Black History Month is the perfect time to start following and supporting black explorers and their businesses. Check out these trailblazers and learn about the original travel juggernaut - Matthew Henson.
The Black Travel Pioneer
Matthew Henson: Co-Discoverer of the North Pole and Explorer
Matthew Henson set the bar HIGH for black exploration. His contribution to our understanding of geography is massive. For more than two decades, Henson explored the arctic alongside Robert Edwin Peary and together their team made history by becoming the first people to reach the North Pole in 1909. Henson is famously known for exclaiming “I think I’m the first man to sit on top of the world!” Henson’s skill and knowledge led him to be the frontrunner of their eight attempts at the mission. Not just an explorer, but a talented hunter, fisherman, dog-handler and loved by the Inuit people. His role was vital to the exploration. Henson shares jaw-dropping details of the brutal journey in his 1912 autobiography, A Negro Explorer At The North Pole. Henson paved the way for so many explorers to come.
Ciara Johnson: Solo Female Travel
Blogger, social media influencer, and major inspo for women who want to dive into solo travel. Ciara Johnson traded in her corporate job for full-time travel and her Instagram is packed with dreamy content that keeps us ready to pack our bags. When asked about solo travel, she says “It taught me so much about my place as a girl - particularly a black girl - in this world.” Johnson gained traction quickly through her travel content and continues to do so. The Houston native recently announced she’s now on the Visit California advisory board. Despite sharing many incredible experiences, she isn’t shy about keeping it real when it comes to challenges she faces while traveling as a black woman through different cultures and countries. She frequently opens up Q&A on her Instagram, answering a range of travel and exploration questions with an honest outlook.
Mario Rigby: Eco-Explorer
Mario Rigby is known as the man who walked the length of Africa in two years, and believe it or not, that’s just one of his incredible exploration feats. The eco-explorer was born in Turks & Caicos, grew up in Germany, and moved to Canada at 16-years-old. He says when it comes to his African trek, his goal was to inspire people locally and globally to get out, be brave, and see the world. His most recent Caicos Challenge had more than 40,000 Instagram users following along as he traversed across the Turks & Caicos islands, using only human-powered propulsion, and educating followers on the ecosystem along the way. You can join Rigby and even chat with him from your backyard through his community challenges. More than exploration, he uses his platform to share personal experiences of racial trials and overcoming fears.
Akia Merritt: Travel Podcaster
The once fashion business management grad, designer, business coach, turned podcaster, and travel influencer is taking the world by storm. Akia Merritt left her native Miami and all she knew behind to globetrot in style. Akia educates her followers on how to stay brave when traveling alone and how to travel without breaking the bank. Her taste for adventure and authenticity make her travels so captivating.
Black-Owned Companies to Watch
Meet the company helping travelers get a one-of-a-kind taste of Africa. Here’s how it works, you pick an African destination, a curator will guide you through the process of choosing vetted authentic tours in your destination of choice, then all you have to do is pay for your experience and show up with the comfort of having their guidance. According to their website, “Our goal is to build a world in which we value people on equal standing no matter where they are born or the color of their skin.” CEO and founder, Cherae Robinson says she started the company to show the world how to experience Africa authentically, changing the narrative of Africa and how black people outside of Africa view the continent.
The Go Generation
Luxury travel, travel inspiration, and trip design all at the click of a button. Black Enterprise Modern Man Ambassador and The Go Generation Founder, Jason Elliott says “Ever since I was a young child, travel has played and continues to play a vital role in my growth and development as a man. So, I believe that it's vital for young men to partake in international experiences to become and remain well rounded and well informed global citizens.” With The Go Generation, see the jewels of Jordan, embrace the culture in Spain, or even take a break on the beaches of Brazil with the ease of custom curated luxury travel.
Black Girls Travel Too
Spend your days giving back by helping a foreign community? Meet like-minded explorers looking to see the world together? Black Girls Travel Too is a whole lot of inspiration. In their own words, “With opportunities to venture to shops solo or navigate the town with the girls, dining together over delectable meals or mingling with the locals, you’re provided the freedom to run your own race, but together!” On top of helping women of color to see the world, they’re major contributors to helping women of color experience voluntourism. BGTT Founder, Dianelle Rivers-Mitchell is known as a pioneer in the black travel movement, inspired by growing up in underserved and overlooked communities throughout Alabama, and a field trip to Washington DC.
Black exploration isn’t new, it’s led to incredible firsts and worldwide inspiration. From the pioneering pilot, Bessi Coleman to Gen Z travel expert, Gabby Beckford and Woni Spotts, who was verified as the first black woman to visit every country in the world. This Black History Month we celebrate those who have traveled, trekked, and done the impossible. Go follow them on Insta and get inspired!!