“Black People, We Can Get Into Whatever We Want:” Kellee Edwards On Changing The Face Of Adventure Travel

October 12, 2017  |  

Last night, the Travel Channel aired a new series called Mysterious Islands, hosted by adventure travel enthusiast Kellee Edwards of Kellee Set Go! Kelle is only the second Black woman to have her own show on the network (Queen Latifah being the first), and with her new show she’s not just showing the masses that Black people travel — some people still don’t believe we do — she’s also demonstrating that white men aren’t the only ones who like to get their bathing suits dirty when they go abroad.

As a pilot and scuba diver, Kellee’s mission at every location she travels to is to explore it by land, air, and sea. Here she talks to us about changing the face of adventure travel and how having a passport can truly change your life.

MadameNoire (MN): What’s Mysterious Islands all about?

Kellee Edwards (KE): There are over 100,000 islands in the world and we only visit a small percentage of them, so I’ll be visiting the ones you may have heard of and most of the ones that you have not. These are places off the beaten path, that don’t have much tourism, if any, going on, so I’m fortunate for the people of these places to open up their culture to me — their experiences and their traditions and the way they live life.

I am an adventure traveler; I’m a pilot so I fly small planes and a scuba diver so while I’m learning about the culture and the traditions of these places, I’m also having these amazing adventures. You’ll see in some of the episodes I’m flying in with this little plane and landing right on the island. I’ll be scuba diving in a lot of these places, seeing what the heck’s going on under the ocean.

MN: How does it feel to be the only Black woman with a show on the Travel Channel right now?

KE: It’s no secret that the Travel Channel is very aware of the type of television they’ve put out for the past 10-15 years. They’ve had the same amazing talent for a long time and adventure travel is a space for, usually, older, white males. They dominate that field and for me to be able to penetrate this space, I’m super happy because I think it’s important to know Black people, we can get into whatever we want to. People love to pigeonhole us, we have so many stereotypes out there, like about us not knowing how to swim or not wanting to get our hair wet, and while some of that may be true, there are people out there like me who throw caution to the wind. I’ll worry about my hair later. I don’t want to miss out on an adventure because I’m worried about my appearance in that moment. You can always get your hair fixed but you can’t always go back to a place and experience that time so I really, really love the fact that I’m able to broadcast as a Black female adventurer. I’m about to get it in. Anything that you can think about getting your hands on, I’m going to do it.

MN: When did your love for travel begin?

KE: I’m a tomboy, so as a child I was building forts and making mud pies. I loved being out in the woods, my parents would take me camping. I took a lot of road trips as a child because that’s what my parents could afford. My mom got her passport in her late 40s, early 50s because she was like, “I wanna go with you,” and I was like, “Well, we gotta get you a passport mom.”

I am originally from Chicago and I made my first real road trip to California on the Greyhound bus and it was like three days. As an adult, Greyhound’s rough, but as a kid it was an adventure, to see these different landscapes, it just opened up my eyes to the fact that there’s so much out here.

MN: What’s the best thing about traveling as much as you do?

KE: For me, personally, it’s not always about the places, it’s the people. The people truly reveal the destination, more than you running around and seeing monuments and sites. So much of the culture and the history is embedded in the people that they pass down from family members and that’s where I really learn so much about traveling and myself.

It’s easy to take advantage of things that are everyday things for us but when you go to these places it makes you really think about how you’re living your life. Like, first off, do we really need everything that we have to make ourselves happy when these people are really living on not much of anything? As Americans, we live in excess — we really do — so when I travel it humbles me. It makes me realize happiness comes from within and not the material things we tend to trip over here in the states.

MN: Amanda Seales sparked a debate earlier this week when she said, “If you’re buying Jordans and Nike Suits but you don’t have a passport, you’re losing.” What do you think about that?

KE: My message when it comes to travel is about encouraging people to travel. The way I live my life and travel, I hope it arouses people’s curiosity to want to go and see some of these things I’m experiencing. A passport is the real key to exploring the world beyond the United States for those who live here so I understood what she meant about having a passport. But I think the message didn’t come across the way I would’ve hoped people would’ve received it, which is people can do whatever they want to do with life, but anyone who has never traveled before, I guarantee when they take that first trip, something about that — they’ll feel like they were missing out or it’ll change them in some form. That’s what the power of travel is, it has the power to change you. You can go spend your money on purses and shoes and things like that, but once you jump over to the other side and you see what that passport can do, you will say, this is living my best life.

If you grew up and your friends and your family weren’t traveling, maybe that’s all you know. And that’s why I want to encourage people because sometimes it takes people to push you to have the initiative to want to see more and once you do if for yourself — and not because someone is telling you to get a passport — then you’ll understand why having a passport can be so important and changing for your life.

Check your local listings to catch Mysterious Islands on the Travel Channel.

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