Boss Babe of the Month: Meet Travepreneur, Adriana Smith
Meet Travelpreneur, Adriana
Firstly Travepreneur encourages others to travel and then educates and empowers travelers (new and experienced) to connect purposefully with others from different backgrounds and their homes while creating bridges that honor diversity, acceptance, tolerance, and appreciation. In my work, I facilitate international experiences for students in which I observe the bridge formed between two different cultures. That’s beauty. So, my why is fighting hatred, discrimination, and social injustices in the world through one travel experience at a time. My goal is to create other Travepreneurs, social do-gooders traveling the world.
It all started growing up in Miami. Being such a diverse city, with languages swarming around, I wanted to be bilingual as well. So my passion for Spanish and languages pushed my desire to travel and see the world. But, really, I did not fully understand what that meant until I enrolled in college. While in my second year at the University of Florida, I was introduced to this idea of “studying abroad.” Still unaware of all of the benefits, I decided that I wanted to pursue a six-week summer program in Spain. What appealed to me was the opportunity to immerse myself in a culture different from my own. I would also achieve my long term goal of bilingualism. While there was a hiccup in the road convincing my mom that I should study abroad in Spain, that summer program became the door to everything that followed. Especially, influencing who I would become years later. Spain and the Spanish language became my first love. And, the reasons why I loved to travel ever since.
In 2014, I had started thinking of a plan to build awareness about study abroad among underrepresented, minority students. Study abroad is an opportunity that many do not get to experience because of their background or inability to fund a program. I wanted to create an outreach program but realized that it would take a while to do so without money. I switched my attention to an online forum and site where I could share my stories, but also the impact that traveling could be on the world. This resulted in the birth of Travepreneur. Through social good, we can accomplish much more than we think. Sounds inspiring, huh? Well, can I tell you that I had been fired from my job weeks before I had thought of this “online forum”? My entrepreneurial spirit wasn’t born until I let go of a toxic work environment. Yes, I said let go. God put into place the exact steps that would force me to leave a job that I knew wasn’t good for my mind, body, and soul. He forced me out of the door. And what a journey it has been since then. I walked right out of the fire into the garden. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to think of such a program, website, or business if it hadn’t been for me getting fired.
The key to success
It may sound funny and many of you may not believe me, but the key has always been a couple of words. However, not any words, but - Why not me? [If there’s an opportunity, I ask myself this: “Why not me?”. If someone doubts my ability or skills, I ask myself this: “Why NOT me?]
Advice that Inspired Her
“To get your education” - Ma. My mom’s words stuck with me since I was young. She advocated for my siblings and me to get a proper education after she has spent nearly 55 years raising us from the age of 13. I remember one morning, I woke up to daylight creeping through the curtains. I was confused because it was a school day and I was still in bed. Looking over to my brother’s bed, I sat up quickly because he too was still laying there. Something is wrong, I thought. So, I jumped out of bed, rushed to my mom’s room, where my three younger siblings would sleep, and peeked through the darkness. “Ma…ma,” I whispered. “What?” she responded. “Why are we not in school?,” I desperately whined. “Just go back to bed.” “Can I go to school?” - I pleaded. “Why? It’s already after 11.” - she muttered. “Please…,” on the verge of tears. I’m thinking how can she tell me to get an education, and then pull this stunt. Even as a child, I was stubborn. If mama says to get an education, that’s what I’m going to do. So, after a few moments, she rolled over and said, “Alright!” This allowed me to spend 11 years with perfect attendance. The school was important. My mom told me so. Three degrees later, I still think that education is the most important asset a person can have.
Does driving scare you? There are an average of 6 million car accidents in the US every year. But, you still get in your car to drive, right? We take risks every day. They’ve become so normalized that we are used to them. So, my advice would be to just do it. Why waste time thinking about what could be?
Considering travelpreneurship or moving abroad? Let me give you some advice!
What I learned getting lost abroad
Getting lost in Madrid! Whew, that was a day. I never thought such an experience would happen to me, but it became my saving grace. So, two days into the summer program, I wanted to return home after getting lost in Madrid. Like I. was. ready. to. go! I felt frustrated after not being able to find my peers and program organizers who were touring Madrid for the day. And, guess what? I got lost because I became this arrogant and cocky “traveler” who thought she knew everything, including how to navigate Spain. Obviously, I’m not from there, but I could’ve sworn that I was by the way I had handled the first two days. I instantly dubbed my hometown, Miami, “the center of the world.” And, after arriving in Madrid, the first stop on the summer program, I compared it to Miami. Which seems harmless, but really, I erased the distinctiveness of one country and culture to overshadow it with my own. That’s a no-no! So, to answer your question, getting lost inspired me to make travel a central part of my life. Especially, eating a big ol’ slice of humble pie. It made me appreciate the beauty in difference and challenge. Getting lost helped me see that it was me who needed to change. Since then, I appreciate everywhere I go. And, because of that one experience, I was able to study and live abroad in Spain for another year to obtain my masters degree. Would I have been able to do this? Nope. It goes to show you how one decision or one moment can define your entire life. I’m glad it resulted in a positive change and outlook for me.
Travel ain’t easy. Here’s what I mean: Firstly, Traveling abroad takes sacrifice. Of your time, money, energy, and comfort. You have to be willing to give those up to see the world. You can’t get them back once you embark on a journey. Most people, including myself, are willing to make those sacrifices each time for the sake of counting off another country on their list. Even, to get paid in the end. It’s all fun until it isn’t anymore. When you’re faced with a challenge. When you’ve lost your passport. When you’ve missed your flight. When you have to fork over hundreds of dollars for a medical bill while in-country. You only see the glamorous side of travel, and I’m here to tell you that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Secondly, Travel won’t ALWAYS be this drastic or challenging, but travel isn’t the answer to all of your prayers. I see many people who say, “I’m not happy where I am. I wish I could book a one-way ticket to (insert country)” or “I want to quit my job (or life) and travel the world.” And, I say to myself: “Will these people be happy elsewhere, even a continent away?” This isn’t to judge, but you have to realize that life is life no matter where you go. So it’s best to deal with whatever you’re going through right where you are. At least, first! Booking a flight, living abroad, and traveling is NOT the answer. It’s a solution to a short-term problem.
Her impact on the world
I hope my life and work inspires everyone to travel. And, not only to get up and move and see the world but do it graciously. Do it with love in their hearts. To accept and receive people for who they are. The big part of why travel is so important to me because I feel that taking a step outside of our comfort zones is exactly what we need to humble ourselves. We can combat social and world issues simply by connecting with one another through international experiences. We can serve a greater purpose through interconnectedness and world peace.
Her Favorite Adventures
I would have to say my very first international trip ever: Spain. Spain is my first. They say you always remember your first. And, I surely do. Spain reminds me of challenge and success all at the same time. I struggled, but I also overcame a lot of fear, pride, and immaturity. But, Spain is an amazing country. The food, culture, music, and atmosphere drew me in from day one.
I believe every BLACK woman should visit Africa. We shouldn’t remain disconnected from where our ancestors were born. While we may never know exactly which tribe we come from, names of our relatives, or the exact details of their kidnapping, it is our right to visit the place where we originated. I recently visited Ghana and have plans to visit the rest of the continent. I hope other women would join me on this adventure.