We'd Like To Introduce You To Essie, Melanin & Muscles' Chief Travel Officer!
Q. Can you tell us about your personal journey as a black woman who loves to travel? How did you develop this passion, and how has it influenced your life?
I began traveling at a young age. I was taken on my first flight out of the country before I was 2 years old. So I was very comfortable on planes. I traveled almost every year but mostly to visit family in Jamaica. As I got older my mom had me focus on geography, since that was one of her favorite subjects, and I became familiar with many countries around the world. But it wasn't until social media came about that I was able to actually see the beauty in these countries and so it became a passion of mine to research and visit these places.
Q. What inspired you to become a Chief Travel Officer for Melanin & Muscles? How do you envision using this role to empower other black travelers?
When I return from a trip I usually get a few people asking me about how I got around, what did I eat, how was I able to do so much and not spend an arm and a leg. I love sharing tips and tricks with others and I'm always looking for new ones as well. I hope as Chief Travel Officer I will be able to have a platform to help encourage and empower other black travelers to not only travel but to perhaps share their travel experiences as well.
Q. Traveling often involves encountering diverse cultures and navigating different social norms. How do you ensure that you respect and appreciate the cultures you visit while sharing your experiences with your audience?
Before I travel to a new country, I typically spend time researching and understanding the country's cultures and norms. This helps me fine tune my interests and itinerary and help me feel more confident while I'm abroad. For example, when I travel I typically carry a pack of gum for the plane ride, however, while researching my trip to Singapore I came across a list of prohibited items and was surprised to see that it was illegal to bring chewing gum inside the country. Although I thought outlawing gum was a bit absurd, I will always respect a countries culture and laws. I hope to share little tidbits like this with my audience.
Q. Can you describe one of your most memorable travel experiences? What made it stand out, and how did it contribute to your growth as a traveler?
One of my most memorable experiences was my trip to Iceland. It stood out to me because it had so much to offer. I typically travel to warm places or during warmer seasons. Going to a place that was cold was a unique experience. I was able to check off major experiences on my bucket list such as seeing the northern lights and dipping into a geothermal lagoon under the crisp evening sky. On that trip my major mode of transport was a rental car which provided freedom to move about. I took that lesson with me on many of my trips thereafter. Whether it's a rental car or learning how to navigate the country's public transportation system, having the ability to move around can enhance your overall experience.
Q. In today's digital age, there are countless travel bloggers and influencers. How do you plan to differentiate yourself and provide unique insights and perspectives to your audience?
There are many travel bloggers and influences. I like using their experiences as part of my research into other countries. I do see many bloggers focus on the best parts of their trips. I hope to differentiate myself my giving a unique view. I have taken trips with friends, trips with my kids, trips with family and even trips solo. As a black woman, I plan to pinpoint both the ups and the downs. Things to look forward to as well as things to avoid. And of course, ways that I try and ensure my safety while abroad. Hopefully readers will find these experiences relatable.
Q. Traveling can sometimes be challenging, and unexpected situations can arise. Can you share an example of how you handled a difficult or unforeseen circumstance during your travels? What did you learn from that experience?
When traveling it's important to adapt when needed. On one trip coming home from Cabo with my children, a delayed flight caused us to miss our connecting flight home. There were no other flights leaving that night and we were forced to stay overnight in Chicago, in the icy winter with nothing previously arranged. I learned from that experience the importance of knowing your rights as a traveler and leaving sufficient time (if possible) between connecting flights.
Q. How do you engage with the local communities during your trips? Can you share an example of how you've connected with locals and learned from their culture and traditions?
I try and find ways to really connect with the locals, history and culture. One way I connect is with food. I usually research local foods that the country is known for and seek out those locations. Food is universal and I find that people are usually more than happy to discuss their local dishes. I also find connection by using the local public transportation, if possible. Whether it's the metro, river taxi or a rickshaw, the conversations you can have and the things you experience while getting around can teach you a lot about the culture.
Q. Melanin & Muscles aims to inspire and empower people of color to explore the world. How do you plan to reach and connect with diverse audiences who may have different travel interests and needs?
I plan to empower people of color to travel by providing a unique prospective into how a common, every-day mother like myself can make the goal of globetrotting attainable. I will also try and debunk common myths that usual cause people of color to fear traveling.
Q. What steps do you take to ensure that your travel content is inclusive and representative of the diverse experiences within our community?
To ensure that my travel content is inclusive, I will make sure to do my research on the different countries before I travel and provide a first hand experience into whether facts differentiate themselves from fiction. I am also looking forward to answering your questions and reading your comments. Before I go on a trip I will find out what information the audience would want to know and take time to focus on what they specifically want to know about the country. For example, is there a population of people of color in this particular country? How do the locals respond to seeing a single traveler or group of people of color? How does the weather affect our hair and skin, etc.
Q. What are some of the destinations on your travel bucket list, and why are they important to you?
I would love to experience an overwater bungalow in the Maldives and go on a wildlife safari in Kenya. The south coast of Italy is also on my bucket list. These destinations all offer a beautiful and unique perspective on the world and I would love to experience it in person.
Q. As a Chief Travel Officer, you have the opportunity to inspire others to pursue their travel dreams. What advice would you give to someone who wants to start exploring the world but may have certain barriers or fears holding them back?
The advice I would give to anyone who is thinking about traveling is: Go for it! Trying anything new can be scary, but just know that the temporary feelings of worry and fear are worth the experience and memories you gain from traveling abroad.