Wanderlust Wednesday: Shannon and Hillary — Founders of Parlour Magazine
Parlour Magazine is the ultimate destination when you're looking for a place to talk about more than just travel but exploration and life happenings. The brand has been growing for quite some time and we were able to chat with the founders to hear about their overall mission, how to keep a healthy work/life balance and why you need to be traveling instead of spending cash on material things. Learn more in our latest Wanderlust Wednesday interview.
I was introduced to Parlour Mag a while by a dear friend who saw you speak in NYC and was immediately intrigued. She described your mission as “discovering black female identity through travel,” which I thought was so on point. Travel is one of the many ways to explore one’s identity, by seeing new cultures and new places. How would you personally describe the mission of your site? Do you feel as if it helps others discover their identity?
Shannon: Intrinsically, we like to think that Parlour is the conversation that you have with your girlfriends about travel. Beyond the "where should I go, what should I do" lens, there is an exchange of how you feel, how you grew from your experience and what you plan to do next. Bringing those conversations around travel as a means to personal exploration and evolution for black women to the forefront is our mission. Parlour is safe, educational, creative and inspirational space that I think black women definitely need in 2015 especially.
Hilary: Parlour’s mission is to bring together women of color who love to travel in a place to chat about the nitty gritty of leaving your home. There are conversations that we’ll have abroad that might not happen in Brooklyn, D.C. or the Bay because leaving your comfort zone brings you to not only a new place but a new way of thinking. Traveling is a great way to find out who you are when no one’s looking.
The brand has been around for over five years. How have you seen it grow and where do you want to take it in the years to come?
Shannon: More than that! Parlour has grown as we've grown. We started as a young, fiery, black Jezebel (if you will) and still continue to publish all of our content through a very savvy, feminist lens... but we soon realized that we both needed a place for rest and had literally been sitting on it for years. Hills and I are both seasoned travelers and while Parlour was in its first years I was living abroad for months at a time, traveling frequently for work and growing. Hillary also was growing into her journalism career, she met her now husband who is also a frequent traveler....travel just became a consistent part of both of our lives. It also became clear that at the time, there was no clear space for Black women and travel online—so we created one out of Parlour. For the future we are working on plans to evolve Parlour into a more integrated experience brand for our readers, with local and international experiences curated by us, events, workshops and more.
Hillary: It’s been an emotional ride with Parlour and with a business, sometimes you have to let it tell you what it is. We’re being better listeners now.
Your team comes from different professional backgrounds but joined forces to start the publication. What inspired you to come together and start Parlour Mag?
Shannon: We were friends of friends first. Very loud, ballsy, friends of friends that always found ourselves in agreement concerning what we liked and what we didn't. So rather than complain about the kind of content we wanted to see—we started to create it!
Hillary: For my side, I wanted to have a different conversation than most of the women’s magazines back when we started in 2008.
What has been one of your most memorable trips?
Shannon: Very hard question. But every Cuba trip has been jam packed with memories. From new adventures, hilarious and dramatic family moments to hitchhiking in the middle of the night and free-styling on the Malecon. I'm a horrible rapper, btw.
Hillary: My first trip to Italy, I traveled alone from London to Rome and back alone at maybe 20. I was just excited that I was able to move around without knowing Italian but Spanish, ha. I also had the best lasagna of my life and deciding I actually did like red wine to going on a date with a Brazilian dude that I met near a fountain (so predictable, ha). He spoke Italian, I spoke Spanish and somehow we made sense to each other, it was a good lesson about how close the love languages are.
How would you rather travel: Solo, with friends, or with bae?
Shannon: I would say with bae because I get a solo trip with that too. He's a surfer so when he's in the water, I am pretty much left to do what I want on my own as he is 100% focused on his safety and surroundings at that time. My travel bestie Nakia and I are like that as well — we are great together and then just go off into our solo moments which we both value.
Hillary: I like all forms of travel, just let me get out of my house every once in awhile or I feel crazy.
The Travel Seven series is fantastic (and I'm grateful to have been a part of it!) Can you share the importance of sharing real stories of women of color who are constantly on the move?
Shannon: I created that a few years ago after realizing the importance of a woman seeing herself in unfamiliar spaces. It's one thing to have a cute Instagram picture of a woman and we do that as well, but it's another to know the story behind the picture... travel tips, hotel memories and more from women of your own community. This makes the world seem a little closer, more familiar and eases some of the anxieties women can feel around travel.
Hillary: Travel Seven is something that Shannon came up with and she can speak to that, it’s a great series.
What is one thing you’ve both learned from living a life filled with seeing new places?
Shannon: Everyday you will discover just how much you don't know. And always make friends with the bartender. He/she knows everything.
Hillary: You never know as much as you think you do and you can always learn more. Be open to it, there’s no point going to a place if you’re not in the mood to take in fresh experiences—we’ve all been on those trips where your friend is "anti" the whole time. Leave them and that attitude at home.
How do you manage to keep a healthy work/life balance?
Shannon: I struggled with this for a long time before I admitted that I can't. So it's more of an incorporation of the two—small breaks to check our social accounts or jot thoughts for stories/edits during my workday aren't uncommon. But I do give myself at least one weekend day where I am dedicated to any and everything but work OR Parlour. Luckily my job has a very inclusive culture where they know what I do and I can work freely on things. More than anything, I realize that as much as I put in to both Parlour and my career and other projects, I invest in myself. I give myself permission to pause. And this is where travel becomes paramount.
Hillary: Every day struggle.
5 things you always pack when headed on a trip?
Shannon: A mobile charger, my own travel pillow, Berraca/Emergen-C, a comfy LBD for surprise biz/social events and a travel candle.
Hillary: Stocked up iPad, sensitive skin soap, noise cancellation headphones, scarf/sweatshirt and my journal.
How has travel had an effect on your life? Have you always been filled with wanderlust or was there a pivotal moment in your life?
Shannon: I grew up a bit transient so I've pretty much grown accustomed to moving. My apartment in Brooklyn is actually the longest place I've ever lived in my life! Fold that spirit into travel and I'd say that a spur-of-the-moment trip I took with my good friend Anslem to Brasil and Argentina back in 2004 started it all. We both had never been to either country and really grew as adults and into our respective selves on that trip. Travel has provided me with opportunities that have greatly affected my career and my life here in New York.
I work with people from all over the world and when I can make a personal connection with them having visited their home country or know how to navigate situations from their cultural perspective, that only benefits my work life. Personally, I have a few families and groups of friends I can run to at the drop of a dime in the event that the U.S. really nosedives, lol.
Hillary: I was born in England but raised in California so I think traveling is in my blood. Every summer I went from the Bay to LA and then Texas to hang with family. When I went to college, I choose the cheaper school with the option to go abroad to the U.K. for one year. After that time spent in London, I had the traveling bug.
The black travel community is constantly growing. What would you say to those who are still hesitant to take the leap or to invest in experience over material things?
Shannon: Even if it is to the state next to you, take a trip. Start small or just go big on your first try. There is no real "right" way to travel. And when it comes to things vs experiences, no pair of Louboutin heels can teach you how to curse in Portuguese, what the warm water of Honduras feels like when you are swimming naked with your best friends and dancing the night away in an underground London club right next to an incognito Jada Pinkett. I love and have nice things, but those experiences were not only cheaper, but have added much more value to my life.
Hillary: GO! You can always buy more stuff but a new bag isn’t a great as tasting the best lasagna of your entire life outside the Leaning Tower of Pisa or dancing to Grime in a dark London club BEFORE it migrates to America. Traveling is the best thing you can do for yourself, it truly is. GO SOMEWHERE.
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.