New York City native, Jewels Rhode currently works in healthcare marketing and advertising but is adored by people all over the world for her travel blog called, travelJewels that has been in existence for three years! We sat down with the travel-enthusiast to discuss her commitment to traveling and her favorite destination thus far!

What was it about traveling that made you want to commit to this?

For me, traveling equals wellness. Traveling became therapy for me. I got on my first flight when I was 20-years-old to Los Angeles for a spring break trip. My first international flight was for a study abroad in college to South Africa. That allowed me to see that there was this whole existence outside of my New York City bubble. It was very important for me to see because New York City is very diverse so I’m used to seeing all sorts of people and it’s easy to feel comfortable but traveling showed me that I should step outside my comfort zone, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

What inspired the creation of travelJewels?

I’m currently working in healthcare marketing and advertising so I was living in North Carolina. I studied at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I got my Masters in public health. What I didn’t realize was how difficult it was going to be for me to get a job after grad school, I was not expecting that because I worked really hard, I went to a top school, a great undergrad so I assumed that it would be a little easier but it took me awhile! I applied to over 50 jobs but it seemed like nothing was working out for me. I decided to think about my life beyond public health, my identity, and other things that interested me. A lot of people over the years said that I should start a travel blog and I always ignored it but this time it felt right. It felt like I was being forced to do something different, something outside of my norm, beyond the script! TravelJewels comes from that! I decided that it was going to be my creative and passion project. I really wanted to share my passion for traveling with people who don’t normally travel. There’s a lot that goes into traveling so I wanted to provide people with specific guides and details on how they can make travel apart of their reality.

I’ve been able to travel to 30 countries, all while working or being a student and I thought it was an important message to show people! You don’t have to quit your job to travel the world if you want to that’s great but it’s not the reality people have. TravelJewels represents: when life is telling you one thing but represents stepping outside your comfort zone to bring your ideas to life!

You’ve been to so many places; do you have a favorite you could tell us about?

I don’t even know if I can say one place. I’ll say two if that’s okay (laughs). All of them have left something special in my heart.

I would say South Africa because I was able to study and work there. In undergrad, I studied community health and social policy in Durban, South Africa. That program was very special to me because I got two different experiences. In grad school, I went to Cape Town and worked at the South African Medical Research Council, that was a different experience. Living there independently taught me a lot about myself and living in a foreign environment. I think it was special for me because it was with creating my blog where I was able to change the narrative about places that we see. There are a lot of misconceptions about Africa. It was amazing to go to South Africa and see such a different narrative. Not to say poverty isn’t there but that’s not the whole part of their narrative and that was very important to me because it sparked a curiosity in me. I saw that the country was misrepresented and wanted to see everywhere else for me.

Beyond that, I also love Peru. It is such a magical place! The biodiversity there, geographic landscapes, the people, food, history, everything is beautiful! Just to see Machu Picchu in person was mesmerizing. It looks like its been untouched and its crazy to think about how when it was created, it was without all the technological advances that we have now. Being there and seeing all the amazing landscapes reminded me that back in the day, we worked with nature, not against it. We saw Rainbow Mountain is a 17,000ft high, which was just discovered two or three years ago! We also went to Huacachina and explored there, it was overall an incredible experience!

Do you believe traveling the world has taught you anything about yourself or changed your outlook on life?

The biggest thing is that I am a nature person! Growing up in the city, I never hiked a mountain or anything. Going to South Africa, literally one of the first things I did was hike the Drakensberg Mountains, it blew my mind! I felt so at peace and close to God, it was such a spiritual experience, and it really awakened something that I didn’t know I had inside of me. It changed me, now every time I travel, I have to do something that requires hiking, a nice trail, or something in nature. It really makes me happy and brings me to peace.

Traveling taught me the importance of being in the moment. Every day is hard because I’ve always been a hard worker and doing a million things at once. It’s okay to be productive but also mindful and enjoy the moment you’re in. In traveling you’re kind of forced to do that. I think its good to take that in and apply that to everyday life as well.

Where do you hope to see yourself and travelJewels in the future?

I’m actually doing a group trip to Granada for Memorial Day weekend. I would love to do more of that. I’m slowly doing more one and one travel-coaching trip planning services just because I provide a lot of details and information on my website but some people want extra help. I want to fill that gap! I want to continue to disrupt negative stereotypes of places and show people the world. It’s possible to travel the world, you don’t need millions of dollars and you can make it work!

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