Because I have so many new readers (THANK YOU!) I’m running some older posts that have been popular on my blog. Today I’m starting with a feature of a dynamic woman who I admire greatly because her travel group and the relationships I’ve formed from it has given me joy beyond belief.
Today I’m pleased to introduce you to Evita Robinson, another phenomenal woman of color who has studied abroad. However her story doesn’t end there. She has taken her study and living abroad experience and turned it into a global movement called Nomadness Travel Tribe. What is Nomadness? I’ll let you do some research on that but just know it’s one of the greatest travel groups around and Evita is the creator of it.
1. You studied abroad in Paris, how did that happen?
After graduating in 2006, I wanted to get a certification in a film oriented program to parallel my degree in Television Production from Iona College. I decided to study Digital Filmmaking with the New York Film Academy. I signed up for the Paris program they did in conjunction with La Famis film school, in Montmartre.
2. Did you speak french when you started your program? What was it like being in Paris and not speaking French?
No. It was difficult at first because it was also my first time living abroad not speaking a language. So, I didn’t have past experiences to fall back on. It’s a lot of smiling, gesturing, and eating the same thing everyday once you learn how to pronounce it. Luckily, my classes were all in English.
3. You lived abroad in Japan and Thailand. What made you choose those countries?
I do believe Japan chose me. I had no prior interest in visiting the country. I was recommended to apply for a teaching gig there by an old college friend who had just gotten back.
Thailand came about because I was cast on a travel web series, Jet Set Zero and had to move out there with three other strangers, for filming the series.
4. What was it like being a Black American in Japan/Thailand? Did you experience any racism?
Racism, no. Staring and curiosity, yes. I didn’t live in a big city in either country so people of color are going to grab attention. Speaking more specifically to Japan, I know I was the first Black person that many of my elementary school students had ever seen in their life. That was a beautiful things for me because I knew I had the responsibility to set the tone of the interactions and perceptions. They would play in my curls, and I’d let them. There’s a difference between racism and sheer curiosity because someone has never seen the likes of you before.
I invite people to take a step back and realize that in their travels, rather than jump to being offended. I made the decision to be as open as possible with my interactions abroad and allow the people to get to know me as much as I was getting to know them. I think Thailand was a bit more open to backpackers and a more diverse group of travelers through Chiang Mai. Japan, particularly Niigata, were just very secluded.
5. How long were you in both, and what did you do for work while you were there?
Japan for a year and I worked as an English teacher and bartender. I lived in Thailand for two months. I was there cast on a travel web series called Jet Set Zero. While filming I worked on weekends as an English teacher.
6. Can you relate a few funny experiences/cultural shock you had while in either country?
The first time I walked into a Japanese equivalent of Walgreens or Duane Reade. I got about five feet through the door and between the voice intonation over the loud speaker, the fact that there were no letters to pull from on any of the packaging, and having my brain be reduced back to symbols, I turned right around and walked back out. Japan, in general, was shell shock for me at first.
I had tons of anxiety and literally got used to my neighborhood one block at a time. It took me months….and it was worth every second of it. Now, you can drop me anywhere in Japan and I’m cool. It’s my second home. Funny I say that, and I still don’t know how to speak Japanese.
7. You are the face of Nomadness. Why did you start it and what is your purpose for it?
Nomadness started as a call to the need for more diversity in travel groups. After living in both Thailand and Japan my life was in a tailspin. I had dengue fever. My relationship was breaking apart. I was broke. My ex, who was my best friend in college, had died earlier in the year, and my entire grieving process was done with cameras in my face in Thailand. 2010 was one of the roughest years of my life.
After returning home, I was dealing with many feelings for the first time: travel withdrawal, reverse culture shock, and a very deep depression. I wanted to talk to people about it and no one in my family could relate. I searched for diverse groups that I felt comfortable opening up to, and I couldn’t find it….so I created it. That was Nomadness Travel Tribe.
8. How often do you travel a year and how does your family feel about your frequent travels?
My family lives vicariously through it for the most part. Some places may freak them out more than others. I currently travel internationally about five times a year with Nomadness.
9. How have your travel experiences changed your perspective in general?
In addition to taking a piece of every country home with me, I leave a piece of myself in every country as well. This shows itself in the form of relationships, genuine relationships, that I continue to foster years after leaving a place.
10. What would you say to someone reading this that is contemplating studying abroad but may be a bit hesitant?
Just do it. Put the fear in your back pocket long enough to get on the flight.