Nobody gives expert travel tips like travelers. So we’re asking our guests to share their favorite experiences and hard-won advice. One of our guests is officially a travel guru, so we jumped at the chance to speak to her.
You are Roni, The Travel Guru! Tell us about how you became an expert voice.
I started my travel journey when I moved to Spain in 1996. I moved back to the US for a while and then to France in 1999. I sent my friends and family emails to keep them up to date on my travels. This was before social media so email was the only way I could keep in touch with everyone at once.
After a few years, my friends suggested that I start a blog to share all the things I’d learned about travel. That was in 2010 and I knew nothing about SEO, advertising or anything else. Blogging for me was a genuine way to share my stories with the people I loved, and it blossomed from there.
By the time I started my blog, I had been traveling for over 20 years. Travel isn’t just what I do, it’s who I am. I think every job I’ve had has been travel related. Travel brings me joy and I only want to have jobs that I enjoy. Currently, I work for a major airline, and before that, I was a tour manager for Adventures by Disney and Collette.
I was a traveler before I became a blogger, so writing about travel came naturally. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized brands were willing to work with bloggers and it has been great working with companies across the globe.
Over the years, my blog has evolved and changed. Today, I focus on creating products for my readers. I created a product called Fro Friendly (a satin cover for your car headrest), I also make bonnets, passport covers, and Black girl digital travel art. My life experiences as a black woman traveler have allowed me to develop products for travelers just like me. Historically, black women have been an underserved market and I plan to change that.
The trajectory of my life is changing, but my travel expertise is still there. Travel will always be a part of my life, whether I am taking a trip myself, helping others plan or developing products for travelers.
What kind of experiences have you had? Best and worst.
Travel changes our lives for the better, even when we have bad experiences. However, you know I have a few stories to tell!
The worst experience I ever had was in Rio. I was robbed at gunpoint on my second visit there. While I know that crime can happen anywhere, Rio is not somewhere I plan to go back to soon. I am sure I will eventually make my way back there, but for now, no. It took me some time to get over that experience. Thanks to prayer, therapy, and family support, I got over it and still love travel.
It’s harder to narrow down my best experience because there have been so many great ones. If I had to pick, I would say that travels with my mom have been the best. I really value that we’re friends and enjoy each others’ company. We recently spent a week in Paris and had a ball! She’s a blast to travel with and I’m extremely grateful my mother is still healthy enough to travel with me.
One of the best places I’ve visited is Santorini. I’ve never seen a place so unbelievably beautiful. When I was walking around the city, it felt like I was walking in a picture. I sat on my balcony with coffee in the morning and took it all in, the blue of the water, the white of the caldera. It didn’t feel real!
I’ve only been to Santorini once, whereas I’ve been to Paris every year since 2002. You’d think that would make Paris my favorite! Instead, Paris feels more like a second home because I lived there, and I had an apartment there for years.
Where will you go next?
Right now, I’m focused on Africa. I’ve only been to 8 countries there and I have loved every experience. I’m sure I’ll end up retiring somewhere in Africa. For now, I need to pick a country for my next trip. I’m thinking Botswana or Uganda.
I love Africa because the images we see as Americans are one-sided and only tell one story. When I go, I can show people the side we don’t normally get to see: restaurants, 5-star hotels, people living in big houses, driving nice cars.
Understanding the whole story is what travel is about. Stepping past what we see from our homes in the US is important to connect with other cultures. You need to see both sides in order to tell a complete story. For instance, I’m in LA right now. You see all the glitz and glam on TV, which is true, but when I walk outside today, I’ll also see hundreds of people living in tents. You rarely see or hear about all of the homeless here in Los Angeles. You have to visit to see the big picture.
You recently posted about your stay at Minute Suites in Philadelphia. How did that impact your travel experience?
I discovered Minute Suites in 2015. I had a long 8-hour layover in Philly and I didn’t feel like exploring the city. I walked past Minute Suites and asked about it. I was intrigued by the option to have a private space to spend my 8 hours.
The price was reasonable, so I booked a suite. I thought, “This is mine for 8 hours?” It was the easiest money to spend! I slept, worked, and since I didn’t have cable at home, I watched HGTV. I was blown away by this little oasis.
I have access to airport lounges, but even in a lounge, there’s not always a place to sleep and lay all your stuff out. In a Minute Suites, I don’t have to talk to anyone nor worry about taking up too much space. It is always my own little cocoon of peace.
Now, when I have a long enough layover in Dallas or Philly, I stay in a Minute Suites. I prefer long connections so I don’t have to rush, and staying in a Minute Suites is the perfect way to pass the time. I love being in my suite. I’m always so comfortable. I really wish they were in every airport.
One of my goals is to help people travel stress-free, whether their journey is for pleasure, business or another reason. Airline travel can be stressful especially when you are travelling for personal reasons like illness or going to a funeral. Minute Suites is a great place to regain your composure or just take a pause with no interruptions. People who don’t travel frequently often don’t know that these options exist. Sharing tips like these with travelers and making their lives easier is what my travel blogging is all about.
So what’s your single biggest travel tip?
My #1 tip is don’t check a bag. I travel with my carry-on only 95% of the time. It seems difficult but it really isn’t. Even when I traveled to Cape Town for a month, I only took a carry on bag.
When you learn how to properly pack (like with packing cubes!), it’s easy. With a carry-on, you leave behind the stress of lost bags and waiting at baggage claim. You have so much more control. Once again, stress-free travel!