Do you have a passport, but no stamps? Ever dreamed about seeing the world? Ever become inspired to travel, based on photos and videos seen on social media? Well Boss Up Magazine interviewed Tamaya Walker McClendon, Founder of Sisters and Suitcases, who is changing the game for Women of Color and Travel! (Get those passports ready NOW!) Originally from Little Rock, AR and now residing in Washington, DC, Tamaya Walker McClendon is a wanderlust, educator, entrepreneur, public speaker and travel influencer. (BOSS Status!) Tamaya is the Founder/CEO of Sisters and Suitcases, LLC, as well as the onsite host to all the company’s global experiences. (Dope Right?!)
Did you know that due to socioeconomics, lack of general opportunities, resources, or fear of the unknown, when it comes to African American students studying abroad, it doesn’t happen at the rate of other groups of students? Did you know that African American Students make up less than six percent of studying abroad in the United States? Tamaya is currently working on an initiative that will play a role in increasing the number of students of color that study abroad! (You Go Girl!)
Sisters and Suitcases was registered and founded in 2013, with operation beginning in 2016. Tamaya tells us that Sisters and Suitcases was founded from her own personal interest in traveling, as well as her desire to see more girls of color travel and be exposed to varies cultures and experiences at an early age. (Yasss!!) Tamaya says that when she began doing some market research, she found that there were many women of color who had not traveled outside the borders of their home state, surrounding states, or the United States. (WOW!!!) With this information, she realized that she would not be able make the impact she desired to have, unless she gained the buy-in from the women who played major roles in the lives of girls of color. Tamaya feels that these women would then become a positive influence and encourage their daughters, nieces, sisters, and so forth to travel or study abroad. And after some additional research, education and planning, Sisters and Suitcases, LLC was founded. (BOOM!)
“I’ve always traveled and loved to travel. In 2012, I traveled to Italy because I was in need of a vacation, to remove me from the demands of work and life. Little did I know, the experience would change my life. It was as if I had been sleep walking and I was suddenly awakened, to the fact that there is so much more than the world “I” live in. I was different after each activity, excursion, encounter and conversation that I had, day to day and city to city. I could physically feel my horizons broadening and any limitation or confinement (unconsciously placed upon myself) lifted and shattered.”
So what is Sisters and Suitcases? We’re glad you asked! Sisters and Suitcases is a boutique travel company, based out of Washington, DC, that provides a travel community for women of color who are ready to awaken their inner strength, and expand her horizons through a unique way of travel, all while connecting and building authentic relationships with her travel mates as she explores international destinations. Sisters and Suitcases mainly caters to women of color from a diverse community of women that include but is not limited to; entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, students, homemakers, professionals, community leaders, corporate executives and your everyday working women. Sisters and Suitcases was created as an effort to inspire, educate and empower women of color to surrender her fears, pick up her freedom and make it happen by taking a leap and live on purpose as she enjoys a style of travel that has a love of culture exploration, while at the same time provides an opportunity for personal growth and healing through self-discovery, the journey and the experience.
“The driving force and motivation behind what I do is, my passion for travel and knowing the power of travel. When a woman comes to me and express her life has changed by way of a Sisters and Suitcases travel experiences, it excites me and confirms that the work I do serves a greater purpose.”
While jumpstarting Sisters and Suitcases, there were challenges that Tamaya faced, however they did not stop her grind! Tamaya tells us that staying mentally and physically healthy, while building the right team and trusting that the team will allow her to focus on growing the business, was a big challenge for her. Tamaya says that it t takes time to build a great team, which is especially important as her team continues to grow and spans across the globe! Through it all, Sisters and Suitcases still stands strong and continues to do so!
Sisters and Suitcases organizes international trips for its member’s as well as experiences and events to bring women of color travels together from all over the world. The women that travels with Sisters and Suitcases tend to travel solo or prefer to travel with other women. Sometimes that means bringing a friend with you to join our sisterhood. We believe that every woman has the ability to rejuvenate, transform and blossom into the most radiant version of her when given time, space and support of nourishing and uplifting environment. A woman can only give what she has; which is why we think it’s important for her to press pause and replenish her physical, mental, emotional and spiritual tank during her SAS (Sisters and Suitcases) Experience and allow us to refill her cup.
So what made Tamaya so passionate about traveling? Tamaya says she was curious and wanted more, and just did not want to return home the same. For Tamaya, she knew she would return home to work and life stresses, but she also she knew she could return different, if she did something different. (We heard that!)
“I let my guard down, I sat and engaged in meaningful conversation with strangers and women whom I had just meet for the first time, which later turned into meaningful friendships.”
As a black woman who loves to travel, it didn’t take long for Tamaya to realize that the experience she had was due to her intentions while traveling. Tamaya engaged more with the locals, ditched the car service, and used public transportation. Tamaya says this allowed her to give herself permission to be her .
“I sought to find a bigger value of travel, besides the joy of entertainment and shopping. My quest for adventure brought a greater return and provoked my inner journey. I discovered that travel is therapeutic. I attribute my travel experiences to the healing and wholeness I have in my life. My life has been transformed through my travel experiences.”
So we asked Tamaya about a few recent trips of Sisters and Suitcases, and she gave us an exclusive scoop! Check it out:
Event: Travel Tip and Tasting Brunch and Candid Conversations at YAYA an European Bistro.
“At this event I shared with the guest how travel changed my entire course of life. Travel was the catalyst for growth and change. In addition to me speaking we invited a panel that consisted of four women who will inspire our guest to pack their bags after having a candid conversation on their travel experience and how travel has changed their life. The guest had an opportunity to ask questions and have their questions answered. Each guest left with swag and travel resources.”
Trip: Paris, France
“Each international experience has a different yet unique itinerary that is curated with the women of color in mind. This past April we took 12 women from varies cities across the United States (LA, NV, IA, OH, GA, AR, TX) on our first Sisters and Suitcases Experience to Paris. The experience came with all the local feels. From seeing “Postcard” Paris to going on a Black Paris Tour, to champagne tasting in Reims (the center of the champagne region of France). The experiencers got a good taste of Paris during their 7-day week.”
Tamaya also provided us with some trip highlights:
Onsite Host (Tamaya)
SAS Local Paris Host
Accommodations (double beds)
Intimate Group of 14
Welcome and Farewell Dinner
Black Paris Tour
Seine River Cruise
Lifestyle Photo Shoot
Parisian Perspective: You’ll see local secrets of the city that most tourists and tours miss.
Italy Experience 2017 (Pompei)
I believe Sisters and Suitcases is vital to the world and our community because travel is vital to the world and our community. When an individual is able to travel and explore, especially internationally the mind begins to shift. The exposure to new cultures and people helps to create a healthier perspective of what you once thought of the people or the place. Until you can visit a place and form your own opinions, your understanding comes from what you’ve seen on media, what someone told you, what you read in a book or was taught in school. Who’s to say any of it was truth. Our experiences intentional expose you to things that you will not find in your own backyard, which forces you out of your comfort zone to try new things. It doesn’t mean you have to like it. What happens is you can now relate in a new way that may not have been able to before. Experiences gained through travel are transferrable.
If you’re interested in starting a new business, Tamaya gives the following advice,
“My suggestions for anyone starting a new business are to be a solution. Rather than starting with the idea of what you sell, think form the perspective of what problem will you solve. The other suggestion would be to speak up about your business. It’s intimidating sharing your business with the world. If you want to succeed you have to get out of your comfort zone.”
Make sure you keep up with Sisters and Suitcases because in 2018, the company will launch their very own newsletter, blog that will indeed be a valuable resource such as tips, announce upcoming events, giveaways and share resources to its members. Sisters and Suitcases will also add two new international destinations to their portfolio of experiences, so don’t miss out! To register for any of their experiences visit the website at http://www.sistersandsuitcases.com
Be sure to keep up with Tamaya and Sisters and Suitcases via social media:
Until next time..
“Boss Up and Be Blessed”