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Evita Robinson of Nomadness Travel Tribe may have 30 countries under her belt, but the travel extraordinaire says it wasn’t until after college that she got her first taste of globetrotting. While her fellow classmates were jumping into their careers, Robinson decided to take some time to travel to Paris for a six-week filmmaking course. She eventually returned home and began working for a television network, but it was only a matter of time before she was bitten by the travel bug again. After running into a friend who had spent time in Japan teaching English, Robinson decided to take a chance and apply to the program.
In a matter of five months, she was on her way to Nagato, Japan to begin her next chapter. However, a few months into the program, a culture-shocked Robinson began regretting her decision. On the brink of flying home, Robinson received last minute advice from her father that changed her perspective. “He told me, ‘I think you’re supposed to find yourself out there — that’s why it’s been so difficult,’” she says. Robinson decided to stick it out. To help her get through her loneliness and isolation in the foreign country, she began filming her experiences and sharing them with friends and family on Facebook. “At the time, mass media wasn’t showing any travelers of color or allowing us to tell our stories,” says Robinson. “I thought, ‘There’s got to be more travelers of color out here making travel a priority in their life, beyond just something they do to go on vacation.’ It was about finding that community. When I couldn’t find one, I decided to start one.”
Watch our interview with Evita Robinson below.
In 2011, Robinson launched Nomadness Travel Tribe as a way to help her adjust from her travels abroad. “After living in Asia for a year and a half, I came back dealing with things I had never dealt with before,” she says. “Because home had now become so foreign to me, I needed to find a place where I felt I was home again. In order for me to find that, it had to be through a make-up of people.” She handpicked 100 people to join her travel network on Facebook with only one criteria: you had to have at least one stamp in your passport.
Today, the travel network has grown to more than 14,000 members spread out across the globe. Prospective members are simply required to watch the “Nomadness Newbie Introduction” video, take a quiz, and wait to be accepted. Once admitted, members gain access to a network of world travelers in nearly every country. “There’s no place that I can travel in the world today and not know somebody there,” says Robinson. “I think that’s one of the coolest things that anyone can say on the planet.” Tribe members can also take part in hundreds of meetups — both domestically and internationally — group trips, and annual conferences. Over the years, Nomadness Travel Tribe has evolved from being an online Facebook group to a full-fledged lifestyle brand with a merchandise line and an online web series titled “The Nomadness Project.”
While the tribe was initially created to help Robinson adjust to her life back in the states, she says its true mission has been to shine light on the underrepresented demographic of travelers of color. “When I started this five years ago, there was no home for travelers of color,” she says. “It was really about creating a group in which we could talk about travel as an actual part of our life. Nomadness really was the first one in the urban black travel movement to be a voice and a home for this demographic.”
Being a trailblazer comes with its set of challenges, says Robinson. “When you’re the first in any sector, you’re taking all the risks and making the mistakes. It’s a very unique position to be put in.” In the last five years, the travel brand and network has paved the way for a number of imitators. Although Robinson admits it was frustrating at first to see people replicating her model, she says she found a sense of calm in knowing Nomadness was the start of the movement. “I can literally say that tens of thousands of people around the world would not know one another if I didn’t start this group. Talk about impact.”
Aside from being the first, Robinson credits the network’s community as a major differentiating factor among its competitors. “Nomadness has the edge of family and loyalty. We come together during triumph and tragedy,” she says. Whether you’re stuck at the airport and in need of a couch to crash on or stranded in a foreign country with no money, you can count on a tribe member to help you out, no matter what part of the world you’re in, she says.
And even though tribe members use social media to stay connected, the Nomadness founder says the offline conversations and relationships that have been established truly help distinguish the network from other competitors. “We’ve had people that have met and started relationships because of Nomadness and babies that have come out of those relationships. We’ve had people starting businesses together. It’s a real community,” says Robinson. The founder says the network has also contributed to breaking stereotypes for people of color. “I have a community that shatters all of the myths and stereotypes that people of color can’t work together or can’t be supportive both on a domestic and international scale,” she says. “That’s what’s really important and different about Nomadness.”
Traveling around the globe has afforded Robinson a number of experiences, which she says has helped shaped her perspective on life. “Traveling gives you a world view. From the minute you hit the door, you see the world through broader eyes and a bigger spectrum,” she says. “You’re more relatable to people from different backgrounds. You know how to navigate around different kinds of people and you’re more open and receptive.” Robinson also credits travel for giving her the freedom to pursue what she believes she was put on this Earth to do. “To be able to create a brand that encompasses both a physical and psychological component of freedom is one of the most beautiful things that I have ever done in my life,” says Robinson. “I think Nomadness is why I was born.”
As Robinson looks to the future, she’s unsure of exactly what Nomadness will evolve into, but she is confident that no matter what, she plans to remain true to herself and her brand. “The only thing that is going to differentiate you from everybody else is you. When you lose that voice or you start to ignore the voice that made you unique in the first place, that’s when I think you stop learning and moving forward,” says Robinson. “For me, I allow that voice to be front and center. No matter what the situation is, what the circumstances are, I allow it to scream at me as loud as it needs to so that I’m always paying attention to it and I know that I’m listening.”