Meet Alafia, aka THE QUEEN OF TRAVEL. She is only 23 years old, and is living a jet-setter's lifestyle. After attaining her undergraduate degree, she moved halfway-across the world to live and teach in Japan. Prior to that, she had lived in Germany and visited the Carribean country of the Dominican Republic. Let this interview serve as inspiration to travel beyond the borders of your country. Read on for more scoop on the Queen of Travel!
1.) You are a very adventurous young lady I must say, what sparked your interest in traveling beyond the boarders of your country?
I don’t know exactly what sparked it, but I always knew that I wanted to explore as many places as possible. When I was younger I would tell people that after I finished seeing this planet, I would go to another one.
2.) What made you start uploading videos on you-tube? You have two accounts on you-tube, ‘DearLifeChannel’s ‘and ‘Intro2the1′, please give us a brief description of each.
Intro2the1 first began as a promotional page for songs I had written in college. I didn’t keep up with it very much and was too shy to put myself out there singing to the world. Then I decided to use it as a way to show my family and friends my life in Japan (show them I was eating well and was in one piece). I had traveled before and in hindsight it would have been great, had I thought to use youtube earlier when I lived in the Dominican Republic and visited Germany and France.
When Intro2the1 had been hacked, I decided to make another channel using the name Dear Life. Just recently I’ve started using both of them. They serve as a way to share my travels and opinions with others. Some may not agree with everything I have posted but I feel like sharing my thoughts anyway J
3.) You went to Japan courtesy of the JET program as an ALT assistant, could you please describe the “awesomeness” of living and working in a completely new cultural environment?
I wouldn’t say awesome exactly….more “dreamy” than anything. The application process was difficult and I didn’t even think I would be chosen. I spent my first three months in a sort of shocked state of mind, thinking that at any moment I would wake up and find out it was all a dream. Japan is just like any other place in the world. It is unique and can offer a lot in regards to immersion into a different environment. It was almost like learning how to walk all over again.
4.) As an ALT assistant, you taught English in three different schools. How did you manage to juggle your schedule?
I actually taught at four schools (three elementary and one junior high school) and luckily I only had four. It is not uncommon for JETs in rural areas to have many many more. A friend of mine had 8 schools and another friend had 15. I couldn’t imagine keeping up with it all. The town I was assigned to did an excellent job of managing my schedule so that I could spend as much time with each school as possible. I really got to know my students individually. There was this huge board on my desk with my entire year planned out on my first day. Even though in the beginning it was a bit overwhelming, it made it a lot easier to plan lessons.
5.) Chronicling your experiences on you-tube brought about some unwarranted attention, like the “death-threat” in response to your inter-racial relationship. How have you dealt with some of the negatives of putting yourself out there? (If this is too personal a question, please with all due respect, IGNORE IT!)
No I don’t mind. In all honesty, I have grown an even stronger character because of it. Whether it was my relationship, my opinion, or even the fact that I was traveling anywhere outside of the US, someone always had something negative to say. At times I felt like I should just stop the Dear Life series because the negativity was getting to me. Then, as if fate had been called in, I received a message I will never forget. It was from a young lady who had just been accepted as a recipient of a study abroad scholarship. She told me that had it not been for watching my videos, she would not have had the courage to apply. She went on to say how most of her life everyone doubted that she could ever accomplish anything as a poor little black girl from a small town, especially not traveling to another country. But when she saw videos like mine, it gave her a sense of pride and hope that she could do the same. She said “I can do anything and go anywhere as long as I worked hard and kept a positive attitude.’ Needless to say that was the moment I decided [pardon me] to HELL with anyone who doesn’t like me or what I do. It is not my purpose to make you happy. These videos are for people like her, to encourage the defiance of labels, oppression, and all the things that keep young girls from reaching the stars. You haters can go kick rocks, you did not make me and I will be damned if I let you break me.
6.) In one of your videos I watched, “Dear Life: I failed my college exams” ,in which you provide words of encouragement to a young man that emailed you disappointed in their academic performance, you come across as a young woman wise beyond her years, what do you attribute that to?
My grandmother. She has been my guide through life and whenever asked to give advice I always think of her, and me asking the question. Her wisdom has come living a very “full” life. Full of happiness, full of pain, full of love, and full of everything else that makes life what it is to all of us. I’d also have to say… experience. Despite only being 23, there has been a lot in my life that forced me to grow up faster than others. I was lucky that my grandmother has always been here to guide that growth.
7.) Is traveling a passion of yours?
Oh absolutely! Ha! It might actually borderline obsession. I wake up everyday making plans for a new adventure. Reading travel blogs and magazines are one of my favorite past times. I don’t see myself ever stopping until I have touched every continent at least twice.
8.) What are five MUST HAVE’s when traveling abroad for you?
1.) My journal. I have been keeping them since I was twelve years old.
2.) The eulogy from my sister’s funeral. She died at 16 and was the only person to share my love for travel. She is my good luck charm.
3.) A pack of hot apple cider for those days when I get homesick, especially around family holidays
4.) A small tag with all of my important phone numbers just in case something happens
5.) A butterfly necklace that I bought the day I was evacuated from Hurricane Katrina. It reminds me of all my life’s blessings.
9.) Other than Japan, what other countries have you visited or are planning on visiting?
Besides moving to Puerto rico for graduate studies, I am set on spending some time in Mumbai, India and then in Lagos, Nigeria. My friend is working in Mumbai right now and sends me emails about it. I cannot wait to visit her in the coming year. Lagos will be my trip “home” my family has been able to keep much of the history of where we came from alive for generations. It is long overdue but I need to see where my people came from.
Besides those two on my list I have been to Germany, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, and France. I have yet to go someplace in South America but in August of 2011 I will be traveling in Chile and Brazil (schedule permitting)
10.) I noticed your hair is natural. What was your regimen like for your hair while in Japan? Were there any stores that offered products suitable for your hair type or did you always have it in protective styles?
I wasn’t natural until the last few months of my stay in Japan. Before then I was relaxed and always in protective styles (wigs and braids). I was six hours away from the nearest city with a military base. That was the only place that I could get any hair products. It was such an expensive trek that I ended up just making things myself. Then the relaxer and other hair problems made my hair fall out so I decided to chop it off and start again.
11.) How does it feel to have achieved so much at such a young age. You are only 23.
Being 23 sometimes shocks a lot of people when they talk to me but I don’t really think of myself as being that young. I just saw what I wanted and tried to plan the fastest way to get to it. I had a lot of support in college at Dillard University. The network of support I made during undergrad has been the catalyst to open doors in the international arena.
12.) What’s next for Miss. Alafia?
Lol Everything. I’m still on a journey of finding where on earth I fit so I keep on moving. I am also constantly working on being a better friend, girlfriend, student, and human being so even in my spare time these are the things I am doing. When I complete my MBA in two years I’ll be on to some place new. Maybe one day I will become an academic counselor who specializes in study abroad programs and gets grants to kids that want to get out and do something for the global community.
Watch Alafia’s interesting and inspiring videos on her official channel: