Black Women Travel Podcast founder Wanda Duncan has been on the move as a digital nomad for the past six years. She’s been everywhere from Ireland to Thailand to Malaysia and is currently homebasing outside of Tirana, Albania. But over the course of her endless travels, Duncan felt like there was still something missing from her life: community.
So, in 2017, Duncan took her first steps toward building that community. And as so many people do in the digital age, she made a Facebook group. “I saw a couple of other Black women who were out like myself who were creating their own income and traveling how they wanted to and I said, ‘I don’t see that there’s a space for us,” Duncan says. “‘I’d like to create that.’”
Four years later, the group, Black Women Digital Nomad Entrepreneurs, has over 2,400 members and is thriving. Duncan is proud of the diversity of people who’ve joined—there is a wide range of ages, genders, skin tones, and physical abilities. Some women work traditional 9-to-5 jobs, while others own online businesses. In the summer of 2019, Duncan decided to create a full-fledged podcast to bring the conversations that were happening in the group to life. Now, every Sunday, she uploads a new episode of the Black Women Travel Podcast, where she and guests discuss everything to do with being an entrepreneur on the go.
Duncan’s path to digital nomadism wasn’t exactly easy—but it was a life she knew she wanted for herself. She first set out to perpetually travel in 2010 after five years of working at CNN, and moved to El Salvador to pursue volunteer opportunities. However, Duncan felt like living abroad full-time wasn’t for her at first, and she ended up back in Atlanta, working odd jobs to make ends meet. But when the travel bug got ahold of her again, she resolved to be more prepared on her next attempt. After planning aggressively for a year, Duncan set out again on New Year’s Day 2016, and this time the move would stick. She hasn’t been back to the U.S. since.
However, traveling the world as a Black woman has it challenges. Navigating new racial cultural norms can be a mind-boggling experience, and for solo travelers like Duncan, it can be hard to find someone to relate to in everyday life. “I get an idea of how people judge and see me,” Duncan says. “Not to say that [racism] doesn’t exist outside of America, but it’s not the same brand or flavor. In some spaces I’m seen as American first. Being outside of America helps me see myself more clearly.”
A huge part of Black Women Travel, and what has made it resonate so deeply with listeners, is Duncan’s emphasis on mental health and well-being, such as in recent episodes titled “How to Nurture a Trusting Relationship With Yourself” and “How to Believe in Yourself and Get What You Want.” During the past six years, she’s carved out a community for herself on the road and online. “Sometimes you have chosen family built around the workplace, built around the specific city you live in,” Duncan says. “That’s not so simple as a nomad. One of the questions that I ask every guest is, ‘What has helped you to get through the challenges that you faced?’ Because that’s real and we all have them.”
Robin Tillotson, founder of the bespoke travel business This I Do For Me (and a podcaster herself), is an avid listener and was a guest on Black Women Travel in 2020. Duncan’s compassionate persona is a huge draw for Tillotson. “She cares about the development and growth of Black women,” Tillotson says. “[It feels like] you’re being taken care of, and for so many African American women who work like a dog and in many instances don’t get compensated properly, to be able to be in a circle of Black women led by someone like Wanda, who’s supportive, empathetic and listens, and really gives serious thought to the content that she brings to the group—you can feel the love. You can feel the caring of the content that she brings to the group.”
In addition to the podcast, Duncan also organizes events for the members of the group to help them grow their skills and network. In 2020, she launched the International Black Women Travel Jubilee, an event where women can mingle with fellow entrepreneurs, content creators, and influencers. She held the second annual jubilee this past December and introduced the first-ever Black Women Travel Awards. To keep the momentum going, Duncan will be holding a couple of Mastermind workshops this month to help digital nomads perfect their entrepreneurial skills. But above all, she is simply trying to create a compassionate and empathetic environment to discuss all of the nuances of traveling as a Black woman. “I think that’s what I’m good at,” Duncan says. “Making safe spaces and seeing the best in people. The possibility of people.”