Kiona is on a mission not to let your travels be basic…
I chat with Kiona, one that has no filter when it comes to speaking out against race and cultural issues – and with a whole lot of sass too. After coming to the conclusion that people of colour were less often represented as authors in media, Kiona decided to change that by creating content to highlight her not-so-basic experiences travelling as a person of colour. Since then, her digital travel content platform has exploded to give other people of colour a platform to express their personal travel experiences.
More than just posing pretty in Insta-worthy shots, Kiona is on a mission to inspire action and change in how we all view the world through her thought-provoking critiques about social issues concerning people of colour.
Kiona, what was the moment where you first decided to blog and tell the world how not to basic?
Hey Julia! Thanks for asking. I first started How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch when I was a bottle of wine down and on the phone with my best friend after we got back from Nicaragua. At the time we were going internationally every month and generally disgusted by other American tourists that completely misrepresented what we believe in and what travel is about. So I started this blog as a medium to get my frustrations out and hopefully to inspire cultural awareness while traveling.
I first discovered you on IG and the first thing that stood out was “Damn you know how to keep things interesting” with your intertwining of sass and topical issues. What made you want to project your thoughts this way?
I never *thought* to do it that way, I just talk like I normally would talk.
So I think it’s important to say this blog turned travel publication turned news forum started out with me JUST talking to my friends and family. This website lived exclusively on my own private Facebook feed for a few months where I wrote like I spoke because I was just talking to my friends.
I created the Instagram because my friends were sick of me bombarding them with travel photos so I sought out a community of like-minded people. And this is how it came to be.
So what you see is literally what goes through my brain and the tone in which it is processed.
With your blog, you not only touch on your travels but also stigma’s surrounding your heritage being Austrian/Asian. Why do you think it so important for you to showcase your roots? (And with a whole lotta sass for that matter.)
For a long time, I tried to remain anonymous. If you scroll far enough back in my feed, I never posted my face! I didn’t release my name until a year and like 10K followers in or something like that. But it was around that time that I started featuring other authors and they were all really upfront with their identities, their names, their backgrounds, and I didn’t think it was fair to hold onto my privacy while they were being so vulnerable.
As I received more submissions, I thought to myself, wow, these people have such great things to contribute to the identity conversation and I have nothing really to say. Until I realized I did. I guess I never really thought my background was terribly interesting. But as soon as I started showing myself and digging deeper into my own personal feelings and experiences that negatively and positively affected me, and then sharing that with the universe, I realized how a lot of people do not live in my existence and would never know what I experienced if I didn’t tell them. And if I didn’t tell them, I couldn’t hold anyone accountable for not knowing.
So showcasing my roots is me being vulnerable, looking to connect and also to claim the privilege that each one of us has as an example of how not to hate your privilege but how to use it to uplift others.
What was the moment you realised you could turn your blog into a business (besides not being basic)?
So this website is NOT a business. I get at least five emails a day of people looking to advertise on the website and I won’t. I want to stay as far away from money as possible. I just felt that as soon as I started taking money, there would be a conflict of interest, a responsibility to uphold my brand a certain way, and just overall inauthenticity, which is the opposite of what I wanted. So for all intensive purposes, I wouldn’t call this a business.
I have gotten a ton of cool experiences and jobs outside of this website, such as creating content for OTHER websites and businesses. But those things don’t affect the content that gets showcased on How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch.
I’m not going to lie, though. It is a lot of work and right now I have a web manager and copy editor volunteering for free to upload and edit the pieces that go up. I also coordinate collaborations and host everything free of charge. I have thought a lot about starting a subscription service, just so I can pay my volunteers, but honestly, education should be free. So this website will remain that way and we will come up with another way to get them paid.
What has been the biggest learning curve with starting your own business?
Ok, so I have multiple businesses outside of this. The hardest part is ALWAYS starting. The starting part, the setting up part, the gaining traction part when you feel like no one is listening. But once that traction starts, it does not slow down and then you’ll find yourself struggling to keep up. But in everything I’ve done, the starting is the hardest.
So starting How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch required me learning social media, website building, search engine optimization, professional photography and editing, joining a million Facebook groups and talking to other bloggers about how to enhance content/shares/loading time/ etc. It also taught me community, how to interact with people online in a human way, how to handle conflict, how to respond to negative feedback, how to protect myself, how to collaborate and make everyone feel seen. I had to learn innumerable amount of skills in order to just get this thing off the ground.
You are on your quest to disrupt the blogging world with your no filter, BS attitude. What is the next step for How not to be a basic bitch?
The next step for How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch is to release a series of books for school-age children based on the content of the website. I realized the platform is education a lot of teachers and parents who are just learning to think critically and question what they’ve been taught. So I want to start this teaching at the ground level with children so they don’t have this learning curve as they grow up and start travelling.
As you are a digital nomad, what is your favourite co-working space?
I would say I’m half-and-half digital nomad. I have a home-base. My business doesn’t need me to always be here. I work from home or on the road most days. But I do need to be here some of the time.
I don’t co-work. I interact with 500,000 people a day. So talking to humans is a drain and a distraction. So I work mostly from my kitchen table haha.
Favourite book for non-basic bitch inspiration?
Oh good question! The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This philosopher has four simple (but hard af) rules to follow:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best.
I love these rules. I think they’re applicable to travel as well as your everyday interactions. I find it more and more important to follow this as the platform grows and as I become held more and more responsible for the content I put out.
Follow Kiona Making Shizz Happen:
Disclaimer: This page contains affiliate links that are at no additional cost to you – zip, none, nil! These snazzy affiliate links help me to make this website chug along nicely – because we don’t want this flamingo train to stop now do we? Let me help you (and you can help me too!).