Soul of Travel: Women's Wisdom and Mindful Travel

Building a New Travel Ecosystem in Africa with Eyitemi Popo

May 17, 2023 Christine Winebrenner Irick, hosted by Lotus Sojourns Season 4 Episode 129
Building a New Travel Ecosystem in Africa with Eyitemi Popo
Soul of Travel: Women's Wisdom and Mindful Travel
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Soul of Travel: Women's Wisdom and Mindful Travel
Building a New Travel Ecosystem in Africa with Eyitemi Popo
May 17, 2023 Season 4 Episode 129
Christine Winebrenner Irick, hosted by Lotus Sojourns

In this episode, Christine hosts a soulful conversation with Eyitemi Popo, Founder of Girls Trip Tours, an alternative tourism economy driven by women that will change how people travel in Africa. Eyitemi’s companies have been featured in National Geographic, Forbes, Talks and Google, Business Day, and in a United Nations case study on travel and tourism. She is a dedicated global traveler and cultural curator as well as a Forbes-listed social entrepreneur invested in the products, services, and ecosystems that help women thrive.

Christine and Eyitemi discuss:

  • Influence of our family history on our own work
  • Ecosystems of women-led businesses
  • Curating custom, purpose-filled itineraries
  • Importance of catering to women of African ancestry
  • Sharing perspectives that center African women in social, cultural, and historical contexts

Join Christine now for this soulful conversation with Eyitemi Popo.

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To read our episode blog post, access a complete transcript, see full show notes, and find resources and links mentioned in this episode, head to the Soul of Travel Website. 


LOVE these soulful conversations? We rely on listener support to produce our podcast! Make a difference by making a donation to Lotus Sojourns on PayPal.  

Are you a Soul of Travel subscriber? Click here to subscribe to Apple Podcasts, so you don’t miss the latest episodes!

Listener reviews help expand our reach and help us rise up the ranks! Rate and review your favorite episodes on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast app.

πŸŒŽβ€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹

To learn more about Girls Trip Tours, visit the website!

Learn about The Girls MAP Foundation here.

Connect with Eyitemi on LinkedIn, or follow Girls Trip Tours on Instagram or Twitter!


Looking for ways to be a part of the Lotus Sojourns community? Learn more here!

Find Lotus Sojourns on Facebook, or join the Lotus Sojourns Collective, our FB community for like-hearted women.

Follow us on Instagram: @lotussojourns and @souloftravelpodcast.

Credits. Christine Winebrenner Irick (Host, creator, editor). Jo Hendrickx (Guest). Original music by Clark Adams. Editing, production, and content writing by Carly Oduardo.


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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Christine hosts a soulful conversation with Eyitemi Popo, Founder of Girls Trip Tours, an alternative tourism economy driven by women that will change how people travel in Africa. Eyitemi’s companies have been featured in National Geographic, Forbes, Talks and Google, Business Day, and in a United Nations case study on travel and tourism. She is a dedicated global traveler and cultural curator as well as a Forbes-listed social entrepreneur invested in the products, services, and ecosystems that help women thrive.

Christine and Eyitemi discuss:

  • Influence of our family history on our own work
  • Ecosystems of women-led businesses
  • Curating custom, purpose-filled itineraries
  • Importance of catering to women of African ancestry
  • Sharing perspectives that center African women in social, cultural, and historical contexts

Join Christine now for this soulful conversation with Eyitemi Popo.

πŸŒŽβ€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹

To read our episode blog post, access a complete transcript, see full show notes, and find resources and links mentioned in this episode, head to the Soul of Travel Website. 


LOVE these soulful conversations? We rely on listener support to produce our podcast! Make a difference by making a donation to Lotus Sojourns on PayPal.  

Are you a Soul of Travel subscriber? Click here to subscribe to Apple Podcasts, so you don’t miss the latest episodes!

Listener reviews help expand our reach and help us rise up the ranks! Rate and review your favorite episodes on Apple Podcasts or your preferred podcast app.

πŸŒŽβ€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹β€‹

To learn more about Girls Trip Tours, visit the website!

Learn about The Girls MAP Foundation here.

Connect with Eyitemi on LinkedIn, or follow Girls Trip Tours on Instagram or Twitter!


Looking for ways to be a part of the Lotus Sojourns community? Learn more here!

Find Lotus Sojourns on Facebook, or join the Lotus Sojourns Collective, our FB community for like-hearted women.

Follow us on Instagram: @lotussojourns and @souloftravelpodcast.

Credits. Christine Winebrenner Irick (Host, creator, editor). Jo Hendrickx (Guest). Original music by Clark Adams. Editing, production, and content writing by Carly Oduardo.


Support the Show.

Christine:

Temi Popo works at the intersection of tech and social impact. She's a Forbes listed social entrepreneur invested in products, services, and ecosystems that help women thrive. She's currently the founder of Girls Trip Tours, where she's building an alternative tourism economy driven by women that will change the way people travel Africa. Her companies have been featured in National Geographic Forbes talks at Google Business Day, as well as a United Nation's case study. In our conversation, Temi and I speak about the influence of her grandmother on the work she does today, the ecosystem of locally owned women-led businesses and women-focused organizations she's building, and how that enables her to curate custom purpose-filled itineraries. She also shares the importance of catering to women of African ancestry and sharing a perspective that centers African women in a cultural, historical, and social context. As well as about Girls Map Foundation. Love these soulful conversations? We rely on listener support to produce our podcast. You can support me in amplifying the voices of women by making a donation on PayPal. The link is in the show notes. Join me now for my soulful conversation with Eyitemi Popo.

Christine:

Welcome to the Soul of Travel podcast. I am so happy today to be joined by Eyitemi Popo, who is the founder of, Girls Tour Trips. Girls Trip Tours. I said it so many times in my head and I still did it backwards, <laugh> and, um, we connected because, um, I was just sharing with her, I am such a fan of her work. I saw it kind of fly past me on LinkedIn and did a little research and have been so inspired to see kind of how some of the ideas that I've had in my mind and that I've been thinking about are really in action. So, um, Tammy, I'm really excited to talk about your, your work. Um, how you're bringing together tech and social impact and what that looks like. So welcome to the show.

Temi:

Thank you so much.

Christine:

Um, I would love for you if you would like to start by just sharing a little bit more about, uh, who you are, about Girls trip tours, and then we'll go more in depth from there.

Temi:

Awesome. So, um, I'm Nigerian, but I grew up in New York City, so my life has always been about travel, just the way I grew up going back and forth between those different places. I went to college in the States at an all women's college and that shaped the way that I moved through the world because I got to spend four years in an environment where everything was built for and around me. And that really empowered me and it let me know that, I mean, everyone already says it's a man's world, but living in just an environment built for women for four years showed me how powerful women could be if the world catered more to them. And so I think that is really what planted the seed in terms of how I started to think about working. And so I started Girls Trip Tours right after my, I closed down my magazine.

My magazine was also dedicated to women and with Girls Trip Tours, I think I had finally started putting the pieces together of what I meant to do is really uplift women. What I meant to do is build product services and ecosystems where women thrive. And because I grew up going back and forth between Africa and the diaspora, I kind of fit into both communities, but also not really. And so I saw myself more as a connector of the two communities, um, than necessarily based in either one. And so I created a business based on that identity, based on how much I loved working with women, how much I loved empowering, uplifting other women, and how much I really wanted to connect both Africa and the diaspora.

Christine:

Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I, I feel like there's so many similarities in just maybe kind of our internal call and like our journeys to get there and the way things have been revealed to us slowly. Um, I wonder, you mentioned a little bit about, um, going to women's college and, and how power empowering that was. And as you were talking, I was feeling a lot of envy actually of what that experience. I hadn't really thought about it. You know, I had thought about it would be great to be in a community of women and maybe there would be some different educational opportunities, but when I reflect back to my, my college education to have actually been in that type of environment, um, I was just thinking about all these different possibilities I had never really thought about before mm-hmm. <affirmative> and how, how powerful it would be to be, you know, having so many smart and innovative women around you constantly just kind of showing you the, the limitlessness of the potential of women. Whereas where I would have maybe one or two professors that would be women and I would maybe then have one or two TAs and I, it just wasn't such a all encompassing and nurturing space. Do you think, did you seek that out on purpose mm-hmm. <affirmative> or was that just an opportunity that landed in front of you? Cuz I, I feel like if I'd have known that existed, I definitely would've jumped for that. But I wonder what your experience was.

Temi:

So I also went to an all girls high school and because of that I knew I didn't want to go to an all women's college. My sister was the one that was interested in, um, the Seven Sisters basically. And for us it was kind of just a financial aid hack, kind of. We were told that, oh, these are the schools that really give good financial aid, um, for international students. And so that's where my sister was focused. And cuz she's a year older than me, I just kind of did what she did. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and so when I got into Mount Holyoke, uh, I loved it. Um, it, it did take a bit of adjustment because it was in the middle of nowhere and I wasn't really appreciating, like all the things you were saying aren't a hundred percent true, but at 18 you're not really thinking about that.

Or like, I went to an all girls high school, where are the boys? Um, but as I settled in over the first year, I started to make friends from all over the world. I had friends who were writers, friends who were studying, um, rocket science, literally Right. Working, uh, there was a project on campus around the Mars Rover. Right. You had students were women working on that. And so it just, it did show me the potential, but it wasn't even just like those big things. It was also like the very little things, the fact that the height of the sink was designed for like w women's height, the average women's height, and not men's height. It was like where bathrooms were located. It was just like little things that, you know, there's always a long line, you know, to use a bathroom at a club.

Like people always make that joke. But we had a campus where that was never an issue because it was actually a space, you know, designed to solve that problem. And so I found it extremely empowering. I didn't necessarily come into college very confident. Um, I'd lost a bit of confidence in high school because I had a completely different experience with girls in my high school than the women I met at college. Um, yeah. Girls were very mean in high school. And so by the time I got to Mount Holyoke, I really needed to rebuild my confidence. And being in that environment surrounded by women that were more interested in collaboration than competition really changed, um, really changed how I saw sisterhood and community.

Christine:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, thank you for sharing that. And I also, I recognize that my 18 year old self would've probably been <laugh> a little bit, you know, torn about that part of me that really craved communities of women, even though I didn't know it yet, I I think I would've, you know, appreciated it. But at the same time, you know, it's easier looking back to really witness mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, what was important out of those situations. Um, another story that I was sharing with you that I was really moved by was how much your grandmother inspired you and showed you how becoming, you know, what it means to really become an empowered woman. And, um, you shared that she really brings to life the adage of when you educate a girl, you educate a nation. And I would love if you would share a bit of her story and how it influenced you. And I think that my listeners will also, um, really appreciate this part of your journey as well.

Temi:

Yeah. So my grandmother, um, she grew up in Nigeria under British colonial rule. She was one of the brightest students at her high school. And so she was selected for a queen scholarship. And so she got to do her A levels in the uk and then she did her undergrad as well as her masters at St. Andrews University in Scotland, which is where Prince William went as an example. So her just being able to get that education at that time, it meant that when she came back to Nigeria, she was part of that generation that really got to nation build after, uh, colonial rule had ended. And most of that generation is dominated by men. Right. Um, many of which are still in power. And so in my life, it was great to have an example of a woman who was part of that. And she actually has a group of friends.

They're like five of them. And they're all like, first of first mathematician, first dean of a university. Like that was her cohort growing up. So seeing her as well as those women who were able to break glass ceilings was very important in my development. And because education was so important to her and she saw it as a tool, um, to just for social mobility, um, all her, she had six children, all of them, you know, have degrees and she ended up becoming a teacher. She was also a diplomat. So she was the first woman to serve at the highest level of, um, the Ministry of Education. She was posted to UNESCO in Paris in the seventies, and she was the highest, um, level Nigerian posted to unesco. So she, she ran, um, that office. And at the time, yeah, you just didn't have women in that role after my grandfather stayed at home with the kids and she, she would go to work.

So she's always been inspiring to me just to see the, all the things that she did with her life and that she never let the times dictate what she was able to achieve. And so for me, living in this time where so much more is possible, I, I haven't been able to make excuses as to why I can't do things because I have a living example at home of someone who, who did all the things even without the examples. And so she has inspired how I move in this world, but also how I want to make sure to give back because in her career as a teacher and a principal and at the Ministry of Education, she was able to educate thousands of children and she had her hand in developing the Nigerian education system. And so I want that kind of legacy. Uh, um, and that's why in addition to girls trip tours, we have a nonprofit and our whole focus is on giving girls future-proof skills and just on allowing more access to education for girls on the continent so that they can break similar barriers.

Christine:

Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. I just, I, um, I don't know why I'm, I'm, I feel like I can just feel that sense of like power and, um, I don't know. I just, I can paint a picture of her in my mind for some reason. I have no reason why I am like very attached. I feel like to the, to I think because also for myself, like my personal mission is, is telling the stories of women like this whose stories haven't been told and who aren't represented when we open a textbook or that we have to dig for the stories like this. So I think that's why it really resonates for me. It just feels like, aha, this is, this is the story. This is one of the journeys I should be hearing about because I think it's really important. And, um, so anyway, I really appreciate that you are took the time to share that with us. Um, I, I also think, um, like you said, growing up in the US moving back and forth and then having this person in your life who is such a mentor, I feel like it, it really allows you to then begin to see all the different stories that exist between those two spaces. And I, I wonder how much that influences, um, what you have gone on to create.

Christine:

Uh, so when we then look at kind of, you know, where you've come from, these things that have influenced you and the passions that you have had towards community and empowering women, how did that really transition into travel? Um, what did that kind of, that journey look like for you?

Temi:

So the transition took a long while cuz I've been an entrepreneur for 10 years. Um, and I started off in content. You know, I, I had just graduated from school. I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur because most people in my family have taken that path. And so I couldn't see myself like only having a nine to five. And so the summer I graduated from university, I started this magazine and it grew to like having, you know, 20 team members all across the world. We had millions of, you know, readers coming onto the website. And I think that's where I really got the confidence, like, okay, I can build something. The magazine wasn't necessarily the right thing for me to build. I think at the time I started it, there wasn't a lot of representation of Africa in global media. And I wanted to be part of like the Africa rising narrative.

I wanted to tell those stories, like you said, that haven't been told that people don't know about. Cause I was seeing people do amazing things across the continent and it just wasn't getting coverage. And so I'm really glad we were part of that moment. But the more years I spent working on it, the more I felt like I wanted a more tangible way of connecting Africa with the diaspora of influencing women and telling women's stories. And so travel just made sense because it was more, it was more real. Like, instead of just reading online, how about you come, how about I show you around? And so that was the genesis of the idea, like, let me bring the magazine to life through travel. And that's what we kind of do. Restaurants that I would've written about in the magazine, that's where we dine people that I would've interviewed.

Those are our hosts. And so through this medium, I'm able to tell the story of really amazing women building incredible things on the continent. And I'm also able to be a bit closer to my community and bring them into the experience in a real way. And together the community from the diaspora and the community based on the continent, we work together to, uh, uplift the next generation. And I found that the social impact days are our mentoring program. Like that is what people find most valuable out of the experience because you could, you could travel to Africa on your own, but the narrative I try and tell with our itineraries, you probably won't be able to find those people, um, without coming through our network. And definitely the mentoring and just our approach to mentoring, right. And our approach to philanthropy as much as possible. We're trying to decolonize it and, and come as Africans doing philanthropy for other Africans and kind of shift the narrative of, of, of who cares about the continent, who invests money in the continent. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>.

Christine:

Um, yeah, I I I love that you kind of talked about bringing that to life because I feel like when I speak about travel often, that's kind of what I'm trying to convey, is there's just something that you, you can't get without being in a place. And that the way, you know, you might read something that's really moving and sticks with you, but when you've experienced it and when you have heard someone else tell you their story versus, you know, having a writer convey it for you, it, it like lives within you. It becomes a part of your story in a way that I think it doesn't when you are, um, when you're just reading about something or studying something. And, and so I think that is really powerful. And I also think, and maybe you can share as well when it's amongst groups of women and then also connecting with groups of women where you're traveling. That's also the focus of the trips that I create. There is some like, special thing that happens and it, it's just such a beautiful thing to participate in and to witness and see that, that that takes shape. So I would love for you to share what that has looked like for you.

Temi:

Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. It's so hard to describe it. It's intangible. It's, it's like magic. Um, and I'm trying to put my finger on it in this moment, but I think just because of the way life is, how fast life moves, just the times we live in, there's just not a lot of opportunity for like true deep, meaningful connections with other people outside maybe, you know, family members or, or childhood friends. As an adult, it's really hard to make new friends and build those kind of deep bonds. And I think the trips that we curate create a space where you can truly in seven to nine days get to know other people on such a deep level. Because if you think about it, let's say you meet your friends once a month for brunch, right? Like, it's not a lot of time you spend, but in seven, we, uh, seven days just with that same group having all the meals, having these life changing experiences, there's a connection, um, that is built in such a short time. And I think there's also just the natural commonality of like, we can be from different countries, we can be from different ethnic backgrounds, but we all walk through this world as a woman. And so a lot of things don't need to be said. They're just understood and being in that group, um, it feels safe. I think that's what it's,

Christine:

Yeah. I, I do, I think there's some, some part that even though like in general experiences may be very different culturally that that woman experience is similar in some ways. And I think that's the part that that immediately links up both as travelers and as, um, you know, connecting between cultures that we can really dive into that space really quickly, especially if you kind of curate an environment where that type of connection, um, is available where people are or are open to it, are leaning into that experience. And I can think of so many times, you know, traveling in different parts of the world and having these conversations and when I reflect back on them, I can't remember what language they were happening in. I can't remember if there was a translator, but I can really strongly remember that we deeply connected and that we laughed or cried or like took care of a child together or did a task together. And the way it felt just very pure and real, like, I think that transcends so many things and, and creates a bond that I think is really important and I think is really the foundation for actually addressing a lot of the social issues, having kind of that sense of comradery and understanding or, you know, a moment in time together. It, it just shifts I think how we wanna show up for one another.

Temi:

Hundred percent.

Christine:

Yeah. Um, well we have talked a little bit about this already, but, um, I think in part for me, part of why what you're creating stands out so much is because you are creating and cater catering towards women of African ancestry that shares a perspective that centers around African women and, and really like dives into all of all of the parts of this experience. Why is that so important to you and why do you think that's so important to your travelers and the communities? You know, you addressed a little bit, you know, showing how women are supporting in philanthropically that it's other women of African ancestry investing. Like what does that dynamic and what does that look like, do you think? Why that's so important?

Temi:

Yeah, I think the dynamic is constantly changing because 10 years ago, I don't know if we would attract the same kind of audience we do now. I think because Africa is more center stage, more front of mind for people, whether it's because of the music, entertainment, um, also because of travel. I think 10 years ago people were not as interested in going to the continent outside of a safari, um, than they are now. And so because that narrative is shifting and more people are visiting the continent, especially black people with the black travel movement, black people coming to Africa, they're starting to see that all the things we've been told, like all the 19 like seventies campaigns, you know, you feed their child in Africa with the $1 a day narrative. That's not necessarily the experience that you're going to get. That's, that's part of the experience that might exist, um, in some forms. But just like everywhere in the world, we have a full society, right? America has poverty, Africa has poverty, there's poverty everywhere. There's wealth everywhere. There are bad neighborhoods everywhere. There're good neighborhoods everywhere.

Christine:

Hey, it's Christine, jumping into this conversation for just a few minutes to talk about what else travel. Travel has the power to impact a person's life through soul searching, new cultural understanding perspective shifts, expanding the mind, pushing comfort zone, boundaries, spiritual awakenings, personal challenges, improved mental and overall health and personal growth both in and out of the workplace. These are just some of the beliefs I share in common with the Travel Coach Network and its founder Sahara Rose Devore, the Travel Coach Network is a woman-led company that is home to the world's only accredited travel coach certification program, as well as a directory of travel coaches and a membership community for travel coaches to continue to learn, grow, and support one another. I loved connecting with Sahara Rose and sharing a conversation with her here on the podcast. Make sure you go back to episode 85 to hear more about her journey from being a solo backpacker visiting over 84 countries to starting both her travel coaching and the TCN businesses.

I'm excited to join Sahara Rose and several other women for the Women Thrive through Travel Virtual mastermind event happening on Sunday, May 28th. I'll be there sharing lessons learned through over 100 conversations with Women Changemakers here on this podcast. To sign up for the event, visit the travel coach network.com/events and look for the WT t t master find. If you are interested in inspiring others to live more mindfully and purposefully having the freedom to work for yourself, live and travel anywhere in the world, or turning your love of travel into a meaningful career as a travel coach, then the Travel Coach certification program is for you. I really love what TCN offers and join them as an affiliate. You should grab a pen and jot this down. I'm excited to share that. Right now. TCN is offering a special promotion for the program, which rarely happens. This training is usually 1297, but for the spring sale it's only 5 99. The promotion runs between April 12th and May 31st. I'll share my affiliate link in the show notes and you'll be on your way to starting a new part of your journey. I hope to see you all at the Women Thrive through travel event on May 28th. Now, let's hop back over to our soulful conversation.

Temi:

I'm focusing on people of African ancestry and I think this time is, is the time to do that. I think Africa's image globally has changed and people are more aware of the opportunity that exists on the continent. The beauty of the continent. I think previously only one side of Africa has been shown. And the more sides that people see, the more curious they've become about exploring the continent for themselves and especially for black women. Um, which like life for women everywhere is hard, but I think especially in the western world, life for black women is particularly difficult. Um, whether it's in corporate America or or just walking down the street. And so I do see Africa as a place where I feel the most free. And that's not to say they're not issues there, but on the continent I'm more dealing with misogyny.

I'm not dealing with both races and misogyny at the same time. And so because I have this experience, it's, I just had a hunch that perhaps other black women felt the same. And through the community I've built, I can say that that is our mutual experience, just that the more people travel Africa, the more free they feel and they feel like there's a place where they can just exist and they don't have to overexplain themselves. Um, and that's what I wanna curate for the community. Um, I don't want, I don't wanna like, because there's this narrative like for black women, rest is resistance and you know, like tr like free travel is this revolutionary act. I think while those things are true, we are just like everyone else. And West is to our existence. It doesn't have to be this act of resistance as well.

It just can literally just be without having our actions be a part of this like, larger political narrative. Right? And so with our trips, I create a space where, where black women can exist and not over explain themselves and build community within another while all uplift the next generation because we know that they're probably going to go through a lot of the same struggles we've had to go through in terms of unlearning beauty standards or unlearning so many things that society is going to place on them. And so I love working with Gen Z girls cause I just think they're on a different wavelength. I think they're, they've realized a lot of the, like, the lives of society a lot faster than at least it took my generation. And so it's great to be a part of supporting their development and their pursuit of freedom.

Christine:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, gosh, there's so many things in there that I'm not even sure where to, to go. Um, one, it just, um, I I I, I mean I just love that what you're, what you've done is so intentional in the way you're thinking about all these aspects and these moments and where the value lies and what those experiences can be or don't, like you said, don't have to be like, there's just so many possibilities within that mm-hmm. <affirmative> and also just kind of starting or going back to where you, you started with this description of the story that has been painted historically, um, at least in our generations of Africa. And, um, for me, the first time I traveled there, that was kind of the thing that, uh, most struck me. And the thing that I felt was also so important in terms of bringing travelers to the, to the continent is that, um, you just saw so quickly how, how one-sided or how narrow that story is.

And I was actually at a conference where I was facilitating or meant to be facilitating a conversation. And, um, it was really one of the moments in my life that I, I was so caught off guard or so made aware of the, the place of privilege that I had been put into and how, I guess it was just the first time where I could feel the complete, um, inappropriateness of that message and that story and how I, I was just so disheartened that anyone asked me to be a leader in that space, because as soon as I sat down, I felt how I was meant to be there learning and not leading and mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, it was so powerful to just hear the, the wisdom of the community that I happened to get to sit and circle with. And, um, it, it really just changed everything really about travel for me, because I realized the power dynamics that we create when we travel and the the ways that we, even though we're traveling and we're saying we're doing it to connect, that we were still kind of creating the barriers around ourselves or like moving through in some sort of a, a bubble <laugh>.

I, I don't know how to explain it well, but I just like, after that I kind of really tried to set aside anything that I had already been told or was assuming not just in Africa, but in, in many destinations and like experience it for myself firsthand. Um, and I just, I, I don't know. I think that that would be so important, especially in the communities that you're bringing because it's such a different space of understanding your own ancestry and your own, like the depth or the background of your own story that you've been told from someone else's perspective that doesn't have, you know, doesn't have any experience in the storytelling. This is coming out so unclearly <laugh>, but like, I just think it's so, so important and, and, um, I can't imagine like maybe the moment that I am trying so poorly to <laugh> to explain and narrate when your travelers are maybe having that same moment, how powerful that is for them as well.

Temi:

Yeah, I mean, I think the moment is powerful, right? And, and there are many moments where there are these different realizations, um, but also I think the way black people want to travel the continent and the way, like European tourists as an example, travel the continent are very different. So while, I mean, and there are some tourists that go for the people, but by and large, like the narrative is you, when you go to Africa, it's more about, you know, the place or if you are going for the people, it's like in, in an active service, which I think is kind of like what you were talking about in the story, realizing like the power dynamics didn't really make sense, um, in the situation. And I think when black people go to the continent, it really is to connect. It's really, it's really for community right?

To come back home in a certain regard. And one thing I try to do through the itinerary is make sure that the experiences are led by black women. That the money that we're, uh, paying goes towards local, um, vendors. So as much as possible we try to stay at local hotels or book with local companies because I mean, if you've traveled to the continent, you know yourself a lot, a lot of the ecosystem isn't owned by the locals and it definitely isn't owned by black women. And so it's been really difficult to build the ecosystem that we've curated, but I'm really happy that we've done it because they exist, they're few, um, and far between. But the ecosystem we have now, there's, you know, a fine dining chef. We have Africa's first all women's Safari guide team. We've really gone out and looked for women to lead the itinerary so that it, that also reflects back onto the group. Um, because the dynamics would be completely different if we were staying, you know, in only foreign hotels, foreign own hotels or our safari guide was a white man. It does change the dynamic and you can still have those moments of realization and those like aha moments, but I think it takes it to a new level when you're experiencing that with women who look like you leading the narrative.

Christine:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Yeah. And I, I think also, you know, looking at, at creating experiences when we're traveling, that is also something that I really lean towards is, is finding locally owned and women owned businesses and organizations to support with support and collaborate, you know, in co-creating, co-creating this storytelling experience really is how I see travel, right? And, and this connect point of connection and also impact, and you mentioned how difficult it is, but I do think if people have set the intention to support women and travel is the vehicle in which they're doing that, that it does exist. Like you said, you might have to dig a little deeper, but I do think there are pretty much everywhere you go, there is a way that that is possible. And when you're looking at kind of the intersection of tourism and gender equity, h how do you see the two supporting one another? Because for me, I feel like this is a space where actually we can create, um, a lot of impact because of the way it does connect people and the way that it can directly support women in communities, in countries where we're traveling.

Temi:

Yeah, I think there's a lot of potential and it's definitely underexplored. So that's why I've, in order to scale the work that I'm doing, I'm focusing on the ecosystem because while planning the group trips, um, for black women is great, I know that the vendors that we're bringing on board to be able to sustain them year round, we have to do a, like many different things. So the group trips is definitely one avenue, but another avenue we just launched is solo trips. So we have a referral system. If you come to us, we have a group of, um, locally owned travel agencies or tour guides that work within our ecosystem, and they can host you. And so if you can't afford, you know, thousands of dollars for this like lavish group trip, you can, we can work with your own budget and connect you, um, to local guides to curate the same kind of experience.

But for an individual, we just wrapped up a day trip to Zambia, um, Victoria Falls for a tr um, a travel blogger. And so that's where we see white women really fitting into the business model and being able to support is, you know, as you said, it's, it can be really hard to find those women even though they exist. So we're, we're making it a lot easier to find them and book your own experiences, um, through our platform. And then the third thing I've been exploring is Metaverse Travel, because I have a background in innovation and AI strategy, and I work in tech, I've been thinking more about like sustainability and just different aspects, um, making a travel experience, pandemic proof. And so we'll be launching Metaverse Travel later in the year. But the idea is, um, you can go into this virtual reality experience and enter into like 360 degree videos and feel like you're in a place, walk through, um, a storyline, take a look at virtual tours, but instead of it just, you know, being a video, you're kind of immersed in that, in that, um, reality.

So I think there's so much opportunity, and with everything we're doing, we're really focused on supporting women owned businesses who are doing the work on the continent and just making sure that the value of women's work in tourism is, is lifted up. Because as you know, if you've traveled to the continent, a lot of the people you'll probably work with are women, right? You have women who own restaurants, you're going to interact with them. They're, they're gonna try and sell you their wares and, and things like that. But in the thousands of dollars you take to the continent to spend on different things as you're traveling, the art piece you buy in the market isn't where most of your money is going to, right? The rest, the local restaurant you go to, that's not a, a lot of of money. Where the money really is, is in the experiences that you pay for in the hotels that you stay at. And so we're trying to kind of move women-owned businesses up the value chain so that they're able to, to earn more of the tourism dollars that come into the economy.

Christine:

Yeah. Um, thank you that I feel like that's such a, um, a, an important point to make because I, I agree, like the experiences and the interactions and the exchanges, you know, monetary exchanges definitely do tend to occur at the lower dollar point, and trying to think about ways where women can be a part of the, the greater value parts of the ecosystem of tourism, I think is, is really, really important and valuable. Um, I know that you mentioned briefly your, um, the foundation that you have started in connection with your travel. Can you share a little bit more about Girls Map Foundation and the work that you're doing there?

Temi:

So with the foundation, I started that two years ago. Um, and from the onset I knew I wanted to have a social impact mission along with the trips. I knew that if I was bringing people to Africa for potentially the first time, I didn't, I wanted there to be an exchange. I wanted there to be a true value exchange. It wasn't just us going, um, and taking, taking from the locals, like taking from the experience and then going home and not really giving anything back. Um, and so with our first trip to Ghana, I partnered up with a friend who ran, uh, a coding academy for girls. And the issue she was having at the time was that the parents didn't understand why their girls were learning to code. They were saying that, you know, now all of a sudden the girls wanted to go to university for computer science, and they just felt like it would make it harder for them to find a match and, and to find a husband, because now they're gonna get be high maintenance and, and get all these ideas in their head.

And so initially I just wanted to go and talk to those parents and just explain the opportunities that they were keeping their children away from. I wanted to go and also let the girls know that they were on the right path and show them what was on the other side of that path if they continued down it. And as the universe always aligns, the people that ended up coming on the trip, you know, one worked at eBay, another worked at, um, LinkedIn. We had someone from Ford, Ford Foundation. And so it was the exact kind of women that I wanted the girls to see, right? And so from then on, i, I, it was just such an amazing, amazing experience. It truly was transformative for the women that I brought on the trip, but also for the girls. And so it's something I knew I had to do every time we traveled, and eventually I formed the foundation to kind of hold that work and to be able to, you know, raise funds to make sure that we weren't just dropping in, having these amazing exchanges and then never seeing those girls again, but that there was something that could hold them, um, between, you know, trips.

And so what we do now is every trip funds a girl for school year. So not only do we meet them when we visit and have that be like the kickoff of their experience with the foundation, but then we're able to give them a scholarship and pay for their education. Um, and I just see it as, as a way to give back to the community that we are, we are enjoying so much from, but also a way to, to really give people an experience that they can't curate on their own. Um, and so yeah, the foundation is, is very much central to how the travel company operates.

Christine:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, yeah, thank you for explaining that. And I think, um, you know, when we travel, I, I think when many of us travel, there is that moment where you do feel like you would, would like to support the community where you've traveled, but you aren't really sure how to do that, or how to create the most positive impact or to make sure that you're not inadvertently creating a negative impact mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I think bringing those two pieces together for travelers and then having them be able to experience a component of it while they're traveling, you know, that it's not just this standalone checkbox, you know, I think that's also a, a really important aspect to what you've created.

Um, well, you have also mentioned, you know, your, your passion for tech and bringing, you know, more women into that space as well. Um, and you have, um, a background in tech and have been beginning to speak about ethical ai and I think, um, technology and tourism are really becoming intersected in a way that a lot of us didn't expect, or I, you know, it's just becoming such a, a strong, uh, a part of running your business. So whether you are in tech or not, if you are in travel, it seems as though you are beginning to be in tech <laugh>. Um, but I would love for you to share, you know, one kind of what your draw there is and how tech and social impact really work together in your life. But then also with the aspect of, um, creating, you know, ethical ai, what does that look like and how can people kind of learn more about that and bringing that into their businesses?

Temi:

Yeah, so that has been a big question for me for the past few years because I've been thinking like, how do I scale the impact? How do I use technology to scale the impact? And I think finally landing on the metaverse travel was like an aha moment for me, where it was like, if part of the values of this company is to be responsible to be sustainable, then metaverse travel, it provides an opportunity for, it's not necessarily like, okay, you're gonna travel in the metaverse and like skip real life travel, but it's more of something that helps you decide where you want to go, um, and something that also will provide an opportunity for our vendors to earn money remotely. So those were the two reasons for the Metaverse travel. And in general, I just feel like AI specifically provides opportunities to, to create efficiency in, in how things work.

I know like planning itineraries can be really difficult. I think there's a huge opportunity for like AI planned itineraries and things like that. I recently actually saw a chat g p t prompt where, you know, you can really in, in great detail have chat G P T throughout some itineraries. Um, the question then becomes, you know, how responsible is is that, especially on the continent, because I have talked to chat G P T and asked the questions around Africa, and it doesn't have, like, sometimes the chip doesn't have the information. And so I think specifically where tech intersects on the continent, because there isn't as much information available, you know, there's some cities you'll go to and like you can't really follow Google Maps. They're actually po possibly local alternatives that are more reliable. I think in Africa especially, there is just so much more opportunity because, um, we don't necessarily have, have the same power in tech that exists in the western world. Even if you look at where AI models are being built, like who are the decision makers, the power shifts to the quote unquote Global North. And so as someone working at the intersection of tech and social impact, and also as someone who is African and who is working on the continent, I do see a lot of opportunity, um, for there to just be more representation, um, and have more Africans participate in that conversation of, of how tech can impact, um, can impact travel on the continent.

Christine:

Thank you. It's, I feel like this is just, um, for me, it's an area of so much unknown, but I, I think it's so great to continue to have conversations with people that are, are, you know, learning and growing in the area and uncovering the strengths and the weaknesses so that we can, I don't know, it feels like unlike a lot of places, a lot of things that have developed this is developing in a, in a space and time where perhaps it won't need to have the same imbalances because hopefully we're creating conversations that are timely enough that keep up with development. I, I hope, I don't know, I guess we'll, we'll see where it goes, but, um, I, I, I love that you kind of mentioned, you know, what you're already seeing and where gaps are and that we can hopefully address gaps in a, in a more rapid, uh, more rapid way. Um, well, Tammy, before we end our conversation, I would love for you to just, if there's anything else you wanted to share with our listeners, um, as well as where they can learn more about traveling with you. And then I have a few rapid fire questions to end our conversation.

Temi:

Okay. So to travel with us on our group trips, they can go to our website, www.girlstrip.tours. We are also now offering solo trips, um, and that's also available on the website. And literally anyone can, can book through our platform. The idea is really to support local women and anyone globally can do that. And then the Metaverse channel is actually something I'm starting in corporate first, but if anyone is interested about that, um, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. And yeah, I think those are the main things I wanna plug right now.

Christine:

Okay. Thank you so much. Um, and I would just encourage people in the industry, um, if you hadn't already come across, um, Tammy to, to follow her because I have just, um, really been so inspired and learned so much just by seeing what you're exploring and talking about. And, um, I really appreciate the innovation that I feel like you're bringing to the industry and especially with our shared passions of, um, how tourism can support gender equity and, you know, and creating spaces for stories and connections and places for women. I am contin continually, um, really ad admiring your work. So, um, to end, we'll just go through our last few questions. So the first is, what are you reading right now?

Temi:

I'm reading The Old Drift, which is a fictional story set in Zambia. And because we are going to Zambia in August, um, yeah, I just wanted to read a book about the place.

Christine:

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, uh, what is always in your suitcase or backpack when you travel

Temi:

A charger? <laugh>

Christine:

<laugh>.

Temi:

Like what's, yeah, I don't mean a charger. I mean like the bat battery pack. I don't know what's call it, right? Yeah, yeah.

Christine:

I dunno what that's called either, but I, I understand where you're at. I was just in the middle of nowhere in, in, um, Alaska actually, and it was a saving grace to have a little extra power when needed. Yeah. Um, power

Temi:

Bank, that's what it's called.

Christine:

What's that?

Temi:

Power Bank. That's what it's called.

Christine:

Power Bank <laugh>. We are not getting any Power Bank sponsorships right now. You can <laugh>, um, to Sojourn is to travel somewhere as if you've lived there for a short while. Uh, where is a place that you would still love to sojourn?

Temi:

So, some I haven't been to. Yeah.

Christine:

Um,

Temi:

I really want to go to Dakar, Senegal. It's top of my list.

Christine:

Um, what do you eat that immediately connects you to a place that you've been

Temi:

Oh, that's a hard one. Um, gelato,

Christine:

<laugh>.

Temi:

Um, I would say it makes me think of, yeah, summers in Italy. Yeah.

Christine:

Uh, who was the person that, uh, inspired or encouraged you to set out and explore the world?

Temi:

Really, my mom. Um, we grew up traveling quite frequently, like a few times a year. Always international either cuz we were living in New York at the time, always going to Africa or Europe for the summer. She sent us to Swiss summer camps. Like she gave us the world in the best way that she could. And yes, I really thank her for inspiring my wanderlust.

Christine:

Thank you. If you could take an adventure with one person, fictional or real alive or past, who would it be?

Temi:

An adventure. I'm trying to think of, um, maybe Oprah. That could be fun.

Christine:

<laugh> Yeah.

Temi:

Travel on Oprah's private jet and all that. Yeah. Yeah.

Christine:

Um, yeah. And I, I can imagine the interesting yeah. Projects and things that you would learn just through being able to move through places with her and the doors that she can open, open. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> would be really interesting. Um, who is one woman in the travel industry you admi admire and would love to recognize here in this space on the Soul of Travel podcast?

Temi:

Uh, it's a tough one. There's so many. Um, I really admire Jessica and Na Bongo, um, first black woman to visit every country in the world, so I'll just shout her out.

Christine:

Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, I would love to be able to talk with her someday on the podcast because I, I would love to hear what it was her, like, her experience was like moving through every country around the world. That seems one, just impossible in general, but two, I would love to hear <laugh> hear how that went for her. So thank you for acknowledging her in this space and thank you so much for, um, joining me on the podcast and sharing your story. And I'm just so excited to see what you continue to innovate and grow in the future. And I hope that, uh, my listeners are also excited to, to learn from you and learn more as well.

Temi:

Thank you so much.