Here at Black & Abroad, we work to ensure that our mission concedes simple brand recognition.
Often along the way, we encounter other like-minded individuals that have successfully mastered the space beyond their anticipated approach to empower the diaspora.
These are the influencers, visionaries, and tastemakers that have managed to successfully employ their own blueprints to create a better world for us tomorrow.
Over the next few weeks, we will present to you a hand-picked line-up of black-owned & operated brands that deserve your consideration.
That deserve your support.
That deserve your attention.
Welcome to the Black & Abroad Conversation Series.
Meet Libryia Jones, founder of My Wander Year.
After being rejected by programs catered to single adults that fostered the ease of the 'digital nomadic' lifestyle, Libryia decided to carve out a space to include working moms like herself.
In fact, it was only June of 2015 when she decided to employ her background in project management to put together the ingenious enterprise: My Wander Year. In true visionary fashion, she started with a big picture, and implemented a team of fellow innovators to help bring her idea into fruition. The plan was an instant success.
So much so, that she will be taking 30-50 other like-minded nomads on her year-long journey across the world to work, live and play starting August 1st 2016. We got the chance to sit down with her to get the inside scoop on this undertaking.
What is My Wander Year and how did you come up with the idea?
My Wander Year is a membership based lifestyle program in which, for a monthly fee, participants travel the world for one year with travel, living accommodations and a co-work space provided. We have cultivated a community of 30+ people who will travel the world for a full year, living in a new country every three months. The group will go on one excursion per month together and participate in one community service activity in each country.
I have wanted to live out of the country since I was 19 years old. In grad school, I was given the opportunity to do an internship in China and I was super excited. The school wouldn’t let me go because I had a kid. They didn’t want to be held responsible for the liability of me having a child. I offered to sign all kinds of waivers and they still wouldn’t budge. Recently, I have been trying my hardest to get to Abu Dhabi because I have a friend who lives and works there, but there are not a lot of job opportunities for people who aren’t teachers or nurses. She came up with this idea that we should travel the world and homeschool our kids. I was completely on board to do that. I found a few programs that actually do travel abroad for a year as a group, but none of them allow children. I just wasn’t satisfied with getting a “no” because of my daughter. I decided to create the opportunity for myself and for other people who thought they couldn’t do it for whatever reason.
Is this a part-time or full-time venture?
I have made the transition from an IT Project Manager to a full time CEO of a Start Up Company in less than one year. I was working full time as an IT project manager and juggling that with motherhood and building this program. But, planning a trip around the world for a year for 30 people requires quite a bit of my time. I recently made the decision dedicate myself My Wander Year.
How long did it take to bring this grand vision into fruition?
It has taken less than a year from conception to launch to bring the vision of My Wander Year to fruition.. I wrote a blog post chronicling the timeline from the moment I mentioned the idea to a co-worker of mine to the day I launched and began accepting applications. When I first had the idea to do this, it was just a passing comment that wouldn’t leave me alone. I woke up thinking about it every morning. I mentioned it to my coworking on June 7th and by June 15th I had bought a web domain. I announced the business and launched the website on my birthday, September 25th (what a bday gift, right!?!), we began taking applications on Dec 1st.
What are some key factors that came into play when determining the destinations for the journey?
We started out doing a survey of roughly 200 people to get an understanding of the places they desire to live and what were the most important factors to them in choosing to live abroad. We then put together a scoring template to help translate our research into something quantitative and help make the decision. We scored roughly 45 cities across 5 continents with the key factors being safety, cost of living, % of English speakers, digital nomad community, and proximity to cities people would love to visit. The results, we believe, turned out pretty great. We’re going to Prague, Czech Republic; Chiang Mai, Thailand, Cape Town, South Africa, and our last location was originally Panama City, Panama but we’ve decided to change it. The new location will be announced this weekend!
How does My Wander Year use its sphere of influence to empower the Diaspora?
I founded My Wander Year with the inclusion of People of Color in mind. Building off the momentum of some of the larger Travel Digital Platforms such as Black and Abroad, Travel Noire and Nomadness, it was my goal to create a niche for those who wanted a more extensive travel experience and a community with whom they could explore. We call ourselves Wanderists.
I think we’re drawing empowerment from a few angles here. The first dimension is that all but one of our Wanderists are people of color. Now almost all of them are avid travelers, however, not many of them have embarked on a journey of this magnitude. In doing so, we are significantly expanding their frame of reference outside of the borders, boundaries, and walls that exist here in America. We’re shifting what is “normal” for them, the way they view issues and problems, and their place in the world.
Additionally, this group is connected to people of color right here in the US who represent a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Our group of Wanderists serve as an example of what’s possible despite our past, our backgrounds, or the type of life statistics has attempted to dictate for us. In making our dreams a reality, we’re giving the people around us permission to do the same.
Another dimension of this is that we’re traveling to places that typically don’t get exposure to African-Americans. Through these travels, we’re exposing people in other countries to who we really are, what we’re really like and dispelling the stereotypes they may have bought into based on what they’ve seen via the media. We will be making real connections with people all over the world through working alongside business owners in Prague, traveling through Thailand, participating in community service in Cape Town and all of our travels in between.
As a black businesswoman, what kind of obstacles if any have you encountered along the way?
I honestly haven’t found any, or maybe as a black businesswoman I’ve spent so much of my career stepping up and over them that I don’t even recognize them. I realize that as a black business owner, there are some access to resources that I don’t have. We typically don’t have access to venture capitalists or wealthy investors who are willing to put hundreds of thousands of dollars into their businesses. But it’s not something I expected going into this so it never appeared as an obstacle to me, I just knew that the path I was on would have to be paved with my own dollars.
What’s your secret to balancing work, travel, motherhood, and My Wander Year?
Honestly, I never feel that these things are truly in balance. Some days I’m more focused on one aspect and some days the other. I think if I look back over a week, it typically nets out to something that resembles balance. When I was working full time, I would spend most of the week, I’m splitting my time between work and working on my business. Thursday nights my daughter and I would get sushi. I took advantage of our rides to school in the morning to chat it up with her. Most of my Friday nights were spent hanging out with my daughter as well. I always work in some alone time during my travels, whether its for business or pleasure and I love to work in a day for a massage. I’m typically very intentional about taking time for myself and my friends. I believe happy people make great parents, employees and friends.
How can we support My Wander Year and where can we find out more about it?
We’d love your support! One of the best ways is to Wander Along with us on our journey by subscribing to our blog. You’ll get insight into what we’re doing on each of our stops and get updates when we launch our next cycle. If you’re going to be in New York on July 30th, stop by and party with us. We’re throwing a going away party for our Wanderists before take off and it’s free to anyone who wants to party with us. RSVP required. If you aren’t able to make it, you can click the registration link to donate to our Sponsor A Mom Program. We are sponsoring a single mother and her daughter to travel along with us.
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