Evita Robinson knew that she was the first black person her students in Japan had ever come in contact with.
She once casually pulled a pen out of her thick, curly bun in the middle of a class and it was as if she had made the pen appear out of thin air. Her Japanese students were stunned. The next thing she knew, they were all trying to slip a pen into their straight hair, hoping it would stay.
Traveling or working overseas alone can be overwhelming, but Robinson welcomes the experience; she sees it as an opportunity to learn and to make a lasting impression.
“I know that they (my students) will never forget me,” she says.
Robinson lived in Asia for over a year, teaching English and traveling to more than 20 countries. Though she loved immersing herself in different cultures, she longed for a network of peers who shared her passion for travel. She especially wanted to see more African-Americans abroad.
Many of the people she met, she says, were only familiar with the stereotypical images of African-Americans they saw in the media. So she set out to remedy that.
It started out as a video Web series. Then Robinson used social media and online platforms to create a network of like-minded people in 2011 and called the group the Nomadness Travel Tribe.
Robinson describes the group as, “an international urban travel family,” which has grown to more than 10,000 members worldwide.
Members of the group are from all over the United States, with large concentrations in most major cities, as well as from countries like Brazil, South Korea, Nicaragua and South Africa. Approximately 80% of the group’s membership is African-American women.
Robinson has made it clear this group is not for the occasional vacationer. Members have wanderlust and make traveling a priority. Besides that, the only prerequisite to joining the tribe is that you must have at least one stamp in your passport. Combined, members have over 30,000 passport stamps.
Being a part of this international network of travelers has its perks. Members are a part of an exclusive Facebook page and private message threads, where travel deals and rare flight glitches are shared.
In December, when a filing system error caused an undisclosed number of Etihad Airways flights to be discounted between the United States and Abu Dhabi, tribe members were all over it.
“We had over 400 tickets bought within the first 24 to 48 hours of that glitch,” Robinson says. “We’ve been having people in and out of the UAE from January to our biggest group that went in October.”
This aligns perfectly with the group’s unofficial motto: “Book now, plan later.”
Nomadness’ Instagram is a rolling archive of images of members in some of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Something happens when people see someone who looks like them doing things they never imagined, Robinson says.
Images of the group running with the bulls in Spain or playing Holi in India are now accessible to a broad audience in real time, and Robinson believes that has helped encourage more African-Americans to travel abroad.
Nomadness Travel Tribe and other groups, like Travel Noire, are capturing the attention of young black travelers by the thousands.
“Black travel and tourism is a $40 billion industry,” African-American Consumer’s 2013 reportstates, “a big business made bigger because African-Americans tend to travel in groups.”
The travel industry “has to recognize that we are bringing not just the demographic to the table,” Robinson says. “We’re also bring our dollars to the table.”