In the epicenter of Harlem along classic brownstone-lined streets, you will find the famed black-owned, family-owned fashion boutique, Harlem Haberdashery. As you walk inside you enter a unique space that straddles the old and new. The walls are lined with gold-framed black and white photos that celebrate the icons of Harlem: Langston Hughes, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday. The clothing racks however celebrate the now, with kente cloth skirts, T-shirts printed with slogans of black pride and painted leather coats that signify the individuality of the boutique and Harlem itself. It is here that Samantha Everette along with other travel bloggers orchestrated a meet-up for their followers.
Search @thequeenofvacations on Instagram and you will find Samantha Everette in her signature cropped hair-style–currently cotton candy pink–and styled in waist long, side-swept box braids. Plastered on her face is her equally signature gap-toothed smile as she traverses countries such as South Africa, Colombia, India, China, and road-tripping across the US. The confidence, relatability, and fearlessness that Everette exudes online are equally apparent in real-life interactions with her. A child of the globe, she seems at home wherever she places her backpack.
Why should you be following Everette’s adventures? Her fearlessness for one; Everette recently lost her job as Design Director at Camuto Group. Anyone in her position might resort to editing their resumes and scouring Indeed.com for job postings, Everette instead decided to take time off and travel the world. This included a road trip from California to Utah. Everette had never road tripped before and had recently suffered an injury but she packed her bags and hit the road anyway. Fearlessness seems to come easy to Everette, but she’s adamant that that’s not the case.
“I’m definitely not fearless, I definitely have anxiety, I just don’t show that much of that side of it because I don’t want to scare people that don’t…that can’t really gauge the full scope of what traveling is. They’re not experienced travelers, so if they see me always talking about the bad— even though I’m also showing the good because my pictures are beautiful and all that—I don’t want them to focus on the bad and for that to dissuade them from exploring. So I’d probably say I only show 10% of my fear on my platforms, the 90% I kind of just deal with. You don’t put everything out there anyway, it’s the internet, it’s not real life. I show a little bit but not everything that I go through.”
Everette is representative of new, growing culture of black travelers that are breaking the stigma that black people don’t travel and displaying the strength of the black dollar abroad. According to travel and hospitality firm MMGY Global, black travel was increased by 3% in 2013, 6% in 2014, and 19% in 2016. This increase in black travel is due impart to visibility on social media, particularly on Instagram. Search the #blacktravel and you will find influencers such as Everette proudly showcasing their globetrotting lifestyle.
Travel isn’t new to Everett though, the advent of social media only came second to the seasoned traveler that Everette is. Everette first traveled abroad for a week when she was 13 on a school trip. This was followed by study abroad trips throughout high school and college. After college, she landed a job where she was abroad for half of the year.
With her experience, Everette certainly makes traveling look appealing and accessible. For her followers who have secured their first passports and want to grow comfortable traveling, Everette suggests tourist-friendly places first then working your way up. She listed Mexico, Thailand, and surprisingly Hong Kong as great starter locations for beginners.
“Hong Kong is just scary because it’s foreign, but once you’re there it almost feels like you’re in New York. It’s just all Asian people instead of all white, black, Hispanic people. But the metro system is very similar to ours, the street set up, bus system, everything is not too much different. Finding Airbnbs, finding hotels, using Ubers all of that is the same as if you were in New York City so it takes getting there to realize, oh it’s not really that different.”
Like many black travel bloggers, Everette is expanding a world to generations of black travelers who are either too afraid or intimidated by the thought of traveling. Historically, black travelers had to be cautious when venturing beyond their home towns. In 1936, the “Negro Motorist Green Book” was written by Victor Hugo Green, a Harlem based postal carrier who wanted to provide black travelers with a road map for safe havens, hotels, and restaurants. Two years after the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the Green Book ceased publication; however, the fear amongst black travelers that was created in Jim Crow still persists. This is something that Louis Johnson noted when talking about Everette, his friend of seven years. Johnson, who is also part owner of Harlem Haberdashery, expressed appreciation for Everette’s documented travels because he’s been able to vicariously travel with her to places he would never have imagined.
“Sam has been to places that some of us probably would never go. She’s been to places that none of us have thought about going, especially to a [state] such as where her car was stuck…I wouldn’t be stopping there to pick up a food drink or other,” Johnson stated.
Why should people follow Samantha?
“Because she posts nudes,” Bunmi, fellow influencer/travel blogger and friend of Everette said.
Bunmi does not lie. Sprinkled amongst the scenic shots of mountaintops and breathtaking waterfalls, you will find Everette in her birthday suit, a tasteful birthday suit that is. Everette also uses her platform to support the body positive movement. Many of her photos put her curves on full display, not for shock value, or likes, but to show the black female body as a form of art.
When asked why Everette decided to post nudes on her page, Everette boldly stated, “Cause I got rolls. My figure is a big part of who I am, my figure my shape, it’s been a part of me my whole life but I want to own it and not let somebody else dictate how I should be treated, how I should carry myself, how I should dress, how I should represent myself, I want to decide that for myself and put it out there and own it.”
Everette hosted the meet-up before packing up and leaving once more for a month’s long journey through Jamaica, Colombia, Brazil, Paris, Morocco, and Barcelona. The meet-up gave Everette an opportunity to break down the filtered facade of Instagram and have an authentic interaction with her followers. Everette allows herself to reveal a few imperfect moments on Instagram and the moments that she does show, it’s enough to invite people in, become invested in her journey, and even aspire to travel and live out loud in the same fashion that Everette has. When asked what Everette experiences behind the scenes to get her Instagram worthy shots, Everette described the moments where she would rather be on the beach rather than waiting for 30,000 files to upload to The Cloud. There have been lost moments splicing together videos instead of touring the new city that she was in.
“There are so many things we take for granted, internet, electricity, hot water; you don’t always have those things when you’re a full-time traveler. And then like the safety aspects, traveling as a solo female, I freak out about that sometimes. You don’t see me taking an uber to go two blocks because it’s not safe where I am. It’s like that stuff kinda starts to get to you,” Everette said.
Still, the lore of traveling hasn’t left Everette and her blog continues to grow. Recently it’s expanded to include opportunities for her followers to travel along with her. The inaugural trip with The Queen of Vacations was a tour through South Africa in December. Although her blog and brand are growing, Everette is unsure whether or not she would like to travel full-time for work. For now, she’s mapping out her next adventure, unsure of what the future might hold, but willing to take everyone along on her journey.
Eunice Omega is originally from Connecticut and received her Bachelors in English & Journalism with a minor in African American Studies at the University of Connecticut. Afterward, she pursued her Masters in Higher Education and Student Affairs from NewYork University. Eunice currently works as an Assistant Director of Residence Life at The School of American Ballet, the premiere dance academy for inspiring dancers. Eunice currently lives in Manhattan and on her spare time she enjoys writing for her blogomegawattworld.com where she takes a critical view on pop culture, shares personal stories, and her adventures traveling. She also loves to explore the city and spend time with her family.