“Don’t let the images in the media, or lack of, fool you. Don’t be afraid to be black, don’t be afraid to be woman.” – Alexxa Walker
I love seeing wanderlusts like myself. Especially women of color making the world their oyster. A couple weeks ago I reached out to Alexxa Walker – a fellow travel blogger and the face behind RAW TRVL. RAW TRVL cuts down to the nitty gritty by sharing unfiltered stories of Alexxa’s travel experiences across the globe and the untold stories of people she meets along the way. Her courage to pack up her bags and begin a new life as an expat in Zanzibar reeled me into her story. It’s one thing to write about travel. But to fully immerse yourself in being comfortable with the uncomfortable to me screams, “I’m living and breathing this!”
I’m all for women empowerment. So it was automatic inspiration after seeing Alexxa’s blog post feature on her IG page about Amal El Maslout – a self-taught Egyptian photographer as part of her weekly WCW series. Her series spotlights women around the world doing exceptional things (big or small) all while sharing their story one feature at a time.
I could talk your ear off about how amazing this young lady is, but that’s too much of a spoiler. I’ll leave the rest to Alexxa herself and guarantee you’ll leave inspired.
Who is Alexxa Walker?
Good question, I ask myself that everyday! I’d say Alexxa Walker is fluid. She is constantly changing her mind, her location, her ideas, her lifestyle among many other things. She contradicts herself, but don’t we all? She is a lover of learning new things, of silence and solitude, of art and travel, and currently working on mastering the art of travel.
What makes you jump out of bed every morning?
This usually varies depending on what I’m into at the moment. Over-arching, I would probably say food – I’m a pretty big foodie and by foodie I mean eater. But since I’ve been away from home for the last year, it’s really amazing waking up in new places, and you don’t really want to miss a beat. Although I’ve been in Zanzibar for several months now, this view never gets old. You just want to catch every minute.
How do you define inspiration?
Inspiration can be a lot of things for different people. For me, it’s usually a trigger for my creative process or flow. I’ve always had battles with anxiety to get started on work, whether it be a new article, video, essay or interview transcription. I also suffer from this thing that I think people call ‘procrastination?’ Ya that one. I suffer big time from that. Videography is still relatively new to me (4 years), and I find getting into visual editing to be much easier and enjoyable than any of the other work I do. Textual work is different. I went years without being able to write for myself. I couldn’t find any motivation. I largely rely on moments of inspiration to spark my creative process. This works similarly to what most people know as an ‘aha’ moment. It’s basically getting the ball rolling by having an idea come to you and running with it. This is obviously not ideal when you have deadlines! I can’t be waiting for an idea to just come to me, try explaining that to your boss. But that’s how I find my inspiration, or maybe better said, it finds me.
What inspired you to become a travel blogger?
I’ve been talking about blogging for years. I blogged for a couple years prior for a Montreal based blog, so it wasn’t all that new to me. I’ve always had a love for Journalism. I applied for my university’s Journalism program twice and both times got rejected. It is quite competitive (I swear I’m not a bad writer). That’s how I got into Communication Studies and was introduced to videography and photography. Since my first trip abroad five years ago, I’ve been in love with travel. It has been a great form of self-exploration, meditation, discovery and of course, indulgence. In essence, RAW TRVL was conceived by combining two things that I was really passionate about: writing and travel. I really just wanted to share different views and realities from around the world.
How did you build up enough courage to move from your hometown Montreal to Zanzibar?
I always planned on moving out of Montreal once I graduated from college. I finished my last exam in May 2016 and was on a plane less than three weeks later. What I had not planned was actually staying in Zanzibar. One of the most liberating things about long-term travel is that you can stay where you want when you want to. That is how I ended up staying here. I met my boyfriend during my first stay here in September. I was supposed to stay here for two weeks, I cancelled and extended for six. I then decided to return in December and have been here ever since! I plan on journeying on to Australia next month, which you can imagine, I have very mixed feelings about. I developed a deep connection with Zanzibar and the people here. It has really become my home. But I know I’ll be back.
What have you learned about yourself as an expat living in Zanzibar?
I learned to be more open and patient. I’ve always been both, but I think while living here I’ve grown in both ways to a different extent. The culture here has many contrasts to that from Montreal. But once you stay around and look a bit deeper, you start seeing the similarities. One of the larger differences though is time. In Montreal, we are very time oriented. You have class at eight, have a fifteen minute break at quarter to ten, have a meeting at one, a conference at two. Being organized and scheduling has become so engrained in our society. On the other hand, here in Zanzibar, you can plan a meeting for Tuesday and only have it on Friday. Food can be served between half an hour to two hours after ordering. Someone can show up to work 2 hours late, or just not at all, without saying a word. It has taken time for me to adjust, and I’m still adjusting. But I’m learning to take my time, to enjoy moments without running by the clock, to let things happen.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be and why?
Don’t let the images in the media, or lack of, fool you. Don’t be afraid to be black, don’t be afraid to be woman. Read books with black heroines, read books by black authors. Growing up, I saw absolutely none of this. My mom was the only one that I knew that read novels with minorities at their center, but other than that, the only person of color I saw in the media was Jasmine from Aladdin. That was the only princess I could be, the only visual character I could relate to (and I’m not even Indian). Only in recent years, after studying media, gender and feminist studies, have I really understood the harm in not seeing yourself in what you read or watch, in the absence of seeing yourself in media. I always felt such a disconnect from these characters and stories, but this was something I thought to be normal. It is only recently that I have really grown to accept and love myself wholly, which I also discussed in one of my blog posts. Travel has also helped me with that. This is why I try featuring different types of women in my work because women of all colors should know that they can travel, they can be heroines, they can be bosses. That they don’t have to be damsels, but can be queens.
Who is your role model and how do they inspire you?
One of my biggest role models is my grandmother (I call her Mom). She is so strong and such an inspirational woman. I spent my first years growing up following her around since both my parents were working, and she had a great impact on me. I was extremely shy when I was young and kept myself away from people. Mom was the person that really pushed me in being comfortable with myself and in my own skin.
What is an accomplishment you’re most proud of and why?
I am probably most proud of some of the work that my Communications team and I did in Gulu. We were working for a NGO called CEED where we focussed on sharing success stories within the Gulu community on our radio show. It was not always easy, but I think it was really great for the people in the community to hear the successes around them – especially since Gulu was highly affected by war not long ago. Many of them are still putting their lives back together, and it’s always important to highlight positivity during tough times.
How do you overcome fear?
Fear is usually of the unknown. In overcoming fear I try to understand what I’m afraid of. Once you make sense of what you’re afraid of, whether it be jumping out of a plane, making a public speech, or getting onto a plane, it does not feel so foreign to you.
In what ways has travel positively impacted your life?
Travel has made me more open and patient, learning how to accept myself. It has also helped with me dealing with anxiety, which at times wins and other times loses. Again, it’s just understanding what I’m feeling tense about, trying to make it more familiar and letting it pass.
What does the phrase “Keep Shining” mean to you?
To me, “Keep Shining” means keep doing you. Keep learning, keep making mistakes. Keep growing and dancing and losing yourself and then finding it. I mean if you’re already shining, why do differently?
I am unapologetically authentic because…?
I am me.
ABOUT ALEXXA WALKER:
Alexxa is a Montreal bred visual and textual storyteller and the creator of RAW TRVL. She has been living a nomadic lifestyle for over a year now and is currently based in Zanzibar, Tanzania. When she is not looking for her next story, she is usually exploring surrounding cultures, hiking new trails or bathing in some vitamin sea. You can follow her travels at www.rawtrvl.com.