Kent Johnson & Eric Martin: Black & Abroad—Atlanta, GA
Why did they start?:
Kent: When I realized that traveling the world didn’t necessarily mean I’d be emptying my bank account, I wanted to go everywhere. Once I started getting up and going everywhere, I wanted to see people who looked like me there, too. In prior conversations where Eric and I compared our experiences with traveling the world, several things became clear to us: We wanted to see more of our community exploring the world with us, and we wanted to tap into a sense of pride when doing so. We agreed that there was a severe lack of representation within the industry, although plenty of our community’s dollars went into it.
Eric: The low-cost fares are what allowed me to travel regularly. I would scour the net, and luck up on round trip fares to remote destinations for $200–$300. In some cases, I’d pay more for a weekend in Miami than I would a week in . . . let’s say Sydney, Australia. After around my eighth country, travel started to become a need. I learned so much from conversing with the natives of the respective regions that many of my inherent perspectives on world issues began to take a back seat to the actual experiences of those living them. I decided at that point to keep sending myself on these international field trips to expand my four corners of insight. From there, the desire to build a platform was born.
Eric: Johannesburg, South Africa. it’s my favorite because of the people. It’s a bustling, cosmopolitan city full of beautiful Black people. Definitely feels like home away from home.
Kent: Havana, Cuba. It’s one of the few places that feels like you are in a completely different world.
The downside of traveling as a Black man:
Eric: We hear about how traveling allows you to visit places where your Black skin isn’t the first thing people judge about you and in many places, that can be true, but a moment I often encounter when out of the U.S. is when the locals from another country assume that you are African before they realize you are American. Then when they hear your American accent, they completely change their demeanor and approach. It makes you wonder what kind of treatment you would have received had you been from Johannesburg or Accra instead of Atlanta or D.C. It’s frustrating because it’s so blatant, but moreso because you know your brothers and sisters are being treated this way regularly in that country. I hate these moments and make an effort to point out the ignorance to people when I’m traveling.
The beauty of being Black & Abroad:
Eric: It’s bold. It’s simple. It’s proud. We wanted to be intentional and unapologetic about just who we are. I’ve had a few people tell me that travel outside the U.S. was the furthest thing from their minds until they got their hands on one of our items. It’s really a great feeling.
Nate Chambers: The Vagabond Experience—Dubai, UAE
Despite my frequent trips to my parents’ hometown in Kingston, Jamaica, I was still eager to see more of the world. After my first trip abroad to England in 2009 as an adult, it wasn’t long before I began chasing adventures all over the world. During my exchange program at the University of Sheffield, I was able to venture out on a few solo trips to London, Barcelona and Paris. I quickly realized that I live in a world of beauty and adventure, one that extends past the scenery of the Big Apple. It was then that I adopted the persona Vagabond. I eagerly sought out new adventures and made a habit of taking time off from my daily routine to discover and experience the world on my own terms. My goal is to travel all over the globe, living an epic life that people write novels about!
A favorite travel memory:
Sleeping along the Mekong Delta in Vietnam on a handmade sampan, awaking each morning to the constant chatter of locals as they prepared for a long day on the river was a great opportunity to fully immerse myself into the Vietnamese rural lifestyle. Each day I explored countless mazed rivers, helped the fishermen sell their crafts along the floating markets and took naps under coconut trees along the canals. This was definitely one of my richest travel experiences.
Living in Dubai has been nothing short of amazing! With its dynamic infrastructure, growing commercial hub and the stark contrast between the serene desert and rising skyscrapers, I must say that I’m thoroughly satisfied with my transition into the Middle East. With a plethora of activities to choose from, amazing late-night fun, an unmatched hospitality sector and the ideal location for traveling to many exciting, nearby destinations, I absolutely love it here! There’s never a dull moment in my day-to-day rituals, and every week spawns a new experience. I’m excited to see what year two has in store for me.
The Vagabond Experience’s core focus is to promote unconventional and experiential travel around the globe. This means discovering and experiencing the world on your own terms, embracing the unknown and allowing your travels to obtain a new meaning, one that extends beyond just seeing the sites. It is home to everyone interested in seeing new places and meeting new people. It’s for those infatuated with the world we live in and all the beautiful strangers. I’ve trained myself to notice the smells, move with the sounds and taste the cultural difference within every destination—traits I aspire to pass on to my readers. I want to help my fellow travelers redefine what it means to travel and be miles away from their daily routine.
Marcus King: Hardly Home—Houston, TX
During my dream vacation to Jamaica, my alarm clock started going off and I awoke to realize I wasn’t in Jamaica but I was in my bed and needed to get up and get ready for work. I found this disheartening, to say the least. I imagined if Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern could make a living traveling and exploring the world, surely there’s opportunity for me.
Travel has made a tremendous impact on my life and the way I see the world. I hope more than anything that Black people in particular take away from @HardlyHome the importance of travel and the benefits and life lessons that come along with it.
Looking forward to:
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. I’m a beach boy; I live for warm weather and water. Copacabana is a place I’ve heard about many times and long to experience for myself.
In June 2016, we established The Hardly Home Initiative and set out to raise $13,500 for 100 high school and college students to get their passports and take part in education abroad opportunities. To date, we’ve been able to sponsor 42 students with monies to cover their passport application fees. In 2017, we’ll have helped more than 100 young Black people obtain their passports in order to travel the world. To do this, however, we’ll need the help and support of our community.
Rondel Holder: Soul Society 101—Brooklyn, New York
Who is Soul Society 101 for?:
It’s a platform for young Black professionals and creatives who are both inspirational and aspirational travelers. Our community is full of well-seasoned travelers who are abroad more than they are home, the novice traveler who is looking to begin their journeys and the person in between who may have a routine or safety net with their travels and is looking to travel outside of their norm.
I started Soul Society 101 in 2012 because I was traveling a lot for work and pleasure, but I couldn’t find the right resources to properly plan my travels. I’d do research but could not find the perspective of a young Black person that I trusted the opinion of, someone who enjoyed similar activities, had similar tastes in food, nightlife and overall taste in travel. After searching “things for Black people to do in ___” for the 100th time, I decided to start sharing my stories in hopes of connecting with like-minded people and learning from each other.
What makes it different?:
There is a unique tone across the Soul Society 101 platform of being both inspirational and positive, but it also organically has an on-the-pulse, “cool-kid” vibe. Not in an exclusionary way but in a fun and lighthearted way. If there is a Black cultural phenomenon, or trending topic, or movie, TV show or album shifting the culture, you’ll learn about it from what people are wearing in our posts, reading the comments or attending one of our events. I honestly enjoy being a part of the Soul Society 101 community and the culture of the brand.
I love when I have the opportunity to use the platform to make a difference in things that truly matter. In particular, when I’ve partnered with different nonprofits for fundraisers to provide resources and funding for people in underdeveloped countries, or areas within the U.S. or abroad that have recently experienced a disaster.
What’s up next?:
This year will be full of brand extensions for Soul Society 101. As we continue to grow our social media platforms, we look forward to partnering with more brands to create dynamic content catered to the underserved Black traveler and foodie. We will continue Mile High Club Events, a traveling day party event series we started in 2014 for the purpose of connecting like-minded Black travelers offline. We’ve also recently launched Soul Society 101 – The Podcast, which is available on Soundcloud and iTunes.
Nathan Fluellen: World Wide Nate – Chicago / Los Angeles
Earliest travel memory:
I’ve been traveling internationally since 2004. My earliest memory was hanging out at a party in Barcelona meeting Russians who were very nice people, Americans, people from all over the world, and we were all listening to hip-hop. It was fascinating to know, at the end of the day, that African-Americans were responsible for all these people from different backgroundscoming together and enjoying each other’s company.
Why did you start?:
My professor in college, Dr. Galen Hull, gave me his autobiography and signed the book, “I challenge you to see more countries than me and become an entrepreneur.” He visited over 80 countries by that time and I felt I could win his challenge. His challenge also awakened a sleeping giant inside of me. Starting with my mother, aunts, uncles and cousins, my family has always been traveling internationally since I was kid. He helped me realize an instinct, and once I visited my first country, I was hooked.
I also enjoy the adventure with each trip and discovering the unknown. Like the poet Bonecrusher once said, “I ain’t never scared.” Additionally, I come from the “Each one teach one” school of thought, which is why I built World Wide Nate. I love to learn and share, so having a blog is the perfect opportunity to expose my audience to the world.
Top three destinations:
South Africa. It was a fascinating experience because I visited Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Kruger Park. Each destination was totally different from the others, which makes its hard to say which part I liked the most. If I had to choose, I would say Durban because I got to visit the land of Shaka Zulu and meet the Zulus. I use to watch the TV series Shaka Zulu as a child and loved his story, and hip-hop with the Zulu nation continued my affinity toward the people.
Palau is the most remote place I’ve visited and it took the longest time to get there, [but] it was paradise. For Palau to be a cluster of islands, it offered so much. I’m a beach bum and the white sand beaches were impeccable. It’s also home to Jellyfish Lake, the only place in the world where you can swim with jellyfish without being stung. The jellyfish in this lake have been trapped there for centuries and have lost their stingers over the years because they didn’t have a need to use them against predators. I went snorkeling with these beautiful fish and watched them swim close to the top of the lake to feed.
Brazil, I could go on forever about Brazil because it feels like going down south to visit my family in Mississippi. The music, food, culture, weather and beaches in Brazil are incredible. I’ve been to Rio de Janeiro seven times; with every visit, I learn more about the city, gain more friends and explore parts of the city further away from the world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema Beaches. It’s in my top three destinations because I don’t feel like a tourist anymore, and learning about a culture is important when traveling. It’s great to visit and soak up what destinations have to offer, but I feel you should make an effort to invest in a cultural exchange. Bahia is the hub of Afro-Brazilians, and it’s so refreshing to see all those Black folks. The food in Bahia is also delicious like American Southern food, too.
Why World Wide Nate?:
People take away from World Wide Nate that a Black person, specifically a Black man is traveling the world, they also get to see their brother from another mother experiencing the world and from a POV they can relate to. I also feel when I visit an unfamiliar place like Cuba, people feel more comfortable to visit on their own because they get to see my experience. A friend told me she [had been planning to] wait until next year to go to Cuba, but after she saw I visited decide to reschedule for an earlier date. I found that to be rewarding because that is what I’ve always wanted to do: Empower people to travel the world.
I’m working on a TV show right now; I can’t say which network, but World Wide Nate will be on TV in 2017. I’m also an avid Snapchatter and IG stories uploader, so you can tune into my daily adventures online