How CrushGlobal Helps Black Women See Themselves As They Travel The World
We’re sure you’ve read a piece or two by author Kristen Braswell on our site by now, but the LA-native does more than write travel pieces for Vogue, Architectural Digest, CNN, USA Today, and, of course, MadameNoire. She curates destination guides and group trips specifically for Black women — and men — to, as she put it, “experience the world as much as possible.”
Next month, Braswell, via her tourism company CrushGlobal, is curating a “Soulful” Paris Retreat that will take visitors beyond the typical sites in the city of lights and explore the Franco Afro-cultural roots rarely explored. Intrigued, and on the heels of the September 19 excursion, we decided to interview one of our own. Read on to learn Braswell’s inspiration for launching Crush Global, why she fell in love with travel, and how much of the diaspora you will experience on her upcoming Paris retreat.
When did you start Crush Global and why?
Five years ago, I was in Trinidad for Carnival with a glass of rum in my hand, feeling really inspired — probably in part because of the rum — just staring at the ocean. I remember thinking in that moment, “This is it. This is what I was put here to do.” I began to reflect on all of the incredible experiences I had around the world as a travel journalist; the information I acquired and reported about, as well as the people that I connected with in so many countries.
I wanted to be able to share those experiences beyond just writing articles or cool Instagram posts, and most importantly, I wanted people to believe that they could see the world too. I believe that traveling is just as, if not more, important than any diploma or degree. It is one of life’s greatest educators. It’s my life’s mission to help Black people experience the world as much as possible.
Who are your customers? What type of women usually go on Crush Global trips?
My customers are primarily Black women from all around the United States. The women who buy CrushGlobal guides or join me for group trips are typically between the ages of 21-45 and are looking to connect with other solo travelers, turn up or down, celebrate a special occasion, or just be able to book a trip with me and know that everything will be taken care of, from the moment they touch down to the location.
What places has CrushGlobal taken Black women?
Currently, I offer guides to Havana, Marrakech, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Grenada, and parts of Thailand. I have been to each of these places as a travel journalist and built relationships with locals and tourism boards to make sure people are really getting authentic experiences. CrushGlobal trips have included intimate conversations with Cuban dancers and Hip-Hop artists in Havana, reservations to exclusive rooftop dining in Tokyo, and secluded beaches with pink sand in Grenada. What I am most proud of with all of the guides is that they empower businesses, particularly owned by Black people. For example, I work with a Black woman who recently took two of my clients to a gospel brunch in Tokyo. They wanted to party and we made sure they pretty much danced each night until the sun came up. That’s how much I aim to make this a unique experience for all of my clients.
When did you fall in love with traveling?
I’ve always been curious about the world. I think it’s in part why I am became a journalist as well. I’m always looking for a story to write about. I was blessed to win a creative writing fellowship from Oxford University in England when I was 15. My mother supported my trip both financially and mentally by encouraging me to go. I’m forever grateful to her for that. Getting on that plane, experiencing the sights, food, and even discomfort at times made me realize how much there was to see and experience beyond my little Los Angeles block. It was like a bug I caught, and I’ve never looked back.
How did you begin travel writing?
I was working in the newsroom at ABC News at the time and found myself becoming emotionally withdrawn and frustrated with the stories the producers deemed newsworthy. It would be the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, but our lead story would be on Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan. I had just taken a trip to Jamaica and very nonchalantly asked my editor at the time if I could write about the experience. I was really just looking for something new to write about and knew that my passion for sharing information about traveling could fuel that. The editor said yes, and the rest was history. Since then, I’ve written travel features for Vogue, Essence, USA Today, CNN, Architectural Digest, and others. Last year, I won the Caribbean Tourism Award for best reporting on my coverage of Havana. That honor was a big “oh girl, you did that!” moment that I’ll never forget.
Has being an entrepreneur in the travel space increased or decreased your personal interest in traveling?
I don’t think my personal interest in traveling will ever change, just because there is always something to discover in the world. I have found that social media has made me a little exhausted with how travel is being presented, though. The influencer culture combined with orchestrated photo shoots has taken travel to a new level of being trendy. It’s definitely overwhelming at times to take in, and I always try to strike that fine line of being aesthetically cool as a brand while actually giving people the tools to travel and education about cultures and places around the world.
What’s the biggest barrier to travel for most of the Black women you encounter? How does CrushGlobal eliminate that concern?
The two main concerns I’ve found many Black women face when traveling are comfort and budget. We have a curiosity and desire to explore the world just like anyone else, but I think that the concern is usually whether or not a place is safe, welcoming, and affordable. My aim is to give people as much information as possible on the places they are interested in so that they can make an educated decision on if it’s a good fit. I’m also not going to break anyone’s bank! All of my services are incredibly affordable, especially in comparison to other travel companies on the market.
Talk about the travel guides you provide
Currently, I offer guides to Havana, Marrakech, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Grenada, and parts of Thailand. I know the word “curate” is so overused at this point, but that’s really the essence of the CrushGlobal brand: personalized guides that take the stress out of travel planning while at the same time empowering local economies abroad. My biggest seller is a four-day Havana guide. The client shares their budget and biggest interests in Havana, and I take it from there. Other guides, such as the Thailand one, are created for the traveler to pick and choose what activities they’d like to experience. You can learn more about each guide on www.crushglobaltravel.com.
Tell us about this upcoming Soulful Paris retreat.
The CrushGlobal Paris retreat will be from September 19-23. It will truly be an incredible getaway and includes activities like an African dance class, a day trip to the Champagne region to meet with France’s only Black champagne producer, a river cruise, meetings with Black women business owners in Paris, and of course, good food.
I call it a soulful retreat because there is a life to Paris I find very vibrant and diverse, in part due to its large immigrant community. Last time I was there, I took an AfroBeats dance class, ate at a Caribbean restaurant, and discovered a champagne brand owned by a Black woman. At the end of the day, it’s still a European city, but also very much has a vibe that is just so sexy and full of life and culture. You can learn more about what the retreat will include and grab a spot before it sells out here: www.crushglobaltravel.com/parisgetaway.
Paris is actually one of my favorite cities in the world to travel to alone. It’s been so romanticized that I think it seems a bit intimidating if you’re not boo’d up, but it is such a walkable and culturally rich place. In one day, you can visit some of the best museums in the world, people watch at a bistro with a good book in hand and five dollar wine in the other, have a picnic in one of its many parks, shop like you could never imagine, and of course, drink and eat what I consider to be some of the best food in the world. The French are never scared to use butter in their food, and I’m here for it.
What’s next for CrushGlobal?
Besides gearing up for the Paris trip in September, I’ll be hosting a group of women in Havana in October. I’m also collaborating with a few Black women in various places abroad to create incredible group retreats for 2020– and I’m not just saying that. I’m so excited to announce what’s next in the coming months. There will really be nothing else like it on the market for Black women interested in traveling.
Follow CrushGlobal on Instagram @crushglobal.
For more information on the upcoming Paris retreat, visit: https://www.crushglobaltravel.com/parisgetaway