Rising costs of living and a desire to start anew are two on the growing list of reasons people are considering expat life. The decision to live abroad is an exciting yet overwhelming undertaking that, for many, requires extensive research and trial visits.
Black Girls Travel Too (BGTT) Founder Danny Rivers Mitchell is preparing to change the remote work and travel game; filling the need for an experience that centers Black people.
BGTT has been a force in the Black travel movement since its founding in 2015. Its private Facebook group has more than 12,000 members. Now, the brand is launching Journey To Expat Experiences (JTEE) which Rivers Mitchell describes as “an appetizer to living abroad.”
Travel Noire spoke with Rivers Mitchell about Journey to Expat Experiences and her vision for supporting Black people’s journey to living abroad.
TN: What Inspired You To Create Journey To Expat Experiences?
Rivers Mitchell: “Three to four years ago we thought about expanding the BGTT brand into a space where we teach women to live where they vacation, but the time wasn’t timing. It just wasn’t time for us to do that. We were still in the process of growing and expanding Black Girls Travel Too as its traditional core.”
“When the pandemic happened, all travel stopped. Everything stopped. There were no experiences we could promote because many of the countries we offer service to, their borders were locked tight. After seven months of doing nothing and actually relaxing and catching up with self-care for myself, I booked a three-week ticket to Barbados.”
“The day before I was supposed to leave Barbados after being there for three weeks, I heard God say, ‘you’re not going back home right now.’ I didn’t know why. I just knew He communicated that. I called my husband, who had the kids and was running a whole house, and said, ‘so, I’m not coming home; I’m about to cancel my ticket.”
After sharing the revelation with her husband, Rivers Mitchell began following her Divine assignment. She immersed herself in Barbadian culture like a local, including acquiring a property on the island. Three weeks turned into eight months of cultural immersion and program development.
“Quickly, I understood there was something more I was supposed to learn and develop within the Black Girls Travel Too brand,” she continues.
TN: How Does JTEE Differ From Other Remote Work and Travel Companies?
Rivers Mitchell: “We don’t exclude anyone, but it was created with Black people in mind. I’ve had people reach out to say they’ve done other companies and they just did not feel at home. They did not feel welcome. They didn’t have certain systems and processes in place to combat racism. They found themselves actually ejecting themselves off the trip early after investing a lot of money.”
“They were always maybe one or two Black people out of 60 to 90 people. So, I knew that was a problem and I always want to create these safe spaces because there are a lot of things we want to do, but we want to do them with our people. We want to do them with our people where we can laugh; where we have cultural similarities. It’s very difficult when you put yourself in a program where you’re the only one.”
“The yoga, the centering of yourself, being in rural parts of Barbados with the sun rising. It’s all about the healing of the Black woman. We work so hard; we have been carrying this world on our backs for thousands of years – let it be known. So, I believe there is a great reward that we deserve, and often times it doesn’t come to us. We have to go get it – and that’s why I created Journey to Expat.”
TN: How Has The Response Been To Journey To Expat Experiences So Far?
Rivers Mitchell: “We started promoting this amazing experience, and when I tell you we were overwhelmed with emails and inquiries about what this experience is. How does this experience work for an attorney or doctor; someone that just wants to take a sabbatical?”
“We started to hear a lot of black women, specifically, communicating that they’re tired and they want to get their ‘umph’ back. They want to find that higher level of self-love.”
“We ran the beta [test]. We did one-, three- and six-month experiences. We even had women who came for six months who started driving, and renting vehicles and motorcycles. It went way beyond what I could have ever imagined. I had women crying saying, they did not want to leave; they didn’t know life could be this kind of good.”
“It’s something to really be told about that type of experience. It’s not about for the ‘gram; it’s about becoming a better version of yourself. And sometimes, it takes you switching the game up in terms of your geographical location to identify who you truly are meant to be.”
“There’s nothing like finding the greatest version of yourself abroad.”
“We’re intentional about activating Journey to Expat Experiences in spaces where we already have relationships. We do experiences in Barbados; it makes it easy. We pour additional money into the local economy. Now, we have vetted South Africa and are looking to have a continuation of JTEE in Cape Town, South Africa.”
“This is for individuals who are able to work remotely; for individuals who need to take a sabbatical. We have women that travel with us that are very high-profile professionals that always reach out and say, ‘I need a break.’”
“We celebrate Black women through and through.”
Plans to Expand
Expansion to other markets is planned in the near future in addition to growing the program to a year-long offering.
“We’re expanding in such a beautiful way. When I started Black Girls Travel Too, I didn’t envision Journey To Expat. It came after I started Black Girls Travel Too. God was like, ‘but wait, there’s more.’”
Soon JTEE participants will be able “to go to Barbados for three to six months and then we’ll fly them over to South Africa – Cape Town, that is – and they will spend the remainder of their time there,” Rivers Mitchell shares.
“I took a leap of faith and I was guided. I’m literally doing God’s work.”
JTEE offers three-, six- and nine-month experiences that include accommodations, coworking space, two activities per month, and weekly housekeeping and grocery shuttle runs. Program capacity is limited to 30 participants, priding itself on intimate group travel but also understanding the increased demand for remote travel curated for Black people. Participation in the group’s monthly voluntourism is also a requirement of the program.
Participants have access to an on-site program leader along with a monthly morale check-in.
Registration for Journey to Expat Experiences opens at the beginning of the second quarter of 2023. The waitlist is currently open and, according to Rivers Mitchell, has already garnered over 2,000 sign-ups. Additional details about Black Girls Travel Too and Journey To Expat Experiences is available at blackgirlstraveltoo.com.