I have to admit something to you. Although I love blogging and writing down my experiences to share with others, I am incredibly lazy when it comes to reading other travel blogs. It’s not that I don’t like a well-written article and a selection of gorgeous photos for my own travel inspiration. In fact, I love that. It’s just that for every really useful article I stumble upon, there are at least 25 not so great ones… One blog though, where I always find an interesting read (or watch) is called Oneika the Traveller. What?! You haven’t heard of Oneika before? Let me introduce you to our new Travelette of the Month!

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Oneika is a travel blogger originally from Toronto, but currently based in Hong Kong. She teaches English abroad at international schools, which has already led her to live in France, Mexico, London, Hong Kong, New York and well, now Hong Kong again. Her travel blog is called Oneika the Traveller and there she chronicles her travels which have brought her to almost 90 countries on six continents so far.

We sat Oneika down for a virtual one-on-one and asked her about life abroad, exploring the world as black solo female traveller, travel blogging and vlogging and oh, so much more.

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

Oneika, tell us how you got involved with travelling. Have you always had itchy feet?

I’ve always travelled with family but it wasn’t until university that I really caught the travel bug. It was during my third year of university that I completed a year-long study abroad program in France. It was my first time in Europe and my first time living away from home – it was an incredible experience! I met tons of people and travelled to a few other countries in Europe and North Africa. After that year I was hooked!

And what about blogging, was that always part of the story?

It’s so important to me to share my travel tales so I can inspire others see the world. Though I initially started blogging to keep family and friends updated about my adventures abroad, I soon realized that strangers were reading it as well. Many of these people took an interest in what I was doing and had many questions about it. At that point, I realized that I had a platform through which I could share my experiences and impressions. As an educator by trade, I really liked the idea of being able show people what the places I was travelling to were like.

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

You’ve recently published an article about the privilege of travel and received huge feedback, both positive and negative. It was called ‘Stop Pretending that Everyone can Travel‘ and I think you expressed what a lot of people were thinking for a long time. Travel blogging is all about inspiring though, so how do you find a balance between staying down-to-earth and getting caught in the bubble of travel writing?

Being authentic and honest – both in my writing and in my dealings with people – is something I always strive for. My blog is my platform and the place where I hash out a lot ideas and share my thoughts and perspectives on things. Sometimes, my opinions are unpopular, but luckily I’ve never been afraid of courting controversy!  I am often dismayed by the lack of depth in mainstream travel writing – travel’s not always perfect, amazing, or all about the “Top 10 party hostels”.  A lot of bloggers shy away from writing about the heavier topics within travel, or, blinded by their privilege, neglect to realize that a lot of their readers are simply not able to travel widely and frequently due to very real social, economical, and political factors. I wrote that post about travel privilege because I wanted to highlight that recreational, international travelling is more complicated than just having the desire to explore.

It seems like you’re very close to your readers. Is there an overarching message you want them to take away from your blog?

I want them to show them that the world is a big, beautiful place that deserves to be explored.  

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

You started vlogging in addition to sharing your written stories – what is it that intrigues you about sharing your thoughts on camera, and do you have any tips for bloggers who want to make the switch?

I LOVE video! I feel like vlogging adds a whole new dimension to sharing my stories and allows me to showcase my travels in a way that words never could. After all, moving images are so much more vivid and stimulating than words and two dimensional pictures, don’t you think?

As for tips, I would say that it’s very important to get comfortable with both being in front of the camera and vlogging in public! Don’t be shy about passerby watching you vlog, and talk to the camera as though it’s your best friend – that always helps with the jitters!

On your blog you talk openly about travelling as woman of colour. What role does diversity play for you when travelling but also in the world of travel blogging?

Being a black woman is a crucial part of my identity and shapes the way in which I view the world. It also tends to colour (pun intended) my interactions with people, particularly with locals when I travel to places where there aren’t many black people. So it would be disingenuous to not talk about how being a black woman affects my travels. I also feel that being a person of colour makes me more sensitive to the “othering” that can often take place in travel writing, where writers are often white and from first world nations. I read a blog post just today where a white, American travel blogger who was relating her experiences teaching in Africa compared the skin colour of her students to dirt! Her intent wasn’t malicious, I’m sure, but the fact that she didn’t think twice about the implications of making such a comparison is problematic, as well indicative of inherent privilege and a lack of exposure to diverse people.

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

Have you ever had issues with racism abroad or as a blogger?

Sadly I have had issues with racism abroad! I am frequently racially profiled in airports and made to go through secondary/additional inspections when I go through customs and passport control. At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but it’s happened enough times now that I’m pretty sure it’s because of the colour of my skin. I’ve also had an incident where myself and another friend (person of colour) were denied entry into a club (whilst our white friends were allowed to enter with no issues). On another occasion I had someone yell out racially offensive language at me as I walked down the road. It’s frustrating to deal with, but I have had so many more positive travel experiences that I shrug off this sort of nonsense and keep it moving. I refuse to let racial discrimination stop me from travelling.

I know it’s probably hard to choose, but can you tell me about your favourite destination ever? And what has been the biggest surprise for you destination-wise?

Ugh, you got me! This is a question that I’m still unable to answer! I love different places for different reasons: France, because I lived there for two years and it was the place where I really gained independence and grew as a traveller. Egypt, for its history and stunning sights, and South Africa, Bolivia, and Brazil for their insane natural beauty. The biggest surprise for me thus far is probably Russia (where I am currently!) – the people and sights in Moscow are so much nicer than I imagined! I had a completely different idea of what it would be like here.

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

In 2015 you kind of became a conscious ‘yes-sayer’ and went on a 6 month journey – what was the biggest challenge in saying yes?

2015 was an epic year: I quit my job in Hong Kong, moved all my stuff to New York City, then embarked on 6 months of travel! To be honest, it wasn’t challenging to do at all – my mind, body, and soul were ready for the adventure. I had the time of my life and have absolutely no regrets!

You travel both in company of family, friends or your husband and alone – what does it mean to you to travel solo?

While travelling with friends, family, and my husband is fun, I absolutely LOVE travelling by myself – it appeals to the selfish part of me that wants to do what I want and go where I want without having to accommodate anyone else’s feelings or desires. I can move at my own pace and on my own schedule; *I* am the sole person in charge of my travel experience, and that’s beautiful!  I also feel like travelling solo opens me up to meeting fellow travelers in a way that traveling with friends and loved ones does not.

Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

You’ve just moved back to Hong Kong – how long do you think you’ll sit still and what travel plans have you got for 2016?

Well, as I mentioned a bit earlier, I’m currently answering these questions from Russia! I’ll be based in Hong Kong until late June, then will move back to New York City.  I already have some great travel plans in the works for 2016 – in January and February I travelled to South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, and Taiwan, and in the coming months I’ll be heading to Thailand, Trinidad, Jamaica, Mexico, and the Cayman Islands! I can’t wait!

Thanks, Oneika for answering our questions!

 

One topic, that we didn’t really have time to discuss was Oneika’s job. If teaching abroad as a full-time job is something you are interested in, have a look at her blogpost and vlog right here.

If you would like to follow Oneida’s adventures, you can do so on her Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, her blog and of course her YouTube channel!

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Traveller of the Month: Oneika the Traveller | Travelettes.net

All photos via Oneika the Traveller.