Style Observer

Oneika Raymond's In Top Flight

By Vaughn GRAY

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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Born in Canada to Jamaican parents, Oneika Raymond didn't catch the travel bug until her sophomore year, when she did a year abroad in Paris. For many children of immigrants, travel is perfunctory: a plane is boarded during the summer to visit cousins abroad. Over Christmas, a visit to somewhere remote to see distant kin. And, if luck would have it, a trip to another continent to celebrate graduating from college.

For Raymond, it was during her time in Europe that she began travelling for leisure. “My mom ran a tight ship and in order to explore the world, travel had to have an educational component,” said Raymond, speaking to Style Observer (SO) from Bryant Park. Raymond had only the day before returned home to Manhattan from a seven-day trip to Uganda and Rwanda. It's clear that she's a seasoned traveller: 30-plus hours of travel did not render her jet-lagged.

Since her year abroad in 2003, Raymond has visited 108 countries and has lived in Mexico, France and Hong Kong. Thailand, Brazil, Hong Kong and France are among her favourite countries. She runs a successful and award-winning blog, Onieka the Traveller, has high social engagement on her Instagram account and hosts two shows for the Travel Channel Big City, Little Budget and One Bag and You're Out.

In Big City, Little Budget, Raymond and (sometimes) co-host Katie Quinn, eat, drink and entertain themselves in tourist hotspots in the US without breaking the bank. The show is fun and informative. Featured guests on One Bag and You're Out, meanwhile , are shown by Raymond how to travel with, you guessed it, one bag. From a savvy travel backpack for a weekend trip to one suitcase for an entire semester abroad, Raymond shares packing tips, wardrobe suggestions and essential products that will make travelling a breeze. Well, as breezy as security checkpoints and flight delays will allow.

Raymond's shows can be streamed on the Travel Channel and HGTV websites as well as YouTube and Facebook. This digital-first strategy is targeted at a millennial audience that does not “tune in” to watch shows in real time.

The adventure travel space is predominantly occupied by white men. From Phil Keoghan ( The Amazing Race) to Bear Grylls ( Man vs Wild), it is rare to see a woman of colour holding her own in this arena. “My mother instilled in me not to be limited by my race, socio-economic standing or gender,” said Raymond. “There is power in putting your story out there. I want black women to live their best lives and not to be limited by the skin they are in.”

In 2016 Raymond moved to New York City with her German husband, whom she met in Hong Kong. (Fun fact: Raymond and her husband Liebling played mas with Xaymaca in Jamaica Carnival this past April. He loved it and wants them to return next year.)

Teaching afforded Raymond a comfortable lifestyle and allowed her to live in and travel to exotic locales. However, she wanted this new city to come with its own adventures. So she decided to start a travel blog. “I gave myself a year to make it work,” said Raymond. “I bought a camera and taught myself how to shoot and edit and just started creating and publishing content.” The digital space allowed Raymond to create her own content and tell her story of “a black woman out in the world doing things” to those who see themselves in her.

Six months after starting to publish self-produced content, the Travel Channel came knocking. Execs at the cable station e-mailed to say that they had their eye on Raymond and were interested in developing a web series with her. Also, Canadian television station CTV approached her to be a travel correspondent on its popular morning show Your Morning.

Raymond has been hosting Travel Channel shows for a year-and-a-half. This, combined with her social media presence, has made her a dynamic travel influencer. In addition to her television work, she has been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, Essence, Ebony, National Geographic Traveler and on the BBC.

Oneika Raymond is looking forward to visiting her 109th country. She's constantly developing relationships with large travel brands as she continues to expand her own. At the forefront of each of her activities is empowering women who look like her. “There's more work to be done in the travel and leisure space and I want to wield my sphere of power to break down more walls for people of colour,” she stresses. Her mission is clear. She's focused. And this is no flight of fancy.

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