Photo Credit: Nicole Files-Thompson, Ph.D.
This Expat Runs A Travel Concierge And Tourism Consulting Service In Jamaica
When Nicole Files-Thompson took her first trip to Jamaica as a 20-year-old college student, she knew immediately that the land of wood and water was going to hold a special place in her heart. Fast-forward 15 years and she now has a whole new life in Jamaica, expanding the way she understands herself and travel as a part of Jamaica’s Hanover community.
With a keen appreciation for the culture, years worth of research, and an abundance of love and respect for Jamaicans and their world-renowned charisma, it wasn’t long before Nicole Files-Thompson took the jump and moved abroad. Find out how her company Teach. Learn. Travel Jamaica, LLC is making big moves in the tourism industry.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Nicole Files-Thompson. My friends and family call me Nikki and my students call me Dr. T. I am originally from Boston but for the past three years, I’ve been blessed to live dually, currently calling two places home – Baltimore, Maryland and Hanover, Jamaica – though most of my time has been spent in Jamaica.
I attended Howard University, where I received my BA and PhD. I am currently an HBCU professor dedicated to HBCU education; it is my mission to create pathways for HBCU students to graduate school, study abroad, and travel. I consider myself a Black feminist teacher-scholar, and I consider it an embodied approach to my life and work. My research engages the theory, practice, and epistemology of marginalized groups. This work focuses on constituting, touring, and empowering marginalized identities, via the critical questions: What constitutes marginalized identities? How do spaces (touring/travel) negotiate marginalized identities? How are marginalized identities empowered/self-empowered?
My passion for undergraduate research, study abroad, and my students of color, combined with my special interest of using my knowledge and experiences to empower people and ultimately reveal their capabilities, has laid the pathway for the inception of my travel concierge and tourism consulting service, Teach. Learn. Travel Jamaica, LLC.
What originally drew you to Jamaica?
I experienced my very first trip to Jamaica when I was a 20-year-old college student. Upon setting foot on the island, I immediately felt a resounding sense of internal peace, and I remember feeling moved by how warm and inviting it felt to be surrounded by brown faces, in a Black country. I instantly felt that I was “at home.” Although it was my first time abroad, I somehow understood back then that Jamaica would become particularly special to me, but I had no idea that the island would hold such a sacred place in my heart for years to come.
Since then, I’ve traveled extensively to other places, but I am always drawn back to Jamaica because it was the place that spoke to my soul. I can honestly say, I believe that Jamaica was love at first sight for me. Over the years, I consistently returned to the island and the more I traveled around the country, the deeper I fell in love with the breathtaking views, the magnetic energy, and the overall richness of Jamaican culture.
Tell us about why you created Teach. Learn. Jamaica, LLC.
I’ve been researching and traveling Jamaica for over 15 years, and over this timespan, I’ve brought many of my friends and family to Jamaica and I’ve even produced and executed a faculty-led study abroad for 18 students across the island! I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my knowledge with my guests, building their itineraries and even designing their travel experiences in such a way that their trips were always personalized and authentic. In my research, I have learned so much about people’s lived experiences as tourists in Jamaica, but thanks to my students, friend groups, and family, I have also experienced the personal growth, renewal, and healing that traveling to Jamaica can bring to others.
In 2019 I was awarded the opportunity to move to Jamaica as a Fulbright Scholar.
By living in Jamaica, after just traveling there for so long, I would finally have the space to reflect on how the skills and experience I’d gained through being an academician, administrator, mentor, and traveler had the potential to become a beautiful fusion in the next phase of my career and life. I was encouraged to pursue establishing Teach. Learn. Travel. Jamaica by the people who had traveled to Jamaica with me in the past. They felt like my love of Jamaica radiated from deep within me and that I enabled them to have more than just a tourist experience. They felt that their experiences were truly transformative. I decided from there to combine my expertise along with the expansive network of partnerships that I’d made across the island to design authentic and uncommon travel experiences for small and large groups to learn, grow, bond and renew their spirits in Jamaica.
Teach. Learn. Travel Jamaica, LLC is now a specialized travel concierge and tourism consulting service that curates the perfect blend of educational, cultural, and spiritual tourism experiences in Jamaica. I carefully craft personalized, experience-focused itineraries while providing holistic and customized approaches to travel that include immersive activities, unforgettable package experiences, and opportunities for presentations and consulting.
What does holistic exploration in Jamaica look like in your vision?
My vision is expansive! Whether it’s a research or service learning project, study abroad, writing retreat, foodie tour, or a tour around the island chasing waterfalls, holistic exploration in Jamaica looks like pouring into Jamaica as much as it will pour into you! Community tourism is a major component of holistic exploration, as is supporting those in Jamaica that are self-employed – from local shops and bars pon di road, to Jamaican party promoters, yoga artists, and massage therapists.
Holistic exploration looks like equipping Teach. Learn. Travel participants with the emotional and cultural tools needed to feel comfortable enough to step out of their travel comfort zones. Whether it is teaching my guests how to eat shrimp in Middle Quarters or a whole fish like a pro, riding on a fishing boat, or going to a river and climbing waterfalls, Teach. Learn. Travel Jamaica will coax people out of all-inclusive resorts and guide them into the realization that immersive experiences in Jamaica will enhance their travel experience as well as their well-being.
What is your favorite thing about living in Jamaica?
My favorite thing about living in Jamaica is Jamaicans! Jamaicans are spiritual people, and it’s an energy that permeates everyday life. There is a spirit of community, generosity, resilience, and graciousness that blankets the entire island. Jamaican people are happy and thankful to wake up and take breath. Everything that happens after that is a blessing.
We all have heard of the term “island time” – it’s a real thing! Everything is slower in Jamaica. I’ve learned to appreciate this because I understand that a higher power controls time and space, and we must yield to that power because things happen at the time they are supposed to and not at the time we want it to. It’s funny because my husband is my college sweetheart, so he’s been on this whole ambitious and purpose-driven journey of adulting with me. I’ll never forget the first time he came to Jamaica with me years ago and he said, “you are so calm here! It’s like I’m meeting a new side of you!” So he was my biggest cheerleader when I decided to move to Jamaica, despite having to manage marriage in two countries. Jamaica settles my soul!
What is next for you?
I am working on my journey to live free as a Black woman, and act of both resistance and self-care. I want to continue to share my journey with people looking to be empowered, hoping that living boldly will inspire others.
Find out more about how Teach. Learn. Travel. Jamaica can guide you through your next trip to Jamaica.