Photo by Bheki Dube/Courtesy of Evita Robinson

Travel by definition is not static — it's being on the move, with changing locations and changing perspectives. In a new series, Travel + Leisure is profiling some of the game changers in the travel sphere that are taking innovation on the road.

Jessica Plautz
August 09, 2017

Six years ago, Evita Robinson says she never would have believed what Nomadness — the urban, travel, online social community she started — would become.

That community now has more than 15,000 members in three dozen countries with more than 100,000 passport stamps among them. “The Nomadness Tribe is one of the best things that ever happened to me,” one member wrote. “I've met so many likeminded individuals in regards to traveling and I've learned so much through everyone else's experiences.”

Robinson is now collaborating with Issa Rae on a new web series and has an upcoming TED Talk, in addition to continuing her work with the Tribe.

But creating something new — and sustaining its growth — is anything but easy. Travel + Leisure spoke to Robinson about how she approaches change, and how she's built a community that's changing the world.

T+L: What inspired you to start Nomadness?

Evita Robinson: “The start of Nomadness is really interesting; most people think everything started with the Tribe. But it actually started with a really crappy web series I was doing when I lived in Japan.”

“It was shortly after I had graduated from college, when I was an expat. I was an English teacher but a bartender on the weekends. My background is in television and video production, so I started to video tape with a crappy camera, and I started to cut these video stories together as a 20-something-year-old Black girl living in Asia. Even though the production itself was lackluster, the content struck a chord with people.”

“I had no idea what was being created, I just knew that I had a voice. I couldn't have been the only traveler of color out here bopping around the world. It was really about finding like-minded people, and from there the community grew about a year later.”

What makes Nomadness innovative?

“We always want to be what's next in travel. Nomadness chartered the path in this way, it showed how this [community for underrepresented travelers] was really needed. The first five or six years of building [the community], it was about defining who we are, and breaking the stereotypes of what an international traveler looks like. Black travelers are out here. Just within the past 15 months has [the travel industry] has started paying attention to us.”

The Tribe.
Photo by Rhyse Woodward/Courtesy of Evita Robinson

“The next phase of Nomadness is defining what we do while we're abroad. There's a respect that we take to the places we travel to. We see the people in the places we travel to.”

How do you approach change?

“I embrace change and newness more than I embrace the mundane. It's the daily repetitive stuff that drives me crazy. I go back to the child in myself, in which everything was a project. Even just the word 'project' — there's a sense of play, a sense of freedom to it. We're going to try, and if it works, dope, and if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world. I love change, it's boredom that is the death of me.”

How does travel inspire you?

“It's freedom. I realize, especially as I get older, freedom means so much to me. The sense of freedom of literally being able to fly — that is the freedom that travel gives you.”

Photo by Pete Monsanto/Courtesy of Evita Robinson

When people think of “innovation,” they often think of technology, but travel is very social. What about Nomadness creates change among people?

“[Innovation] is like what I say about perfection. They're verbs. They're not used as verbs, but they're always evolving, they're always changing. I am not the same person since I started Nomadness. I have probably been five people since I graduated college. When you think about how we are constantly evolving, and the world is in complete flux, you've got to be able to ebb and flow.”

“Especially given the political climate, travel is so important. Now more than ever we need to be able to connect with one another. Get that passport, it's time. People need to get out into the world — it's all about holding on to the verb aspect of innovating, and making it personal.”

Who are some people that you seeing changing the way travelers experience the world?

Jubril Agoro is insanity. He has a YouTube channel called PassportHeavy, showing places around the world — including places that have been seen as taboo. I revere everything that Jubril is doing right now, and he's using the visual medium to crack this ceiling hard.”

Kellee Edwards is getting ready to come out with her first show on Travel Channel. She is the first black female travel show host. I have watched this girl for years as a Nomadness member... she taught herself how to fly planes. She went above and beyond to make her dream of having her own travel show come true. I'm so proud of what she's doing.”

This interview has been lightly edited for length.

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