As governments around the globe impose lockdowns and people self-isolate, coronavirus (COVID-19) has hit the travel industry hard. The World Nomads Travel Podcast has suspended its regular destination episodes and, in their place, offering a round-up of the major coronavirus-related travel headlines, including the future of travel.
00:41 How the Louvre will look post-COVID
01:48 The theory behind people who speak loudly
02:59 The book that inspired Ernest White
05:00 Foreign exchange in Sweden
08:30 The time before Instagram
10:15 Remaining connected
13:10 The billion-dollar question
15:54 Nothing wrong with woo hoo
16:45 Get in touch
“I do see travel resurging, but I'm hoping that it does so in a much more sustainable way where we're much more aware of our physical environment. We're intentional in how we get out into the world. We travel slower because all of that was necessary. And so I'm hoping this kind of awakens people to the needs of the planet.” - Ernest
Ernest White II is a storyteller, explorer, and transformational lifestyle designer who has circumnavigated the globe six times. He is the producer and host of television travel docu-series Fly Brother with Ernest White II, host of the travel- and culture-focused Fly Brother Radio Show, and publisher of multicultural travel portal FlyBrother.net. Ernest’s writing includes fiction, literary essay, and travel narrative, having been featured in Time Out London, USA Today, Getaway, Skylife, Ebony, The Manifest-Station, Sinking City, Lakeview Journal, The Pilgrimage Chronicles, Matador Network, National Geographic Traveler’s Brazil and Bradt’s Tajikistan guidebooks, and at TravelChannel.com. He is also a non-fiction editor at Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel, former assistant editor at Time Out São Paulo, and founding editor of digital men’s magazine Abernathy.
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Kim: In this episode, the filmmaker inspired by a childhood Christmas present, the latest with Airbnb, and why we should be avoiding those who speak the loudest.
Yep, an interesting theory that one. Hi it’s Kim and Phil with you thanks for tuning in, we will hear the story of Fly Brother shortly but we like to kick off the episodes with travel news
Phil: We expect things to look different post-COVID and that’s the case for one of the world’s most popular museums, the Louvre in Paris. When it finally reopens everyone, including staff members and visitors, will have to wear face masks. And about 20%-30% of the museum's rooms might be closed BUT the Mona Lisa will be open.
Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky has been quoted saying "near is the new far" moving forward with guests expected to book trips less than 80 kilometers, about 50 miles from home, and look for more affordable accommodation. In the US Airbnb properties renting for less than 50 US dollars are experiencing the fastest growth. We will share the article on how that sector will look in show notes.
Kim: Ok tell me about avoiding people who speak loudly.
Phil: As we social distance, a respiratory expert says the possibility of catching COVID goes beyond being coughed on. Dr.Tang says when you talk, you produce aerosol. If you talk louder, you produce more so according to the professor the loud-talking people on the train, plane, or bus could be the worst spreaders of the virus.
Kim: You may recall the episode with Olivia, the travel writer happily stranded in a bungalow in rural Thailand? Olivia introduced me to Ernest White the 2nd a filmmaker with a US TV Show Fly Brother which she worked on. All inspired from an early age after he was given what he describes as a dangerous little book for Christmas.
Ernest: ... Free Stuff for Kids. Yes. It was just a book that was given to me by the wife of the preacher of my church, Miss Estelle McKissick, I'll never forget her name, just a wonderful lady who was a lifelong educator as well. And she just gave me that book one Christmas. And it was the key to a new world. So in the book, there were the addresses of various tourism boards and convention and visitors bureaus for cities around the US states and different countries around the world. And if you sent them a postcard, they would send you back a packet of information. And this was, of course, pre-internet. I'd get these amazing things. I remember Singapore sent me this book that was ... every page was as big as a poster. And it was just embossed with this kind of gold card stock and just glorious pictures of the Lion City.
I remember getting something from the Principality of Monaco that was sealed with wax, and this is in the '80s in Florida. I knew nothing about waxed seals but I was kind of being introduced to a new world of possibility. And that was what was really kind of getting ... that's what got me in a traveling mood early on. And I think my parents were a little bit inspired as well, just watching me collect all of this information because they've since become travelers themselves. And it's just really ... it does kind of spread. That's why they call it a travel bug.
Kim: That's true. Well, you got excited about travel and you ended up in Sweden. Take us through that time.
Ernest: Yes. So as a high schooler, I remember seeing in movies and other media people hosting foreign exchange students or going on foreign exchange trips. And I remember when I was maybe in the 10th grade, I was walking in the mall with my parents and there was a stand for a foreign exchange company that did trips for high schoolers. And they also brought students into the US and I asked my parents if we could host a student and they were like, "No, but you can go." And so I ended up going to Sweden for the summer, between my junior and senior years of high school, the last two years of high school. And it was a life-forming experience for me.
I lived with a family for six weeks in the far north of Sweden. It was summer. So it was pretty much daylight around the clock. And it was a rural kind of experience. We were living outside of a smaller city. And I just remember mosquitoes and lingering sunsets and pine trees, but it was an experience that really kind of got me out of what I had known up to then. And I've never stopped really seeking that adventure.
Kim: Such a beautiful memory yet today we wake up at the time of recording to discover that Sweden has the most deaths per capita than any other country because they haven't enforced any real lockdown. How does that make you feel when you look at what's happening there?
Ernest: I mean, when you think about any kind of situation where ... It's always sad when you hear of people dying, right. But we've also got kind of this quality of disconnection occasionally where we say, "Oh, that's a shame," and kind of move on. But when it's a place that we know well, when it's a place that we know intimately, be it a problem with coming out of a pandemic or an accident or a natural disaster or whatever, it always hurts a little bit more when you know the place. And so all I can do is just really send heart energy and check in with my friends on the ground there and make sure they're doing okay and their loved ones are, and just be connected with them.
Kim: Well, that's what you're all about. Friends and connection.
Kim: So let's move on to then because after Sweden, you didn't stop traveling and you started a blog called Fly Brother, which has gone out of control, in a great way.
Ernest: Yes. It's turned into a ... it went from blog to TV show and who knew? I started that blog ... well, actually. Okay. So just a little ... a tweaked version. After I graduated high school, I went off to university, studied political science at university in Florida, Florida A&M University. And while I was there, I did a study abroad in the Dominican Republic. And that was my first kind of collegiate experience abroad. And I stayed there for a summer as well. And after that, I was really taken with Latin America, with speaking Spanish, the vibrant colors, and the culture. And so continued my education. I got my master's degree in creative writing in Washington, DC, and after that, I moved to Latin America just to kind of get my fill of it. And that was in 2005, I believe. I moved to Columbia. I taught English at the high school and university levels.
I taught social sciences, and I started a blog at that time while I was living there because people were always interested in what was happening in my life, what was going on. It was a time before Instagram and when blogs kind of had a greater heft than they do today. And it was also an easy way of telling people what was going on without having to respond to a lot of emails. And so what started off as just a chronicle of my life abroad as an ex-pat turned into ... and as a way of assisting people in traveling more, traveling better, getting out into the world. And so I added a service piece component to the blog as well. And eventually, it turned into Fly Brother, which now is a television series.
Kim: And the name behind Fly Brother?
Ernest: Well, it just kind of is a double entendre in old ...okay, not old, but in '70s American parlance, something fly is something that's very cool, it's hip. And of course, I do a lot of travel by air, hence the fly. And then brother is also kind of a euphemism for African American guys. And in addition to that, though, it speaks to my connectivity with people. The biggest thing I love to do when traveling is connecting with people. Some people love food, some people love to dance, and I love all of those things, but it's the connections, the community, the conversations, and the interaction that I take away with me whenever I leave a place that always has me going back to that place. And so in that way, that kind of makes me a brother, doesn't it?
Kim: Certainly does. We have spoken fortunately on the podcast, not necessarily during this pandemic period, but prior to, that's what people seek out. It's those conversations and meeting people. And they're the thing, the takeaways from your travel. It really does have a way of transforming you.
Ernest: Absolutely. And nowadays we've got the technology to remain in contact. Before we would make connections with people either by traveling or just through ... I remember there were directories of pen pals that you could have with people around the world, but you engaged in written correspondence, which is a lost art form, and it's beautiful, but it's also quite slow. The other option would have been a $6 a minute phone call twice a year, but now we've got social media, we've got WhatsApp, we've got ways of really creating a global community that we can be in contact with constantly. And that is why I feel like it's so important to really encourage other people to get out there, to get beyond the stereotypes, the borders, the fears, and really connect on a human level.
Kim: Fly Brother, the TV show, what places did you go to? And the types of stories you collected, is what I'm trying to say there.
Ernest: Oh, sure. Yes. Yes. So for Season One, we've got ten episodes now. We originally announced eight, but we've expanded to ten, mostly because we figured it's going to ... we don't know when we'll be able to get Season Two filmed. And so there were certain things that we were able to squeeze into this first season. So we did Sao Paulo, Brazil, Toronto, Canada, Tbilisi, Georgia, northern Namibia, Mumbai, India, Stockholm, Sweden, Tajikistan, Casablanca, Morocco, and Bogota, Columbia and one episode in Cape Town, South Africa. And I would say some of the most interesting stories would be going to visit a Namibian king in the north part of Namibia, which was an interesting, phenomenal cultural experience that I hadn't expected. We went to a ... Oh God, the ruins of a castle on the Silk Road, 3000 years old, 12,000 feet in altitude, overlooking Afghanistan from the Tajik side of the Panj River.
And we were the third camera crew ever to go to that spot. And the first from the West, an incredible energetic experience. We also filmed in Mumbai during the monsoon and during the Ganesh Festival, which is a beautiful time to be there, but we had to wrap our camera up in a garbage bag so it wouldn't get wet. My buddy in Stockholm, Martin, who is a fire dancer, he ended up having me eat fire in the episode, Kids Don't Try This At Home. And there are so many different experiences that happened in every episode that I think really kind of show people that no matter where you go, there's always something exciting and adventurous to partake in.
Kim: Now you said you're not sure when you're going to film Season Two because of border closures.
Kim: How do you see travel playing out post-pandemic? It's the billion-dollar question I know-
Kim: ... but it's one we have to ask our content creators.
Ernest: Yes, yes, no, absolutely. Well, certainly, I don't think I can give any big picture kind of answer any more than anyone else, but I do expect it to be more expensive. Right now even airlines have had to shrink. Some are going out of business. There's just less availability in the market for seats. So of course, just naturally the fares are going to go up. You've got people who have less disposable income because of just professional uncertainty and all these other things. And so I do see more domestic travel. I see more virtual travel, and people utilizing technology much more than they have before.
I do see travel resurging, but I'm hoping that it does so in a much more sustainable way where we're much more aware of our physical environment. We're intentional in how we get out into the world. We travel slower because all of that was necessary. And so I'm hoping this kind of awakens people to the needs of the planet. We see the kind of environmental resurgence that has happened in the midst of this kind of global pause inactivity. And so I'm hoping that people really take it to heart, and not just individual travelers, but also governments and DMOs and industry folks as well. [crosstalk 00:11:40].
Kim: Well, is there anything that you would like to say in closing to the travel community tuning into these episodes?
Ernest: Yes. I would like to say, listen, I have ... I think part of the reason why I'm maybe sounding upbeat when a lot of people aren't, is because I've lived a life of uncertainty. Being on the producer's journey, being on the entrepreneur's journey for a few years now, I have had to do many different things in order to get my projects where it needed to be including driving Lyft and other part-time gigs in order to keep most of my time and resources focused on this project that I was called to do. And I was able to make it through.
We have something that's beautiful, that's a team effort, that is showing people that everyone in the world really is the same. They want the same things in life, just to be seen, to be empowered, and to be loved. And so all is not lost. Life may not look like you were accustomed to it looking, but if you believe that you've got the skills and abilities to go out there and create something, then the universe will support you in that. It sounds woo-woo I know, but I'm woo-woo so, there we go.
Kim: Nothing wrong with woo woo Ernest. I could listen to him all day, we will have links in show notes but alongside Fly Brother, he’s also appeared on the Travel Channel television series destination ShowdownandJamaica: Bared, as well as in the 2013 documentary film about the dangers of mass tourism, Gringo Trails, he also works as an actor on stage and screen; as a voice-over artist for radio.
Phil: Make sure you subscribe to the World Nomads podcast, which you can do from wherever you get your favorite pods and feel free to rate and share too. You can get in touch by emailing [email protected]
Kim; Next episode Ashley Blake whose company offers small group, impact-focused trips to 25+ countries across the globe.