to bridge the pay gap for a particular opportunity.

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

Thankfully, overall, I have had a positive experience as a Black female traveler, which could be due to the structure and nature of press trips. We are hosted at the best resorts, finest restaurants, and have some of the most thrilling experiences organized for us. For example, last fall I went on a fully sponsored dive press trip to St. Lucia and it was a week of some of the best experiences, from diving, amazing local food, and block parties. I had no complaints!

Photo by @emitoms

When I travel for pleasure outside of work, there are times where I may get stares from the predominately white groups on ski slopes or at high end restaurants. However, I take that as an opportunity for learning experiences for those people to know that travel is diverse and you may see black travelers pop up at these venues.

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

For Black female travelers taking their first big trip, I would recommend reaching out to all types of travelers-female, black, LGBT-depending on the demographic in which they identify. They can use Instagram or Twitter to find people with similar backgrounds that have been to the destination they wish to travel to in order to get advice on where to stay, eat, and explore. I think this “DM” method would work well over travel guides because it would be real advice in real time by real travelers.

Piece of advice to give non-black travelers?

Say hello to someone that you may not usually speak to when traveling. Spark up a conversation with a black or Hispanic traveler, a foreigner, or someone that they would not normally be comfortable speaking to. That would allow a conversation to ensue that might just surprise them in how they connect or have more similarities than differences.

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

That we only eat one type of food or may not like to do adventurous things when we travel. I have met black divers (not as much as I would like) on dive boat excursions; at wellness spas in remote places; going to a nightclub alone; whitewater rafting; among other niche experiences.

Photo by @emitoms

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

I love New York City, being the world hub of media and publishing. I live 20 minutes outside of the city, so being hosted at new hotel and bar openings; exclusive press events; free Broadway shows; and other functions where my press pass is like gold is super enjoyable. I also loved Myanmar for its diverse landscapes; Norway for its extreme physical beauty; and Nigeria for the local food and produce markets.

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

I wouldn’t like to throw a blanket over an entire state or country. Rather, there may have been moments that I may have experienced a discriminatory encounter, but I don’t allow that to hinder my overall view of a place.

Photo by @emitoms

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

I am going to continue to grow my adventure travel blog. I also have a section of my blog that is open to guest voices to share their first-person experiences traveling. Now during the pandemic, many of those stories are about COVID-related travel. You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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.

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Porto after sunset ☀️ #Porto #mossonyitravels

A post shared by Onyi Moss (@mossonyi) on

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.

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A Lisbon memory 📖 #Lisbon #mossonyitravels

A post shared by Onyi Moss (@mossonyi) on

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