I don’t farm on Facebook. Don’t poke me. I am not crushing candy or playing with imaginary hotels. If I’m on Facebook it’s usually to promote events or to stay in touch with family and friends who live in other states or countries.
But about six months ago, a friend added me to a group that has had me glued to my newsfeed.
From the banner, featuring an array of hot people of color, pierced and tatted wearing tribal gear tagged with phrases like “I have more passport stamps than you,” I knew this group was something different. But it took me a while to realize that more than an online community, the Nomadness Travel Tribe is actually a movement.
“Before I started Nomadness Travel Tribe it was a blog and webseries,” explained Evita Robinson, the creator of the tribe.
A New York native, after she graduated with a background in television, she moved to Nigata, Japan to teach.
“No one would visit me,” she confessed.
Robinson’s solution was to try to export her experiences to give her friends and family the context with which to understand her life.
“I started a video series to connect with my blog and it was called Nomadness TV and that’s how everything started.”
The everything she is referring to not only includes the nearly 9,000 members that belong to the Facebook group (and the 2,000 + in the cue), but also the meet ups in cities around the world, the Nomadness X organized trips that sell out in 15 minutes, and so much more.
“I kind of thought I was a unicorn, a lone black traveler out here, but then here was this community.”
“I’m not following in the footsteps of my family,” Robinson explains citing the various parts of her non-traditional path.
In 2010 after living in Japan for several years, she was cast in a web series reality travel show called Jet Set Zero that took her along with three complete strangers to Thailand where she had some amazing experiences before a case of Dengue fever forced her to return to the States. During that time one of her close friends was killed in a motorcycle accident and between being so far away and also grieving she experienced an isolation that caused her to seek out a different kind of home.
“I thought, ‘I can’t be the only person who feels this disconnected from the people in my life and who has a thirst for travel.’”
Nomadness has been an answer to her call and a refuge to expats and avid travelers around the world searching for community.
“All the groups I found that were travel oriented weren’t diverse or young, not even young in age, but young in energy.”
So how is Nomadness different from any other travel group out there? First of all it’s geared to urban travelers and of the 9,000 75% are women and 80% identify as black or Latino.
“When I started Nomadness I did not set out to start the black travel group. All ethnicities are repped in the tribe,” Robinson explains. “My goal was to bring people together who share an urban lifestyle and urban travel ethic.”
The only pre-requisite for joining up is that you must have at least one stamp in your passport.
“I was in an airport in Atlanta and I saw this sister with the ‘black girls run’ t-shirt on,” recounts Nacala Ayele, one of the five tribe members based in Seattle. “I had no idea what I was getting into when she invited me, but I am so grateful that I’m in now.”
Unlike Robinson, Ayele comes from a family of travelers.
“But they traveled for different reasons,” she says. “My grandma took five of her six kids to Africa in 60s so my uncle wouldn’t get drafted into the Vietnam war and partly because her mother was a pan-Africanist with the Marcus Garvey back to Africa Movement.”
Still despite having family who understood her need to travel Ayele experienced that same feelings of isolation.
“The tribe meets a need that I didn’t even know I had. I kind of thought I was a unicorn, a lone black traveler out here, but then here was this community,” she says.
Nomadness is a global community. While some people are based in the U.S. there are many expats around the world and being a part of the tribe gives them a reason to connect.
“I have a five month long tour of the Caribbean coming up and in two of the countries I already have dates to hang out with Tribe members that I haven’t met before,” says Ayele. She heads out next month.
In addition to people’s individual travels there are also the NomadnessX group trips. Some of the recent destinations have included South Africa, India, Bali, Costa Rica, and Japan.
“I’m not a travel agent,” Robinson laughs. “I don’t book flights.”
True enough, she is not selling plane tickets. But she does coordinate trips for tribe members who want to travel together. Each trip is created with a shoestring budget in mind to make it accessible.
“The mental predisposition is that travel is expensive. Part of Nomadness is deprogramming that,” Robinson says. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”
The majority of these trips cost less than $500 (not including airfare), and attract a spectrum of economic diversity from new college students to millionaires.
“Like in South Africa I know there were people who were living large mixing with people whose only way to do this trip would be to backpack. They stayed in a hostel,” Robinson says. “That’s what Nomadness makes you do, it’s a much more personal experience when traveling with a group.”
Some of Robinson’s favorite trips have been to India, Samoa, and South Africa.
“Samoa was our off the beaten path trip. We were literally staying in ground zero of where the 2009 tsunami hit,” she recounted. They stayed on Kafua Beach with a family who lost thirteen members in the tsunami.
“I have never seen people who are so resilient in my life. When we left that place everyone was crying. We were crying, the staff was crying, the driver was crying. We did a prayer circle before we left and it was so beautiful. It was amazing, emotionally gut wrenching, but crazy.”
So what has been the biggest surprise for Robinson about this journey?
“The effect on people. Literally I have had members tell me that they were on the verge of committing suicide before they found the tribe,” she says. “They have found an acceptance, a family, a home and understanding that they have not been able to find anywhere else in their life.”