In the middle of the recent worldwide reckoning with racism, Mita Carriman, the CEO and founder of the travel app Adventurely, was disappointed to see that her social media channels were filled with perfectly filtered Instagrams that did little to acknowledge current events.
“I found myself looking at some of the brands that I love, not just in travel, but in everything, and it was a bit jarring to not see support,” says Carriman, adding later, “If there is a government building on fire and people are rioting in streets around the world, I don’t know if a beautiful photo of a martini at a hotel is particularly the image you want to see in that moment.”
So Carriman took a look at Adventurely to figure out how the company could contribute to the movement, both internally and with the content it offers consumers. As a result, the app launched a collection of travel experiences that focus on Black history and culture around the world.
“So much to me of understanding how to dismantle systemic racism is to understand what it is in the first place,” says Carriman, who is of Afro Caribbean descent. “The thing is, if you talk about Black history in America and travel, it’s lots of plantations and abandoned slave houses. Those things are so important for us to understand and to respect and pay homage to, but there’s so much more history that’s not even thought about. . . . We can use travel to learn and engage in that history. And it’s more than just America; it’s the world, it’s Africa, it’s Europe. So I thought, ‘Well, we can create a collection around this.’”
Adventurely, which helps travelers find new friends to share experiences with while on the road, originally launched as a mobile app in 2016. After halting operations for a year and half, the brand relaunched as a web app at the end of 2019 and hopes to move to a mobile version later this year. Users search through travel experiences, such as landmarks, museums, and restaurants, saving them to a wish list. They are then matched with other users who have saved the same experiences.
Currently, the company has released 12 experiences in the new Global Black Diaspora History and Culture collection, which include the Historic Center of Bahia, Brazil, a Brazilian state that is home to the largest African community in the world outside of Africa and to the first African slave market in the New World, and the 250 overlooked pyramids of Sudan, which date back 2,500 years to ancient Nubia.
“Trinidad’s Carnival is one that I’m extremely excited about,” says Carriman. “My mother’s from Jamaica and my dad is from Grenada, but I’ve never participated in Carnival. In researching its history, I came to understand that Carnival came out of an uprising.” She explains that when European colonizers outlawed the drums that the Afro Caribbean freed slaves in Trinidad used for their celebrations, it kicked off uprisings. “It also led the Afro Caribbeans of Trinidad to create the steel pan, so the steel pans that we hear when we land in these beautiful Caribbean islands, the music welcoming us with some rum punch, that came out of protests.”
Carriman also notes that many of the experiences are in places you may not expect. She points to Yanga, Veracruz, in Mexico: “Yanga, Veracruz, was a settlement started by Gaspar Yanga who was an African slave who led one of Mexico’s first successful slave uprisings against the Spanish.” There is also a festival there that celebrates Mexico’s Afro roots.
You can view the existing 12 experiences now, by creating an Adventurely account, and the company plans to launch a few more next week, including some that you wouldn’t expect from Europe; it is working up to 30 experiences.
The collection is not only a great new resource for curious travelers, but it has also been a game-changer for Adventurely. The app originally grouped experiences by destination, the idea being that travelers would want to search for adventure partners in their vicinity. But the Global Black Diaspora History and Culture collection grouped experiences by theme, and Carriman realized that the team could create other themed collections. Now users can explore collections dedicated to pop culture, nature, and LGBTQ-friendly travel. “I think it just goes to show that when we try to lean into these issues that are happening instead of trying to avoid them, some really amazing things can come out of that thought process,” says Carriman.
In addition to the Global Black Diaspora History and Culture collection, Adventurely also recently launched a social impact initiative, #BeyondBlackSquares, which is designed to initiate important discussions and create meaningful content around travel diversity with industry leaders and to foster vested industry commitments in support of the needs of Black travelers. Carriman points to Evita Robinson’s Nomadess Travel Tribe and Tastemakers Africa, founded by Cheraé Robinson, as two organizations that have long been doing this kind of work, but she also notes that there are a few new initiatives from unexpected quarters that she finds encouraging: “Yelp launched a way to search through listings to find Black-owned businesses, and Uber Eats launched a promotion that eliminates delivery fees when you order from a Black-owned restaurant. I think people are starting to get there little by little, not just in travel but the entire hospitality industry.”