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We first brought you Evita Robinson's feature interview to introduce you to the Nomadness Travel Tribe, TV series, and movement. Today we bring you juicy, profound, and practical advice from Evie Robbie--a list of insights that she picked up through the challenges and bumps in the road--trust her that it wasn't all glamour and adventure. For a community to grow and thrive as Nomadness has, the leadership had to be inclusive, forward thinking, and continuously churning out new ideas to follow the needs and desires of its membership. Evie explains her greatest lessons learned, how she fostered a groundbreaking world movement, and how she keeps her head on straight. What I love most about her insights is that it's applicable to any industry of work. Read on!
You can't do it yourself. Build a Captain Planet-like team!
The high council is the business end of the Nomadness Travel Tribe. Right now it's five people. We're the business end of everything, whether it's a trip coordination, to a tech guru, to the person helping me with research, to the person who helps with community outreach, everybody plays a part and was picked because of what they were naturally doing in the Tribe. There was a skill set that I'm weak at that they are strong in, and that's important.
My team has been amazing at helping me build the brand, manage the Tribe, manage the trips, and keep my sanity at the same time. I need my crew that I can spaz out to and I know that it stays in a safe space. We just all let it out, and we always feel better after.
Listen to your community, and your community will reward you.
We really listen to the Tribe and see where they would like to go on trips, and we start researching. I'm kind of obsessed with Airbnb at this time, because we don't stay at hotels. There's a family vibe in the Tribe, which is really the catalyst for folks wanting to meet offline for Meetups. It really augments in size whenever it comes to the Nomadness trips. I am big on finding a dope place. We find places that are reasonably priced, but we really zone in on the lodging. we want to bring almost a VIP experience to the average traveler within the Tribe, because Nomadness is a lifestyle brand. Our trips are pretty cheap. We haven't had a trip go over $400 for the lodging costs for a week wherever we are. We stay in some of the most beautiful places that they've ever been to in their life. We really pick the members' brains, start looking for lodging, start contacting these places, and set up the backend to get everybody there. The trips are announced by surprise. I give teasers out and from there we open up, and it's on a first come, first pay basis. The trips have become almost contest-like to even get into them. They sell out extremely fast. Our last two trips that we announced were to Rio in February, and India in March. We announced them at our one year anniversary party, and the place went crazy. We opened up buying the next day, and we actually sold out of India in 15 minutes, and Rio in 30. It's crazy.
Just get off your ass and START.
I don't really have blocks. I just start. I find with more and more people that I know that that's the hardest thing for them. You've got to just start. You can perfect it along the way. I always say the biggest disease that people suffer from is analysis paralysis, where they will sit there and analyze something and they don't move. I think the majority of humans walking this earth probably deal with this. Luckily I'm a risk taker. I'm also an Aries, and a very type-A personality, and we kind of jump head first and think later so I think it's very good that I'm at the head of this, because there is not something at the head of this that is going to think it to death. I have people on my team who are more analytical than me, and they are like, "Let's see how realistic this is." It's always about finding that middle ground, but I am by far the biggest thinker and the quickest jumper out of my entire team, and I like it that way. If it messes up, it comes back on me, and it will be alright at the end of the day anyways.
How to truly listen to constructive criticism and use it to your advantage.
I approach all disappointments as lessons. It's important to get feedback. It's important to get constructive criticism. I think one of the hardest lessons that I've had to learn this year is how to navigate a ton of opinions. Each member may have a different idea of what they want to see the Tribe turn into, and that may not be entirely aligned 100% with everything that we want to do, but there's got to be a forum in which you can hear back from the people to receive criticism. The key is to still keeping it so you're still in the position where you execute it, and it's still yours. I think finding that middle ground, and listening to people but not necessarily internalizing everything is good. Once you start internalizing everything and letting it get underneath your skin, you're going to start tweaks based on every elses' vision of your idea except for your own. That can be a very dangerous and damaging place to be in. It's important to get thick skin, and learn to deal with constructive criticism.
Getting through adversity means moving through it.
I had a particular experience this year that was very rough to deal with. The approach that the person used to get their point across was mean. It wasn't constructive, it wasn't divied out from a place of love and appreciation. It was just somebody spewing negative anecdotes all at one time, and it was very hard to handle especially because I considered that person close to me. There has been some rearrangements. You have to move with the ebb and flow. You have to be real with yourself. If something doesn't feel right in your gut, you got to trust your instincts and move with that. You have to figure out why. It's not going to be pretty. Friendships might end. I've had friendships made and end this year and that's just real. But you have to keep to the integrity of your vision and yourself. That's a big thing, especially for women because we're the more emotional oriented species. I may be sitting there and have to be super stern on a business email and I may be crying reading it. It happened at least twice this year. You have to play that fine line, and just be open to fucking up. You have to be open to falling on your face a little bit, and picking it up and have a sense of humor about it, and allow yourself the cushion to be able to know that you're learning. That's the biggest thing because I'm a perfectionist. We're doing a bunch of firsts, not just within ourselves, but within the entire industry. We're innovative. With that sometimes you're just going to fuck up, and you're just going to have to roll with it and fix it.
Figure out your priorities, and be honest about what they are.
My business is always first, because that's my child. Messing with it is literally the equivalent of somebody fucking with my child. I was actually in a relationship earlier this year. That ended by the summertime. What I found so funny about us interacting with one another was that he's also an entrepreneur. We used to defer our arguments if it affected our work at that time, and argue about it later.
You have to have people around you who get that. It is unorthodox. One of the things I say, and personal relationship-wise, the person that I get married to must be an entrepreneur. It doesn't have to be their all, but I want that passion, and I want them to have ownership of something. Those are the unwritten and unspoken values that you both share innately because you're cut from the same cloth.
Business is very much like a religion actually. If you want to talk about something that you have to have faith in, you have to bet everything on yourself, especially when you don't have much to give except for your idea, and your work ethic--that's faith.
Balance your physical, emotional, spiritual life with your business.
I run back home and cuddle under my mother every few months. It's funny because where I grew up Poughkeepsie, I used to be like "this place is so wack." Now as an adult, I'm really grateful for the place that I grew up, because I can get on a Metro North train and an hour and a half later, I am in a place that's just quiet. It's a safe haven that is a big balance for me. When I need to freak out and scream and cry and get it all out, my mother is the person that I turn to, but my team is also there.
Find a sustainable stress reliever!
I have to make sure that I take care of myself and get enough sleep. I have to work out. When I get a big stress build up, I'm one of those people where I'm just functioning off of pure unadulterated energy, and I need that release in a positive way. I can always tell when I'm teetering. I'm actually in this space right now because of the insane deadlines I've had recently, but I need to get back into working out. It's the biggest thing that keeps my mind and body sharp and helps release me. My sleep is better when I work out. That's a big thing for me. Also I'm a huge journal writer. Gosh, I just started my 17th journal. I have the last decade of my life on paper. That's my therapy.
Keep believing, and have faith against all odds.
It’s interesting because we’re at that cusp. We’re at that point where everything is getting ready to blow. And I know it. And when you know it, it’s like ,“Damn, let me just be able to pay my rent this month.” I’m having these meetings with people who are professional investors, run things like hedge funds. Mind you, I’m not a business-person. I preface all of my meetings by saying, “I’m a creative that had an idea and moved on it. And it’s really cool, and it’s taken off.” I said, I am learning the business aspect of this along the way. Yesterday I just filed my first sales tax quarterly return. I said, “This is crazy.” But all of these things are just affirmations and confirmations that we’re going in the right place and the right way.
I haven’t heard one person, professional or not, say that this is a bad idea, or “you should really reroute.” If anything, I run into people who say, “Damn, I wish I could give you advice, but you are like ten steps of ahead of anything that I could tell you. Just keep going.”
Don't accept gifts from just anybody. Sometimes a gift is a burden.
Everybody says that my biggest issue with Nomadness as we look into funders and investors is not IF we’re going to get the money, it’s who we get it from. It’s almost worse to take money from the wrong investor than not getting the money at all. For Nomadness, I need someone who is going to be passive, give me the money and let me figure this out. We don’t need somebody who wants to to be part of every move and who we need to get clearance from to do anything. We need somebody who already entrusts in me and the vision of Nomadness.
Don't be an overzealous, undirected sales person.
These meetings that I’ve been having with people, I’m not pitching them. We talk about it, but I’m not pitching them. That’s the thing about me. I don’t want the second time that you’re meeting me in your life, to be me trying to sell you on something. Get to know me. I want that person 100% comfortable. You don’t go out on your first date with somebody and ask them for a million dollars. You have to have a sense of foreplay with the people that you want on your corner. And you have to let them know who they are.
Finessing relationships genuinely.
I actually got pretty pissed yesterday because I wrote something about the conversation that I had with this guy and somebody had commented on my Facebook page, and they had commented and said, “Success is only when they write the check." I was just like, you are missing out on a complete facet of building relationships. I really wanted to go in on this dude. If you do not feel or think that getting large amounts of money is not directly influenced by the relationships that you have with people, you’re insane. You are insane! That’s essentially what I really wanted to put in colorful language on my page to this dude. I’m like, “If I don’t know you, I’m not handing you two million dollars.” Flip the page, and if somebody is asking you for that money, what do you want to know about them? You want to know THEM. Not just their business or what they’re selling. That’s something that I think people disconnect on that they should really pay attention to. Sure it’s about who you know, but it’s also about getting to the guts of who you are, and being okay with that.
Keep living passionately, and the right folks will come to you!
I met with an investor last night, who was a really cool guy. The conversation went from professional to candid very quickly. He told me, “You have a way of making people do shit.” He’s like, “You got me to drive all the way from where I live to come meet you, and I only met you for 5 minutes a couple of days ago.” He just looked at me at the end of it and said, “You’re going to get everything that you want. Absolutely everything that you’ve put out here, you’re going to get."
Advice by Evita Robinson, compiled by Boyuan Gao
Have you heard of Nomadness? Well if you haven't, you most definitely will soon. My boy brought Evita Robinson over to my place for a heated game night one evening over a year ago. He insisted adamantly that I talk to this woman, and upon officially meeting her over an impassioned game of Taboo, I totally got it. Evie Robbie, as her friends call her, is a goddess of world travel. In 2010 she created a travel web series, and by 2013 (at press time), she clocks in over 4000 members in her closed international travel group Nomadness Travel Tribe--a Facebook based online community for travel enthusiasts like us--and by "us" I mean the culture-curious, young adventurers who prefer off-the-beaten-path travel over big resorts. The biggest perk of being invited as a member to the Tribe is that you get dibs on the amazing trip packages that Evie organizes for the travel group to amazing destinations around the world. There is a very special bond that Tribe members get to experience when they are journeying together to foreign destinations. If you are about that life, check them out. This is a woman who walks the way she talks. By the time of this interview, she had been featured in Ebony and Clutch Magazine for Nomadness. It's near impossible NOT to believe her because her work is a reflection of her greatest passion, her truest higher self, and satisfies a huge void in the international travel community. All of that in mind, I couldn't bear to dwindle down this awesome interview because of the great take-aways that NEED to be shared. Here I've broken it into two pieces--1) the Feature Interview below and 2) a Creative Resource piece, for budding entrepreneurs who can gain from Evie's dope advice. I promise, you won't want to miss it.
How did you come up with the idea for NomadnessTV, the web series?
I was out in Japan for a year. I had a year teaching contract out there, and ten months into teaching and seeing that no one from home was going to come out and visit me, I was like, "I get it.” It's a hella long flight and extremely expensive place to come visit. I then thought, I need to bring Japan to them, and decided the easiest way to do that was social media. It was cool to be able to share my experiences with friends and family, and let my mom know that I was alive. After a while of cutting little vignettes of my travel experiences, I started to touch into my actual network of people that I knew who worked in TV and media to pick their brains.
I realized when I was out there in Japan, before moving to Thailand for a little bit, there was no travel group or organization that I felt like I wanted to be part of. I thought they were dry and boring, and didn't feel like there were a lot of groups that I could relate to. There was nothing for any type of crowd that I came from, or anybody who looked like me. That was the same paradox that I was finding when I was traveling. As I was backpacking by myself, there weren't that many people of color out there. There were a lot of women traveling by themselves, which was interesting to me, because there are so many stigmas and preconceived fears of what it's like to be a woman out there traveling alone, especially backpacking. I was learning a lot of new dynamic. Travel was something that I was interested in, but I didn't know that my entire career/life/business was going to soon be worked around it.
How did The Travel Tribe form?
I stay coming up with these crazy ideas. One day I was like, I can't find the community that I want to identify with, so I'm going to create it. I graduated in 2006, and when everybody else was looking for a job, I left. I moved to Paris, and I stayed half a summer with one of my best friends from high school. I did a filmmaking workshop with the New York Film Academy. It was really on that trip that I realized that the travel bug was in me. It bit me and lodged itself under my skin. I made a promise to myself to bridge travel with my love for TV, mass media, and my love for talking. I've always had a big mouth and an opinion to follow it. I wanted to bring those things together naturally.
The first NomadnessTV web episode aired online on February 26th 2010. I did not launch the Nomadness Travel Tribe until September 28, 2011. There was a nice buffer of time between the two, for me to think of the idea of creating a community. In the beginning, Nomadness was very me, me, me! It was very Evita oriented, which also stems from the fact of me always wanting my own travel show. Soon after, creating a community for other people became very important because it wasn't just about me, but it was about exploring the a bigger dialogue with people.
You earlier stated that other travel communities represented in the media don’t represent people like you. How would you go about defining who you are?
I was born in Albany. I Left there shortly after my parents split. I grew up in Poughkeepskie, New York, and I went to Iona college in New Rochelle. Right after graduating I dipped to Paris. I've been a Bronx resident for the last five or six years very intermittently between international travel, where I've been gone from a number of months to a year or more in a chunk of time. I've always come back to The Bronx. There's just an urban appeal that I always love. I'm apart of the hip-hop generation. I wanted to create something for people like me. I couldn't find anything that I felt was really gauging or effectively hitting that community and representing it well.
I'm educated. A lot of the people that I roll with are educated people. It's not hip-hop in the sense of your pants sagging, and you have no form of higher education. I want to represent hip-hop in a positive light. I didn't want to create "the black travel group." I tell people that all the time, and I stick by that. If anything, it's about people with an urban appeal, because I lived in Japan for a year, and I can show you urban that is very much not black. For the sake of media and a lot of entities, it all kind of gets clumped together, and I want to show that there is room for it all. There is differentiation, and there is a bigger umbrella, and I never want to pigeonhole myself. I think the demographic that we attract is natural, but I'm not trying to keep anyone out on a diversity realm. I feel like there is stuff that a lot of people from different walks of life can take from it.
What is the number one factor that makes you interested in exploring different cultures?
It started right after I graduated from college. I am the only person in my family that does what I do. Most of my life I existed in a single parent household—just me, my mother, and my brother. We're not that close with my mother's side of the family, but we forged relationships with them as we got older. My grandmother is white and Western European on that side--I think mostly Irish, Italian, and Dutch. My mother's maiden name is German. My father's side of the family is African American, but there's a lot of Native American on both sides, and I just found out within the last 12 months that my grandma's last name is French, and we also have Indian in us too. I think that breeds a little--at least subconsciously--into why I'm so curious. It's a child-like quality that's never left. That fuels a lot of me wanting to see new places.
How were you bit by the travel bug?
I went to a very affluent, very Caucasian school. I used to go to house parties and my very affluent friends would talk about how they spent the summer in Spain or Italy studying abroad, and things like that. I remember one day, I had had it. I made this silent promise to myself, and I said, "One day I'm going to be able to participate in these conversations. I don't know when. I don't know why, but I feel like I'm missing out on something." It's always funny now, because when I see those same people, they don't even want to talk about travel around me anymore. My stories blow them out of the water [laughter]. It's the little things that become your motivations.
How did your membership spread so fast and far?
I remember having conversations with one of my best friends who's in the Tribe, Stephanie O'Connor, I said, "I started this website, I want to create a social network. It's going to be like Facebook, but it's for travelers. She reminded me that, "It's just you." Again, I think grandiose. She told me, “Maybe you just want to start it as a Facebook group.” I hated Facebook groups. I only really pay attention to about four or five that I'm in. My whole thing was, I don't want just anybody in it. There's got to be some sense of exclusivity to it. That's where the whole idea of our members needing to get at least one passport stamp to even get in the group came about. We want the members to already understand the importance in it once they're invited, so they'll value it.
The Tribe started with a friend telling me that I was getting a little bit ahead of myself and to scale back a little. It ended up being a great resource, especially because my network through the web series was already fostered on Facebook.
How many countries are you represented in now?
At this point, we're approaching three dozen countries with people who are either from there, or are ex-pats and live there now. We have a huge saturation in the United States, which is probably our majority, but we have a number of people in UK, France, South Korea, Japan, and Brazil is one of our biggest hubs.
When I first met you, you invited me to a Tribe Meetup, and it was huge! Is that happening all over the world?
All over the world on a weekly basis. About four or five months ago, I was talking to the High Counsel, and we projected that it was going to get to a point where there's going to be something going on with the Tribe every single week. It's been like that for almost the last two months now. Literally there is something going on somewhere in the world at least once a week. I give them the freedom to create Meetups that are not micromanaged. There is usually a person in the region who wants to be the organizer. I think giving them that freedom, they cherish it and they really respect the movement, so they represent well.
What is it that you hope for Nomadness in 5 years?
I want Nomadness--this is going to happen this year actually--we have to get off of Facebook. The investor money and what I’m going for right now is twofold for 2013: to get us off of Facebook and into our own online entity that we are building right now, and for myself and high counsel and anyone else that comes on staff to be able to get paid for it so we’re living off of it, and it’s turning a profit. Another goal is to have the Nomadness merchandise in stores. I would love an H&M or Uniqlo placement. That’s a big thing for me, as well as television. Like I said, the Tribe is for everyone. The TV thing is a very personal goal for me, and something that I have been fighting for longer than any other aspect of Nomadness, and we’ve made some amazing headway in these first eight weeks of this year. I think we are going to have all of it by next year. I feel that 2013 is the year that Nomadness is going to blow up. I don’t want anybody ever to be able to think of travel and not think of Nomadness. Literally, we are going to flip this travel industry on its head. That’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s young and innovative. When I say young--I don’t even mean solely age. I mean energy. There’s just a youthfulness to these people regardless of age. It's the appeal of this location independent lifestyle, and people really taking back their lives.
I signed up for a lot of things with Nomadness, but what I didn’t sign up for was how many people in the course of a year put posts up talking about how inspired they are with the story that they’ve quit their 9-5 jobs and moved abroad. I’m like, I didn’t sign up for that. It’s one of those really cool side effects and I think it’s only going to get bigger, and it’s only going to get more inspiring and more powerful. I think going into 2013, we’re going to have more control, and we’re going to be in more places. That’s the goal well before 2015.
Wow. I totally believe you.
Interview by Boyuan Gao
Photos courtesy of Evita Robinson
Check out Part II, The Unyielding Pursuit of a Travel Entrepreneur--Lessons From Evie Robie in Creative Resources.