Just one year ago, Tallahassee, FL native and IT Project Manager Libryia Jones made the decision to breathe life into her love and desire to travel and share that passion with the world. Featured recently on Black Enterprise, her company, My Wander Year, is a developing sensation centered around travel and living the life of your dreams. Libryia indulged my curiosity with some of the steps in her newest journey, sprinkled with a bit of sage advice. Check out some of our conversation below.
Blavity: What have you accomplished (accolades/awards) for My Wander Year that you’re most proud of?
Libryia Jones: I launched My Wander Year on my birthday last year. I made the decision to do this on July 7th and by September 25th I had made it public. We haven’t been around long enough to win any awards or accolades, we’re still building awareness about our program. But I’m very proud of myself for taking a passion for living abroad, which sparked a passing thought that wouldn’t leave me alone, and turning it into something real. That passing thought is changing my life and the lives of the people who are participating in the program!
B: Growing up, how did your family support/encourage the steps that would lead you to where My Wander Year is today?
LJ: It would be trite and cliché to say my mother always told me I could do anything I wanted to. Which, of course, she did. But more important, I think, is my mother invested in my talents and interests. When I showed an aptitude for writing, she put me in writing programs at Florida A&M University. When I showed an aptitude for math, she enrolled me in the Minority Introduction to Technology and Engineering (MITE) Program at FAMU. In doing so, she set an example for investing in yourself and nurturing your talents and interests. Additionally, both of my parents have always had incredible work ethic. My mother has juggled the roles of employee and entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. That type of hustle is in my blood. My dad might be the most dedicated and hardworking man I know. They both have been incredible role models and their expectation of my being successful in school and in my career was threaded into our everyday life to the point that it was treated as inevitable and I believed it to be so.
B: If you had the opportunity to collaborate with any brand/company, who would it be, and why?
LJ: I have quite a few friends who own small businesses and I would love to collaborate with them. Black & Abroad (@Blackandabroad) is a company I’m excited about partnering with for community service events that directly impact people of color all over the world. I will always seek ways to work with Nomadness Travel Tribe (@nomadnesstribe), without my tribe, I never would’ve dreamed of starting My Wander Year. I’m looking forward to working with The Grant Access, a New-York-based event planning company owned by Lauren Grant, to host our events in each stop on our journey and our kick-off party in New York. Of course, there are some major corporations that would be a complete dream to partner with. I am insistent that all of our participants have T-Mobile cell phones, given they are the only US carrier who provide free international texting and web (and I’ve been a loyal customer for over 10 years). It would be fantastic for AirBnB to be our official lodging partner as we truly want our participants to live like locals which aligns perfectly with their brand. A great partner would be eBags, their weekender bag is such a good product. We absolutely must have a major airline partner like Delta Airlines or one of the alliances.
B: Aside from traveling to the Burj Khalifa (The World’s tallest building,) what is one of your most memorable experiences thus far, and why does it mean so much to you?
LJ: I’ve had some amazing experiences abroad. One of the most memorable was visiting Fort Jesus in Mombasa. A small group of us went to the passages where they would hold the slaves and then march them down to the ships. We stood in the doorway where they last stood on their continent and looked out to the ocean where they would be loaded on boats never to return. We held a misa, where we paid homage to our ancestors. It was quite an emotional experience with no shortage of tears. I would also mention visiting one of the schools in Kibera, the poorest slum in Nairobi. I met a little girl named Yvonne there who was incredibly astute and kind. She taught me how to count to five in Swahili. My first trip to the continent of Africa will likely always be very special to me. I look forward to revisiting the continent with my daughter, we are headed for Johannesburg and Cape Town.
B: For someone who has never heard of you or My Wander Year; how would you describe it to them?
LJ: We’re a community of people creating a life we don’t have to vacation from for a full year.
B: I know My Wander Year is very important to you, so how have you handled the roadblocks along your journey? Can you give me an example of a problem you encountered, and how you went about solving it?
LJ: At the risk of sounding cheesy, I have two things to get me through challenges — faith and a great team. I’ve been blessed enough to accept that things will always work out the way they should. Whether it happens in the way I want it to or not, it always works out the way it should. I also have a great team of people who genuinely care about what we’re doing.
B: If you weren’t traveling and successfully running My Wander Year, what would you be doing?
LJ: I can’t imagine not traveling at this point, but I’d be continuing my work as an IT project manager, cheering for my daughter on the soccer field, and pursuing another passion — cooking. I’d likely be taking culinary courses in training to be a chef.
B: Being that My Wander Year encourages sharing the traveling experience, I know your daughter travels with you. How do you manage work-life balance?
LJ: Honestly, I never feel that my work and life are truly in balance. Some days I’m more focused on one aspect and some days the other. I think if I look back over a week, it typically nets out to something that resembles balance. Most of the week, I’m splitting my time between work and working on my business. Thursday nights my daughter and I get sushi. I take advantage of our rides to school in the morning to chat it up with her. Most of my Friday nights are spent hanging out with my daughter as well. I’m typically very intentional about taking time for myself and my friends. I believe happy people make great parents, employees and friends.
B: What social media platform do you find most useful, and why? Which platform would you like to be more interactive with?
LJ: Facebook, it makes it easier to passively/actively participate in the lives of people I may not otherwise have the opportunity to. Much easier to facilitate conversations and sharing of information. I’ve been beefing up my Twitter skills lately. I love Periscope. The one I can’t seem to figure out is Snapchat. I sound incredibly old but I just don’t get it. I’m going to give it a shot soon.
B: What are 5 things you absolutely cannot live without?
LJ: Freedom, love, laughter, cheese and Internet access.
B: What motto do you live by?
LJ: There are quite a few mottos I apply to certain situations. This one from Desiderata is one that has stuck with me since one of my college professors introduced it to me my Freshman year. “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
B: I know you said you’re launching a fundraiser beginning in February to sponsor one single mother and her child to travel with you, is there anything else you have going on that you would like our readers to know about?
LJ: Two things 1.) I don’t think people know or realize that I’m paying for mine and my daughter’s trip on MWY just like everyone else who is participating. I’m a customer of the program also, I believe in its value that much. 2.) We’re planning some pretty big events. We’re throwing a big kick-off party in New York at the end of July before we take off. We’re also planning to throw a big NYE party in Thailand. Additionally, we’re putting together packages for people to come and visit the group for a week or two at a time. All of those details will be coming out this summer.
B: Many of our readers are up and comings, such as myself, what advice do you have for us?
LJ: We live in a time [when] people are encouraged and rewarded for living their passions. Technology and creativity facilitate that now more than it ever has. Companies are embracing the idea that passionate people are much more creative, productive and effective. That plays out in companies providing unlimited vacation days, remote work options [and] tailoring the workspace and structure to fit the needs of employees. It must be said that these perks should be in return for great work ethic and contributions, not treated as entitlements. Millennials are in the perfect position to create the lives they dream of.
B: What are some goals you have for the rest of the year that you don’t mind letting us in on?
LJ: I want to complete a Spartan Trifecta. Spartan races are obstacle course races. In order to complete a trifecta, you have to complete three increasingly longer and tougher races within a calendar year. I’m also looking forward to learning styles of cooking in every country we go to.
Visit her website for information on program costs, and frequently asked questions. And above all.. apply!