Oneika is one of our favorite WOC travelers that has been shaping the scene for a while now. Having traveled to over 76 countries and not just honing the title of a traveler but a true expat, we were honored to chat with her. We got to hear her advice for those hesitant to take the leap, how she's grown her blog tenfold, the beauty of traveling with your partner and more. Read up on our Wanderlust Wednesday interview and learn all about Oneika.
First of all, I’d just like to start by saying that your lifestyle, tips and stories are extremely inspiring. It’s so amazing to see a woman of color traveling with purpose, creating a life that she loves and sharing along the way. When did all of this start? What was the journey like becoming ‘Oneika the Traveller’?
Thank you! Well, it all started unexpectedly, really! I moved to France for year (to complete a study abroad program) in 2003 and it opened my eyes to international travel, something I hadn't really done much of previously. France was my first transcontinental trip and during that year I also travelled to Spain, Portugal, England, and Morocco. I was hooked!
You’ve visited 76 countries… talk about a bucket list! What was one of your most memorable (or life-changing) trips?
I think my study abroad experience in France really set the tone for the person I am today. I realized that there was a world beyond Canada (where I grew up) and the U.S. and Jamaica (where I often went to visit family).
You’re not just a traveller, you’re an expat who has been living abroad for quite a while. What are 4 things you’ve learned through life abroad, experiencing cultures from Latin America to Europe to Asia?
Yup, I have lived abroad for over 9 years now, with stints in France, England, Hong Kong, and Mexico! Seriously, I never imagined being an expat when I was younger — didn't even know it was possible. Anyway, 4 things living abroad has taught me are...
To be independent (and to not be afraid of being an independent thinker)
To have an openness to (and appreciation of) new cultures and ideas
To be highly adaptable to new experiences and situations
To live life to the fullest and seize opportunity when it presents itself
Being a full-time travel blogger is something that many people long to do. How did you take your blog to the next level, becoming internationally known and admired?
Ha! Funny you ask me that as that's often one of the biggest misconceptions about me — I'm not a full-time travel blogger! I actually work full-time in the field of education as a middle school French and English teacher and team leader... I just happen to travel on all my holidays (I get about 14 weeks of paid vacation a year!)
I've been lucky enough to move to different places because of my job and have taught in every country I've ever lived in. This year, in Hong Kong, I taught Grade 6 and Grade 9 Language Arts at a private school and was also the Assistant Head of Grade 6. I was very busy, which made it difficult to write blog posts on a regular basis! At any rate, I started my blog as a hobby and it started getting traction and an audience fairly organically. I found that writing both honestly and prolifically helped me to grow my readership and get recognition from major media outlets. I tend to not shy away from writing about heavy issues like racism, politics, and privilege, which I think gave me a wider reach from the outset as well.
More and more, women of color are longing to travel and see the world. What would you tell those who are still a bit hesitant about taking the leap?
Just go! Do some research but don't overthink it and don't let haters hold you back from seeing the world! Use online communities like LMDES to connect with like-minded travelers and pick their brains for info about traveling as a woman of color. Write to your favorite bloggers with questions. Take smaller trips to familiarize yourself with travel if the prospect of doing a huge trip makes you feel uneasy.
You recently celebrated your one-year wedding anniversary, congrats! How did you happen to find love abroad and what has the journey been like although you and your partner are often in different places at different times?
Thank you! Meeting my husband during my stint in Hong Kong was totally unexpected. We are both very independent people and neither one of us was interested in cultivating a relationship at first since he was slated to return to London only a few months after we met (he was in Hong Kong on a short term work contract). However, a love of travel really united us and provided an excellent excuse to keep seeing each other since we would keep planning trips together. So, even though our respective jobs kept us living on different continents (for the majority of our relationship he was in London and New York City while I was in Hong Kong), we would often meet up in exotic locales like Bali and Sri Lanka to vacation. On these trips we not only got to know each other better, but also engage in a pastime that we both adore — traveling! At this point, we have traveled to over 40 countries together!
If you had to describe life right now in three words, what would they be?
Exciting. Fulfilling. Unexpected.
Where are you planning on seeing next?
In a few days, I am actually off to Colombia and Brazil!
I know you’ve spent some time in Spain while you were living in France. What was your most memorable moment while here?
Running with the bulls in Pamplona during the San Fermin Festival has got to be my most memorable experience. My time there was wild, scary, adrenaline-filled... and totally unforgettable.
So, I know you are more than just a traveler. What are some other things that interest you? Tell us a bit more about Oneika as a person!
But... I have no other interests; travel is my life! Just kidding *wink*. I love to dance, read, and hang out with friends. I'm a bit of an internet addict who loves watching make-up tutorials and clothing hauls on Youtube. I'm also an avid runner (mostly because I'm a huge fan of french fries).
Lastly, how have you feel that you’ve grown in the past few years? What’s next for you?
Years of traveling and living abroad have made me more independent and less afraid of new challenges. As for what's next? I'm not entirely sure! I recently relocated to New York City to be with my husband so am trying to get settled and plot my next move. The world is my oyster!
Where can we find you on the web + social media?!
Interview and text by Sienna Brown. Sienna Brown is the founder of Las Morenas de España. From New York to Murcia, Spain, she is constantly on a journey to inspire and be inspired while engaging in different methods of creation. Her passion for learning about others leads her towards constant exploration and practicing the art of listening as much as she can. See more of her work here and follow her adventures on instagram.