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Old Globe | © Kenneth Lu/Flickr
Old Globe | © Kenneth Lu/Flickr
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An Interview With NOMADNESS Founder, Evita Robinson

Picture of Ashley Jones
Updated: 7 December 2016
Evita Robinson – an incredibly confident, outspoken, and adventurous traveler – created the NOMADNESS ‘tribe’ after garnering a large and rather unexpected following on her personal travel blog, which she kept to communicate with friends and family as she studied abroad in Japan. As a young, African-American woman traveling the world, she realized an unfortunate stigma: ‘the myth that people of color don’t travel.’ She subsequently chose to both embrace and challenge this myth, debunking it one passport stamp at a time. The Culture Trip had the pleasure of chatting with Ms. Robinson, the founder of NOMADNESS – a movement that has since gained an astoundingly diverse group of individuals with one unified mission: to see, experience, and celebrate the cultures and people of the world together. We find out more.

Tell us a little bit about your background. What inspired your wish to break the travel industry’s mold?

I was born in Albany and raised in Poughkeepsie, NY. I attended Iona College where I pursued a degree in television, so the business aspect of NOMADNESS is pretty new. But I’ve always been a creative individual, and that kind of background and mentality really helps fuel NOMADNESS. You know, NOMADNESS began as a travel blog when I was studying abroad in Japan. I was alone and the blog helped me get into my groove.

Additionally, it was simply my method of communication with friends and family to let them know that I was alive, and to share my experiences. But the content really resonated with viewers. As a black 20-something woman in Asia, I was just really rare and different, and it intrigued so many people. The positive feedback of that college travel blog has grown into the NOMADNESS tribe you see today. I was always about traveling the ‘real world.’ When I travel, I want to usurp myself in and really experience the different cultures of the world. Creating NOMADNESS has given me and so many others a platform to do so.

Image by Pete Monsanto | Fly Life Images
Image by Pete Monsanto | Fly Life Images

How has your vision grown into NOMADNESS? Is this where you expected the publication to go or has it taken shape organically?

Everything I’ve done is really organic. I start with plans and they derail in the most beautiful way. If the tribe hadn’t expanded, it wouldn’t garner new people and it wouldn’t be a business. I got out of the way to respect the rather natural growth of the business; I’m just the vessel it can grow through. I really didn’t have any expectations with NOMADNESS; it was just a blog I used as my way to cope. I needed a group of people who didn’t just vacation in five-star hotels, but actually truly traveled. I so often felt like a black sheep while abroad; I needed people who understood the true repercussions that traveling can have on relationships, jobs, and so many other aspects of your personal and professional life.

Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo by Rhyse Woodward
Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo by Rhyse Woodward

What do you wish to achieve through NOMADNESS?

After 2016 we aren’t doing our group trips anymore. I’m both personally and professionally pivoting. Instead, I’m working on creating large pop-up events around the world to have a NOMADNESS anniversary party all the time instead of only once a year. The stakes are higher with this change, but it would create a more inclusive experience. I’m also working on augmenting the sectors of NOMADNESS; I want more growth and I want to assign tribe ambassadors. My ultimate goal is for NOMADNESS to bridge the gap between the worldwide tribe and the areas and communities we’re traveling to.

In South Africa, we stayed at the Curiocity Backpackers Hostel where young entrepreneurs just rock out, and there was a NOMADNESS sticker on window, and people would freak out. The experience was so family oriented, and we were really embraced. I realized that I want to leave our stamp around the world in some way. Making great professional relationships like this across the world is a huge vision. I want to create safe havens, homes away from home, and families within communities across the world for our members when they’re traveling. Creating a NOMADNESS-oriented scholarship to help others travel is a vision of mine as well.

How have you seen NOMADNESS affecting the lives of those who become involved?

People are quitting their nine-to-five corporate jobs for this. NOMADNESS gives people the guts to just travel the world and to take life into their own hands and find a way to make it work. I have tribe members who have asked to work remotely instead of raises so they can do this. NOMADNESS has also given people an international family; everyone knows someone everywhere. There haven’t been many mishaps abroad for us so far, but obviously they happen. I’ve seen communities of people raising money for tribe members in crises to get them out of situations abroad. We’re a resource for both good and bad aspects of traveling. You feel the love from all.

Ayutthaya Ruins in Thailand | Tyler Batson
Ayutthaya Ruins in Thailand | Tyler Batson

What are some obstacles your publication or mission have faced and how did you overcome them?

Ah, you know there are different shapes and sizes. Competition has reared its head in different ways. I think one of the most difficult things is recognizing if people who started in NOMADNESS are moving on and creating similar organizations and groups are doing so out of inspiration or are taking something from you. I’m not a CEO who is not involved with the company. I’m engulfed in these people, it’s difficult to deal with personalities. Personality navigation is such an important skill to acquire – just learning to slow down and talk people off the edge. So often it’s a left spectrum versus right, and you have to be able to bring both sides to the middle and level them out. It has taken a long time and a lot of patience to not simply be reactionary. I’ve really learned a lot.

We had a devastating fatal car accident in January 2015 in Panama City over MLK weekend. All of the tribe members in the vehicle were in the hospital and knew to contact NOMADNESS for help on the scene. That was a really difficult moment to maintain a level head, and to not react in certain ways. I flew out just to be there and work, and in four days, NOMADNESS tribe members had fund-raised $64,000, flight miles for families to come and visit those who were injured, and paid for the medical treatment. It’s all about sweat and emotional equity. I’m not hands off; I try to be as authentic as possible.

Is there a specific direction you see NOMADNESS headed toward for the future? What are some envisioned future plans?

I really want to keep pushing forward with the media component of NOMADNESS. I’m currently editing season two of our web series, which will be debuting soon. But I would really love to go to the next level and create an actual television show so fingers crossed!

What is one of your favorite experiences or stories from your NOMADNESS travels?

It’s so hard to narrow that down! There is one experience that is just so tear inducing – it gives me the ‘so happy you cry’ feeling. The India Holi Festival of Colors is the happiest day of my life every year. I have so many relationships there; they are truly my people now. It’s not tourism when we attend; we’re literally going into and staying within homes and communities. It’s like a family reunion; you see children growing, people getting older. It’s that connective tissue – it’s most meaningful when you get into the stories of the community. We’re taken care of, and it’s such an enchanting and special space. Another really personal experience for me was when I returned to Thailand with NOMADNESS and I got to reconnect with my Thai mom and dad [the couple who housed and took care of Evita the first time she traveled there].

My Thai dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and was so worried that by the time he would see me, it would be too late and he might not remember who I was, so it was this amazing and emotional moment for us. I brought my tribe members and my Thai parents had a whole spread out for us. I love that I get to facilitate these experiences in real life and tribe life. I’ve watched so many people become enemies, friends, and lovers. There are people who have met through NOMADNESS and are having babies now. We’re also going to be celebrating our first inter-tribe wedding which is really exciting!

Entrance to Taj Mahal in Agra, India | Colleen Williams
Entrance to Taj Mahal in Agra, India | Colleen Williams

If there’s one thing you want our readers to take away from this interview, what would it be?

That NOMADNESS embodies more than just a travel group. We’re a group of like-minded individuals who are beautiful, intelligent, and worldly in their own right. We’re a group really set on breaking stereotypes for the African-American demographic worldwide. I want to be the person who creates the antithesis of how black people are portrayed worldwide – it’s incredibly important to me.