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The Birth of Wandermania™

Monday, May 23, 2011
I have a confession to make.

When I go to the airport, I always count how many Brown people I see.
Brown as in Latino, Native American, Polynesian, East Indian, African-American, Asian, Filipino, multiracial, etc.

You see, I have this ongoing dialogue with myself, my family and my friends about how few people that actually look like me – when you start comparing – travel. I’m not suggesting that the number is zero; I’m just suggesting that the numbers aren't balanced. I’m sure there are some stats that back me up somewhere. 

In spite of my little airport game, it has occured to me that if corporations like American Airlines are launching national advertising campaigns aimed at Latinos and creating a Web portal aimed at African-Americans like, it is likely because American Airlines wants to tap into the existing market of Latinos and African-Americans that already travel which, based on the current US demographic trends, are most certainly on the rise (not to mention that travel likely begets travel).  We all know that this shift in demographics is changing as quickly as I sit here and type and any brand or major corporation worth its salt knows that too.

But there is one stat that I can confirm. Only 30% of Americans own a passport. That’s right, 30%. Since that’s the case, I wonder what percentage of that 30% look like me or you or anyone from a multicultural background? And let’s not talk about how many children don’t have passports either; that’s got to be another stat entirely. As a travel camp owner and annual Paris concierge, my aim is to give girls of all ages a world view. And because I agree with my husband’s declaration that, “The first thing I would grab if the house was on fire is my passport,” I have just started a program that provides young girls with their very first passports. (Special thanks to April Thompson of Absolute Travel Addict and a fellow Women on Their Way Local Nation contest winner for sponsoring a girl too and a big shout out to General Motors for providing the transportation!  Woot!)  My hope is that gifting a young girl with a passport will encourage the rest of her family to do the same, whether there is an overseas trip planned or not. As is the rule in life, it’s about being ready when opportunity knocks.

And now for my other confession and the main reason I’m writing this post: This past week marked the gentle push and subsequent birth of Wandermania™, an online community that explores every shade of travel.  Like anyone facing a new beginning, I’m a little scared.  But my inspiration for creating and giving birth to an online space for travelers, wannabe travelers, travel writers and travel bloggers of every shade isn't scary at all and comes from many sources.

My first source of inspiration comes from the observations I've made as a Travelista. One is that I have boarded many a commuter flight only to be the only Brown Girl aboard and another is that I have even had folks - after seeing my group of traveling Brown Girls – ask me if the girls in my travel camp were at-risk. Yeah, I know.  (In that regard, look for “What Makes You Ask?” - original content I wrote for Multicultural Familia™, an online community that will debut on May 30.)

My second source of inspiration for birthing Wandermania™ comes from the low passport statistics described above and my belief that in spite of what I don't necessarily see at the airport, I know that people of every shade do indeed travel. My third source of inspiration comes from a personal need to be of service,  to make people happy, and to give away prizes (fun!). (BTW, Wandermania™ is giving away a Flip Video camera on its Facebook page in June and one roundtrip airline ticket on Southwest Airlines at some point this fall.) And finally, my last source of inspiration stems from my personal point of view about how important it is that travel storytelling – and storytelling in general - accurately reflects the multicultural world we live in, particularly since it is natural for readers and listeners of stories to want to relate, connect and engage not just to the location a travel writer might be describing, but to the travel writers themselves.  As Chimamanda Adichie warns in her brilliant TED presentation, "...[I]f we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding." 

If, for example, Latinos and African-Americans aren’t necessarily traveling en masse, then does that mean that there aren’t that many culturally and ethnically diverse travel storytellers writing en masse either?  I wonder.

Wandermania™ is on a quest to find travel writers and bloggers of every shade and so far, my one-week journey has turned up at least 50. But there are more; way more I bet. My goal is to find as many travel writers and bloggers as I can that represent every shade of the multicultural rainbow to showcase their work and ultimately connect them with travel brands.  (Plans for Wandermania™'s first travel blogging conference will take place in 2013.)  And yes, there is enough of the travel brand pie to go around. 

As a blogger whose mission is to celebrate culture and write an occasional travel story, and in light of the natural connection between culture and travel, it only makes sense that I would take this path of inclusion and diversity and create a space meant to showcase a diverse group.  A small example of the diverse group of travel writers and travel bloggers that Wandermania™ has already introduced on its 3-day old Facebook page and Twitter stream include Nithya, who lives out of a suitcase and is moving to São Paolo Brazil; Lola, a well-known veteran travelista & photographer; Ana, who has traveled to five continents; Sherry, who is planning a solo round the world journey; Evita, who is working on her own tv project and has her own theme song; Greg, a writer, photographer and life-long traveler; Juno, a travel blogger who designs the world; and Carol, a freelance travel and food writer based in New York.

But Wandermania™ is just getting this party started, so hold on to your plane tickets folks, because in addition to the Facebook and Twitter introductions, the new logo and the impending blog, there is definitely more to come. Wandermania™ will be a lot of things, but it will most assuredly be a place where folks can relate and feel free to connect and discuss the unique experiences they might encounter while traveling - whether local, nation- or worldwide.

For now, I'm just plugging away and giving myself permission to be a little anxious since it'll be a few shakes before Wandermania™ has its own blog space in the Blogosphere.  Embarking on a new endeavor naturally has some level of anxiety attached to it along with a fair dose of fear. But walking past fear is what's up. I have had some great entrepreneurial experiences in my life and they always start out the same way…with me scared to death but ready to deal with the challenges ahead.  Have you ever watched The Amazing Race? With every challenge the teams face, they ultimately make their way through the maze of nasty tasting food, unfamiliar languages, and sometimes even mind-boggling road blocks only to come out A-OK with someone ultimately capturing the prize. Wandermania™, an important and necessary platform, is my amazing prize. Now if I could only win a million dollars.

Note: If you follow or know of any travel writers or bloggers from any genre (i.e., adventure, luxury, family travel, etc.) that might find Wandermania™ of interest, please feel free to send them to Wandermania™'s current homes on both Twitter and/or Facebook (for now) where they will be received with open arms. Keep in mind that there is a natural connection between food, culture, photography and travel, so don’t forget about the foodies, photographers and the culture junkies too.  Wandermania™ is open to travel bloggers and travel writers of every shade.


Unknown on: May 23, 2011 at 10:51 AM said...

Wow! Talk about exciting! What an interesting venture! I think this is something that is really needed and speaking from experience, I know that it's often difficult for 'brown' families to see travel as a priority, rather than a luxury. It's something that is changing incomes increase and more options are made available. What your doing is great and I know that the attention on this issue is going to make a big impact on how companies view brown travelers and on the options that are available to families of color. <3

April D. Thompson on: May 23, 2011 at 12:42 PM said...

Very excited for Wandermania and all that is represents! Summer 2013 can't get here soon enough. :-)

Unknown on: May 23, 2011 at 1:57 PM said...

Thanks Chantilly! Thanks April! I'm just trying to build this new community one block at a time with an aim to create a space that mirrors the world. I appreciate your support. =D


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