Jakiya was born an old soul who longed to see the world. While it took her until she was 23 to be able to do so, her story serves to inspire those who are interested in international travel but don't quite know how to take the leap. Read on to find out how she went from working in marketing in NYC to working for herself across the globe...
My name is Jakiya Brown, I am a 28-year-old traveler, marketer, influencer, and entrepreneur from Charlotte, North Carolina. I can’t really put what I do in one category because my work is ever evolving as continue to follow my passions for all things travel; connecting and living the life I want to live. The world is my office and my goal is to continue to build my career to be as remote and fluid as possible.
Where do you believe your need to travel came from?
I’ve always wanted to know more about the world around me. As a child I was a curious little girl. I would always wonder about other places and things beyond my years. My mom even used to say “she’s been here before”. After taking my first trip to Africa in 2014 I was hooked. I knew travel had to be incorporated into my lifestyle some way, some how.
What about your beginning as a traveler is unconventional?
I grew up in a single parent home. My Mother did amazing job at raising my sister and I, exposing us to many different things, but international travel wasn’t something that we could easily afford or even had much exposure to. It wasn’t until college that I really heard people talk about traveling outside of the country. I received my first passport at 21 and took my first international trip at the age of 23. It is never too late to travel. If you haven’t been traveling since you were a child, it doesn’t matter. In the age of social media and the travel movement you can feel pressured to country count and have tons of stamps on your passport before 25. That is not what it is about to me. It is about connecting, experiencing and growing. Start somewhere even if it is small.
Tell us a little about your transition from the corporate world in New York to working for yourself and living abroad.
I spent a little over 6 years working on huge and marketing campaigns for brands like Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, and philosophy with glamorous perks and lifestyle. To some, a dream job. While I enjoyed what I was doing, there came a moment of reevaluation where I asked myself what I wanted my life to look like moving forward. Did I want to keep fighting to climb the corporate ladder or do something different? Dreams change, and that is what happened for me. What once was a dream of mine (working in fashion and beauty) was no longer my goal, and that is okay. I realized that I wanted more freedom with my time, and to spend that time doing what I loved; exploring the globe. I told myself that if I was going to do this, I was going to go all in. So I quit my job—after a year of preparing and saving everything I earned— to start my journey traveling the world.
I transitioned from a consistent (and good might I add) paycheck with stability and reassurance; to a life of risk, unpredictability and not knowing whether I was going to be able to pay the bills each month. It was not easy. But freedom and seeing the world was priceless, and something I knew I could achieve if I worked hard and kept at it. I was able to build a career out of my skills and network from my previous career in New York and still finding ways to make it work as I go. If you want something bad enough you will make tough sacrifices, prioritize the important things and get creative in ways to sustain your vision. The work ethic and discipline I learned from working a corporate job was instrumental in my transition and gave me the training I needed to hustle and earn an income for myself while living abroad.
What are you doing now that you could never have done without taking that leap of faith?
I am currently living in a new country, learning a new language, testing my strength to adapt to new cultures and environments... getting out of my comfort zone. I am also growing into an entrepreneur with my brand, I wouldn’t say I couldn’t have done these things without taking this leap but it probably would have looked different.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to travel but doesn’t know where to begin?
Just start! Starting is the hardest part. It doesn’t matter where you go. Just go. If you have no one to go with, go alone. If you don’t think you have the money, reexamine your spending habits. Trust me you will find that you spend money on a lot of unnecessary things that could go towards that next trip. If you are scared, push through the fear and know that there are harder things in life so just go for it! You will never know until you try. We are very fortunate to have resources at our fingertips. Research, read blogs eBooks, books, listen to podcasts, reach out to your role model on IG, people are nicer than you think and totally willing to help. There are so many ways to find information and no two journeys are alike.
What do you think your story can teach us about our own freedom and strength?
I am no phenomenon, just human. Meaning you can do anything you put your mind to. I know it sounds corny but it is so true. We are capable of far more than we think. Faith is everything and with confidence, determination and being comfortable with risk you too can create the life you want to live whatever that looks like for you.
Travel can appear very glamorous but in reality that is not always the case. What are some challenges you’ve encountered along the way and how do you overcome them?
Just because you are traveling and away from “home” friends and family doesn’t mean all of your problems go away. Life still goes on. Relationships still need attention and you still need to take care of yourself. It is easy to get caught up in going from one place to the next while neglecting others and more importantly yourself. I have tried to pay attention to my body and respond accordingly. When I am tired or lonely I slow down and settle in a place where I feel like I can make lasting meaningful relationships. If I feel like I have fallen out of touch with family or friends, I make it a point to schedule weekly video chats and stalk them if they don’t respect the schedule.
I am the type of person who needs some sort of routine and familiarity to stay disciplined, so it is just a matter of creating that. Something as small as drinking my hot lemon water first thing in the morning no matter where I am in the world, helps me to create that consistency in ever changing environments.
Your top 5 destinations/experiences in Africa?
My top experiences in Africa so far (in no particular order):
1. Culinary – I mean the flavorful food from country to country is an experience in itself.
2. Safari – this is the typical thing people think of when they think of Africa and I will be the first one to tell you there is more to the continent than Safari but it truly is an amazing once in a lifetime experience.
3. Beaches – Africa has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world.
4. Public transportation – it’s just something you have to experience at least once in your life.
5. Being a Black American – by far one of the most life changing and eye opening experiences. Chatting with curious locals and really connecting with the history and roots of where you came from is indescribable for someone who’s entire family dates back to small plantation towns of North Carolina.
As far as destinations, I haven’t seen it all so I am dying to check out Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Malawi.
What do you wish you could have told yourself before embarking on your first international trip?
Nothing! I think if I would have warned myself of anything my journey wouldn’t have turned out the way it is now. There is something amazing about not knowing what to expect when traveling somewhere for the first time. One of my favorite feelings is landing in a foreign place for the first time. You can never prepare yourself for that moment and you can never get it back. Once you know a place that feeling is never the same.
What’s next for you?
More travel of course! I am planning my travels for 2018. I am hoping next year will take me to some more new amazing places that will blow my mind just as much as the last ones. I am working on an eBook that details my journey from corporate to full time passion and how I did it. My shop The Traveling Fro Shop will continue to expand into new products inspired by my travels around the world, and lastly just taking what life has to offer. There is beauty in not over-planning, but instead following your intuition and making smart decisions to set up your life for greatness.
For more of Jakiya's travels, follow her Instagram @travelingfro
Images courtesy of Jakiya Brown
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