Inspiring Interviews: Carol Cain of Girl Gone Travel
At The Nomad’s Direction, we’re always on the hunt for inspiring people. As a small business, we take inspiration from the people that paved the way for us in the travel industry and who are doing new and exciting things while being unapologetically themselves. That’s why we’ve decided to start interviewing the people we look up to! This week, operations manager Gina Jurlando chatted with award-winning travel blogger and founder of Brave World Media Carol Cain about being a female entrepreneur and lifelong traveler. Check out the interview below!
What business do you own? What does that business do?
Since 2008 I focused exclusively on my travel website. Initially, I started writing under the name of NYCity Mama, and talked a lot about life and travel in NYC as someone who was born there, lived there, was raising a family there and felt that more traditional publications were not telling stories from the perspective of people like myself. Eventually, and as my children got older, I started traveling overseas and moved out of NYC and changed my blog to GirlGoneTravel.com, where I shared my travel stories whether alone or with my family, and different experiences I had that I thought might help educate and inspire other travelers. Then in 2017, I launched a social media marketing and branding agency, Brave World Media and have been working hard on growing it.
Tell us the story of how your company came to be.
My blogging journey was inspired by a frustration in seeing a lack of stories being written about my hometown of NYC. I am the daughter of immigrants who worked and thrived in this city. I grew up in Sunset Park, Brooklyn and lived a totally different community experience than what sells magazine articles today. I wanted to write something that would show that the city, even while it also going through an aggressive gentrification transition, still had those communities present. That people like my family still existed and are the heart and soul of what makes it such a magnetic, energetic, challenging, and wonderful place. It was very much something ignited by a rebellion of sorts. Brave World Media is the same in that sense.
Did you start this company to fill a niche that was missing in the industry? Or was it more of a natural progression?
I have started everything that I have with the intention to make a voice heard. When I exclusively blogged about NYC, I did so because anything published up to that point catered to a more lucrative NYC lifestyle. So if I tried to Google things to do with my kids, I would be bombarded with articles about indoor play areas that charge $100 an hour, or expensive tea houses with princess crowns and fairy wings where you could easily drop a few Benjamins for a birthday party. There was zero focus on community and history and just everyday life. So I wrote about it. If you write about a destination without ever highlighting the communities that make that destination what it is then you miss the opportunity to not just inform, but also give credit to and demand the respect and compassion that those communities deserve, and so it is easy to erase them systemically because they never existed for the reader in the first place. With Brave World Media, my goal is to work with brands and destinations from behind the scenes. Use all the experience and knowledge I’ve gained as a Communications professional to point out the blind spots so many brands have, such as lack of diversity and inclusion and guide them away from the hype of "Celebrity Influencers” and more towards the story tellers.
I think initially I was writing with intention but not much expectation that anyone would really see it, or that it would resonate. I very much thought I was alone in how I felt about the kinds of stories being put out there. But I wasn’t and it grew rapidly. The response was incredible. With Brave World Media, my intention is much more focused and I am very committed to my goals.
Why do you think there's been such a resurgence of female travelers?
I don’t know that there is a resurgence of female travelers. I think the “newness”of this is dependent on the cultural lens with which we view travel. I grew up surrounded by women who traveled all the time. This concept was never foreign for me. I’ve been traveling ever since I was a baby. My mother was a travel agent in the 60s based out of NYC. She started working before she even mastered the English language. I grew up admiring the many photo albums she collected from her trips everywhere, from the Middle East to the Caribbean. Indigenous people have traveled extensively for many different reasons, making what we would call “the path less traveled” only to mean less traveled by us - certainly not overall. Barbara Hillary was the first African American woman to travel to the North Pole. Polly Letofsky was the first woman to walk around the world. Sophia Danenberg was the first black woman to climb Mt. Everest. Nelly Bly traveled around the world in 72 days. Junko Tabei, Bessie Coleman, Asnath Mahapa, Janette Epps, the list of women travelers that extends well into our lifetime is not new. And while I celebrate the continued and growing exposure of female travelers, I caution against the premise that any of us are pioneers in these efforts because we risk erasing the history and value of the many women, documented and not, that certainly came before us. Whether they be Amelia Earhart or our own mothers and grandmothers.
What do you think the positives and negatives are of running a travel company as a female?
I think the negatives are that we still do have to deal with a lot of the challenges our own mothers dealt with, and as a woman of color, these can be even more pervasive. We still struggle with pay inequality, with discrimination and harassment in the work place, with fighting to have our voices heard, our ideas considered, and our work valued and rewarded. There may be more of us in the boardroom (though I wouldn’t say that is the case so much for women of color), but we still are outnumbered in positions of power in the workplace. The positives is that society is starting to realize that those things are not OK. Consumers challenge their favorite brands and businesses if they fail to meet the expectations of representation. More and more women are finding their voices in the workplace, and to be honest, more women are leading the charge in start ups and entrepreneurial endeavors.
Have you faced any discrimination or disadvantages to running your own business?
Absolutely. When I started my blog I had small children, and was constantly being pushed into the “mommy blogger” niche, because what else would I have to talk about? When I started pointing out discriminating practices in travel media, I was labeled combative. And we see on social media how men don’t have to pose seductively for Instagram or fit a specific standard of beauty to succeed in the space or get a TV show. But, I wouldn’t necessarily call them disadvantages in that I realized earlier on that my being over 40, as well as a mom and a plus-size, woman of color in travel media weren’t reasons why I couldn’t succeed. I am a professionally trained, intelligent, highly skilled and knowledgeable person and have been able to build something of my own more than once.
Did you have business experience prior to expanding with your travel based company?
Aside from my education, by the time I started blogging I had been working for corporations and non-profits for over 20 years. My father works in the hospitality industry in the Dominican Republic, where I would spend long weekends in resorts with no friends and nothing to do but people-watch and pick up how the service industry operated and how consumers reacted to it. I once did a hospitality course at NYU thinking it was what I would end up doing, but focused on my communications degree instead. That I would find my way back into the travel and hospitality industry just goes to show that sometimes we are just meant for certain things in life.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten from another business owner (male or female) that you look up to?
When I first started blogging about NYC I would write in the 3rd person. I always presented my stories in very non-controversial, fun and informative ways. But I understood my intentions and worried that if I spoke with the authority of a first person that people would feel more inclined to question my right to speak up at all in a way that went so against how traditional media up to that point was positioning the world. Then I met a female writer who used to write for The New York Times. She is older than me and asked me why I wrote in this way. When I explained she told me about her years working as a journalist and how hard she and the few other women who had the opportunity to work in publishing had to fight to have their voices considered as having any sort of authority or value, let alone worthy of being printed. She explained how so many women before me fought so incredibly hard for the privilege that I enjoyed through online mediums to not only self publish my words, but also to have them read by so many. I went home that night and edited every single post I had written, a year’s worth at that time, so that it was clear I was firmly and confidently behind every word.
Any advice for women thinking about starting their own business?
Though unexpected things happen all the time in the process of starting and growing a business, and sometimes we shift our goals here and there along the way, it is really important to have a plan. Do your research, assess the market, learn about the audience you want to target and learn to ask for help. Though I am the face of my blog and the lead in our agency, I don’t pretend to do it all. I have a team and the support of a partner to help prepare a proposal or just go out for drinks or a movie if I need a break from a hard day. I also find it beneficial when you can build something that is more than just about yourself. When we build and do something to help others, whether to improve our communities or our industry or create a space to give others more opportunities, the work is far more enjoyable and rewarding. Be humble, be fair, be transparent and honest, and be kind and patient not just with others, but with especially yourself.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
I have met some pretty brilliant women in travel and am inspired by them daily. Honestly the list is pretty long, but if I have to name only one I would say Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon of JetSetSarah.com. She is not only a fun travel storyteller, she is an avid runner and I am inspired by her creativity and physical endurance and commitment to self. I love her presence and voice in a space that likes to pretend that women over 40 just stop living and loving life, but that’s not her story or her focus because it doesn’t have to be. She’s just out there living her best life and allowing us to be a part of it. There are so many women out there breaking barriers and living out loud. Mickela Mallozzi of Bare Feet, Oneika Raymond on Oneika The Traveller, Annette Richmond, Founder of Fat Girls Traveling, I could go on.
What’s your favorite place you've ever traveled to?
I spent a significant portion of my life living between NYC and Dominican Republic. So my favorite places tend to be destinations that are different from that. I am obsessed with Ireland and Scotland. I’ve loved traveling the countryside of France, though Paris is just “alright” for me. The lakes and mountains of Northern Italy, where a part of my family lives. In the states, I fell in love with Finger Lakes Wine Country so much we bought a house there, and I dream for road trips through Montana in the fall.