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 destinations 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 was 20-years-old when I got on my first flight when I got on my first flight to Los Angeles for a spring break trip. My first international flight was to study abroad in South Africa during my junior year of college. That experience allowed me to see that there was this whole existence outside of my New York City bubble and highlighted the importance of stepping outside of my comfort zone.
What inspired the creation of travelJewels?
I studied at UNC-Chapel Hill, where I got my Masters of Public Health in Health Behavior. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be for me to get a job after grad school. I was not expecting to struggle in the job market because I worked really hard, I went to a top school, and a great undergrad. 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. I thought deeply about my identity and other things that interested me. A lot of people over the years suggested 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, something beyond the script! travelJewels was born from this reflective process. I really wanted to share my passion for traveling with people who don’t normally travel. There’s a lot that goes into traveling and 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 most people have. travelJewels 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.
South Africa, because I was able to study and work there. In undergrad, I studied community health and social policy in Durban. During graduate school, I worked at the South African Medical Research Council in Cape Town, which was a completely different experience. Living there independently taught me a lot about myself and living in a foreign environment. It was special for me because it sparked a curiosity in me to see the world for myself rather than rely on misrepresentations propagated by the media. 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 their entire narrative.
Beyond that, I also love Peru. It is such a magical place! The biodiversity, diverse geographic landscapes, the people, food, history, everything is beautiful! Just to see Machu Picchu in person was mesmerizing. It looks like its been untouched. It’s crazy to think about how it was created, 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 hiked Rainbow Mountain which is 17,000ft high, and just discovered two or three years ago! We also went to Huacachina, a desert oasis in South America, and explored there. It was an overall incredible experience.!
Do you believe traveling the world has taught you anything about yourself or changed your outlook on life?
The biggest thing traveling has taught me about myself is that I am a nature person! Growing up in NYC, 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 so much peace.
Traveling has taught me the importance of being in the moment. I’ve always been a hard worker that tends to do a million things at once. In traveling you’re kind of forced to be mindful and enjoy the moment you’re in. It is a good lesson 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 Grenada for Memorial Day weekend. I would love to do more group trips. I’m slowly doing more one on one travel-coaching and trip planning services. I provide a lot of details and information on my website, but some people want extra help. I want to fill that gap! I also 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, you can make it work right where you are!
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All images provided by Jewels Rhode