Transparent Black Girl Founder Yasmine Jameelah Is Redefining Wellness For Black Women
Black Woman Owned is a limited series highlighting black woman business owners who are change-makers and risk-takers in their respective realms. As founders, these women dare to be bold, have courage in being the change they wish to see in the world, and are unapologetic when it comes to their vision. These black women aren't waiting for a seat, they are owning the table.
In this life, there's work that we choose to pursue and work that chooses us. For Yasmine Jameelah, founder of Transparent Black Girl, this work was brought on by pain, growth, and healing that empowered her to take wellness into her own hands.
It was in the early stages of college that Yasmine experienced this shift. Pulled by the incarceration of her father while experiencing abuse in a relationship and deep depression, her world was flipped upside-down. Although Yasmine didn't have the language to self-declare these hurdles as the catalyst to her wellness journey, there was one thing she knew for certain, "I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself," she says.
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
Better came wrapped in the form of therapy. She started documenting this journey on her personal blog, Meant to Be Yasmine, where she opened up about her experience in therapy and holistic weight loss with her community. Through this exchange, she noticed a common thread in how her readers would relate to her stories. "They'd always say, 'I love how you're so transparent.' It was just everyone's favorite word to describe me."
Once she noticed this communal response, it became clear that the work Yasmine was pursuing was beckoning her to expand. Soon, she realized that her lone place for healing was in purpose to honor Black women and their journey to become who they were meant to be. "I wanted to do something bigger for more than just myself." Funny how God interprets our plans.
When Yasmine started her digital community, Transparent Black Girl, the small but mighty tribe was made up of 300 followers. At the time, social media was in a shift where positive content was resonating more, and Yasmine took notice. "I just started to post these memes like, 'Me: alkaline water, my flourishing bank account, consistent men, my grandmother's prayers,'" and it caught fire. After a viral post, the platform skyrocketed in its following, and it was at that moment that Yasmine knew she had something special and timely on her hands.
Today, Yasmine is on a mission to empower Black women and men to define their wellness journey on their own terms via a wellness collective called Transparent + Black. The space is unique in that it offers an accessible and equitable ecosystem for Black people to heal. As Yasmine puts it, "With trauma, it's important to address that there's no collective healing unless we address the collective trauma that we all share as a people."
For decades, society has given Black folks molds to fit into in order to belong in certain spaces, but when it comes to mental health and intergenerational healing, Yasmine's purpose is clear, "Wellness is as multi-faceted as we are."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
xoNecole: You’ve mentioned that “you didn’t find wellness, wellness found you.” Take us back to that season. Where was Yasmine when wellness found her?
Yasmine Jameelah: The older I get, the more I realize that, in many ways, wellness was always inside of me. When I turned 18, I hit a really deep depression. My father went to prison, I gained over 100 pounds, and I was extremely depressed. And while most people spend their first few years of college having the time of their life and having all of this fun, I spent the first few years of college isolated. On the weekend when my friends would be going out to clubs, I was visiting my father in jail. While that was happening, I found myself in a really abusive relationship, and to say the least, my life was a hot mess.
What changed everything for me was therapy. I decided that I just wasn't happy anymore and at that point, I didn't really have the language to be like, 'This is a wellness journey.' I just felt like I needed to get my sh*t together and I wanted better for myself. I finally decided that I was going to leave the [abusive] relationship and go to therapy. I found a therapist and that opened up so many doors for me.
Why was it important for you to place an emphasis on transparency, not only for yourself but for the women who make up the Transparent Black Girl collective?
I'm like a real-life transparent Black girl, so if anything, I think that this space has allowed me to be comfortable in that. Since I was a kid, I always felt like I shared too much, so this has been a space where I have felt power in owning every part of who I am. While I am transparent, the older I've gotten, I have become more selective about who I share with and even how I share. The days of me being a blogger and talking about so much, I don't even share to that magnitude anymore. But there is still so much vulnerability that goes into what I share with our followers and with the women that we meet when we have events in real life.
How have you found power in your transparency?
I just feel like it's given me confirmation that God made me the way that I am for a reason. I used to feel embarrassed about being so transparent. I used to wish I could be like people who were super-selective and who didn't share their feelings and weren't open books. But I think redefining Black wellness and owning who you are is a part of wellness. I went from being really embarrassed about being such a sharer to finding a lot of strength in it. The goal is to remind yourself that being a Transparent Black Girl is to allow yourself not to shrink, own who you are as a woman, embrace your inner child, and know that there's a healer in all of us.
"For one Black woman, [wellness] can be you aligning your chakras and getting into tarot cards. For another, it may be you going to church, driving the boat occasionally, and going swimming—like myself. It's important that we honor all those experiences and not make it seem like one is better than the other."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
The work you do can be heavy at times. How have you been able to find joy while balancing what you do in this space?
Although these conversations can be heavy, there are so many beautiful opportunities that you can find to heal from trauma and there is so much joy that you can experience along the way. I have recently decided that I was going to own traumatic experiences, and while they are painful, there are so many happy moments that can occur because of them. For example, because of my weight fluctuating and having so many years where I did not feel comfortable in my body, I find so much joy in twerking, owning my sexuality, and having fun trying on different clothes. That is a joyful experience for me.
At TBG, we talk about all aspects of wellness and one of those things is Black joy. One day that can look like me going out with my friends to do yoga, but it can also look like driving the boat. So just understanding that this idea that wellness is always this meditative experience, it's just not true, at least not for me. I feel like we often believe that when we have lifestyle changes that everything has to change, and I'm just like Nah, I'm always going to have balance. I'm so grateful that our community has also leaned into that too, just understanding that this is not always going to be this super meditative experience all the time and that we're going to have fun and tend to ourselves. That might look like matcha in the morning and D'usse in the evening, and that's totally fine.
In the three years that you’ve been pursuing collective healing through Transparent Black Girl, how have you been able to redefine wellness for yourself?
I think duality is so important. When I first got into the wellness space, I was seeing women that were in the space, and, while they were doing beautiful work, all I saw them posting about was meditation, and I was like, 'I don't know if this speaks to me.' Even in terms of wellness, from the get-go, it's a very white-washed space. Because it is, we don't always feel seen and accepted. It felt like I was diminishing myself just to fit in, and I decided that I was going to have confidence and lean into owning all of the facets of who I am.
Even that was a healing experience within itself: to know that I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself. That I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change. It's been such a beautiful journey to know that I don't have to filter any parts of my personality or how I show up in the world to receive God's best for me.
Last year was such a tumultuous one, one that served a great purpose, but left a lot of us fatigued socially, politically, and mentally. In that, how has your approach to Transparent Black Girl shifted?
It taught me two things and that was one, while I was building this space, I was not doing as good of a job taking care of myself in the process. While I thought I was doing a good job taking care of myself, being at home during the pandemic showed me that I really needed to double down on my self-care and be really unapologetic with it. I've been doing my best to pour into me first. It's a journey, but I'm definitely getting more confident in that.
I'd also say that in tandem, while I have learned to take care of myself more, I have also learned how to dream bigger. This last year was really difficult, and I felt at times, as a single woman and spending most of my time within the four walls of my room, I felt really isolated, but I also felt really affirmed. If I made it out of this year and made it out of all of the feelings that I was experiencing, it was for a reason. And once I collected myself, it was OK to dream more and that I could have clarity about what I was building.
"I am just as transparent as I am reserved. I find joy in the fact that I am just as confident as I am unsure about myself—that I am just as brave as I am afraid of things when times change."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
How has swimming played a role in your healing and self-care practices?
I have loved to swim ever since I was a kid. I started to swim when I was about six or seven years old. My dad was really adamant about me learning to swim and just doing stuff that they said Black people couldn't do. While that was happening, I actually had a cousin the same age as me who drowned and pass away at the Jersey shore. When I got older and started to feel self-conscious about my body, I stopped swimming for a long time. I didn't swim again for over a decade.
When I got to college, I gained weight and was trying to lose it, and I injured my knee, so I had no other choice but to swim. My physical therapist and personal trainer were like, "You should swim." I still had this fear of people judging me because of the trauma that I experienced as a kid. When I started to swim again, I fell in love with it all over again. And I swim now more than I ever have. Not only did it help me lose weight, it became this beautiful experience, like another form of therapy. It's my favorite thing to do for myself. When I'm not swimming, I don't feel like myself.
Your collective, Black + Transparent, looks to address the Black community’s needs to cope with intergenerational trauma. How were you able to tackle this fear in your own journey?
There are so many layers of the trauma that we have but there are three things that, in terms of intergenerational trauma, have kept us at risk of certain things. [One] is access to doulas, as a result of slavery. If you look back in terms of doula work, how Black women are treated in hospitals, and how midwifery is still illegal in certain states, Black women were no longer allowed to practice. Also, so many Black people still don't know how to swim, and in terms of mental health services, we are still at risk more than anyone else.
When it came to deciding what I wanted to build, looking at all three of those experiences, those are three things that we are still suffering from. So I wanted to make sure that in building a wellness space for Black people that it was rooted in the real work that we desired to address. Also, [it was important to] collaborate with intergenerational trauma therapists who are open to working with families and making sure that we're able to be just as transparent with our families as we are with ourselves and our own personal wellness journeys.
"Wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you."
Photo by Camille Shaw
Courtesy of Yasmine Jameelah
What would you say to someone who is looking to create their own space of healing, whether through a collective or even therapy, but might be a little hesitant to start?
First, you need to know that you are worthy, even if you are in the lowest place in your life right now. I truly believe that I knew that I deserved wellness when I was deep into depression and contemplating suicide because I knew that I deserved better. That in itself is an act of wellness: knowing that you deserve better than your current circumstance. I would say that you're already on the journey if you know that whatever bottom you're in right now, you know that's not meant for you. Also, be patient with yourself. Know that while there are so many wonderful resources we can use, wellness is a very personal experience. Nobody can tell you how to be well for you, but you.
Join the Transparent Black Girl community by clicking here, and keep up with Yasmine Jameelah on Instagram.
Featured image by Camille Shaw
Aley Arion is a writer and digital storyteller from the South, currently living in sunny Los Angeles. Her site, yagirlaley.com, serves as a digital diary to document personal essays, cultural commentary, and her insights into the Black Millennial experience. Follow her at @yagirlaley on all platforms!
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
How A Solo Trip To Antigua Helped Me Heal From My Breakup
Travel can hold a plethora of purposes, such as business, relaxation, and celebration, so when I booked a solo trip to Antigua earlier this year, I never imagined that my attempt to escape the NYC cold would end up being a journey of healing and finding myself again.
As someone who visited seven countries and 11 cities last year, travel has always been such an important aspect of who I am. And while I enjoy weekend trips with my girls or being laid up on a baecation, solo trips are more my speed. After taking my first solo trip seven years ago, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to explore a new city or country on my own and how much more I learn about myself during these adventures.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the ability to travel the world, so as an adult, I enjoy the freedom and resources to just book a flight and go. I never thought this would be something that would change or I’d have to sacrifice until I did.
A Break From Solo Travel
If you told me a couple of years ago that I would go two whole years without a real solo trip, I would've laughed. Solo travel was a form of self-care, a way that I could reset and rejuvenate. It was the one thing I felt I had control over, the one thing I had to myself. But then I started dating and became serious with someone who expressed discomfort with the idea of me taking solo trips. I remember a few months into dating, I was headed to Aruba on a much-needed solo trip, and he expressed how uncomfortable he was with this.
A part of it seemed to stem from genuine concern, which most of us solo travelers are used to. But I assured him that I was probably less safe living in the Bronx every day than I was going to Aruba. The other side of it seemed to be from a space of thinking that if I was with someone, I should be traveling with my partner and shouldn't need to take solo trips. At first, I was annoyed and offended. Anyone who is dating me, THEE Queen of Travel, will have to be okay with my travel adventures. I thought it was unreasonable and that he just did not get it.
But as our relationship became more serious and more in-depth conversations arose related to his feelings about this, I realized I would have to make a sacrifice for the relationship.
His comments about how the girlfriends of his boys never traveled alone and only traveled with their men made me question if maybe I did need to reconsider this aspect of my life as I entered a relationship. Was I being selfish and not understanding his feelings? Should I be less focused on solo trips and more focused on building our future and making memories together?
I compromised my love for spontaneous solo trips for the comfort of my partner and for the promise that those solo trips would be replaced by baecations, which I was all for. I wasn't happy about it, but I made the decision that I thought would work.
But not all instances of sacrifice have happy endings.
Reclaiming My Time
Fast forward two years, and 0 solo trips later, my relationship is ending. There's no sob story or terrible incident, I just truly realized that I was no longer fully happy, and this was not the relationship that I could see myself in 5-10 years down the line. While traveling was not the reason for the split, it definitely played some part in my decision. Throughout our time together, I skipped solo trips altogether and filled my time with girls' trips, two baecations, and visiting friends in other cities.
I thought that my time would be filled with more couple trips and vacations together that would keep me too busy to think about solo travel, but that wasn't the reality. And then there were always little comments about how much I traveled, especially if it wasn't with him, which left me feeling defensive or guilty just for taking a girls' trip with my best friends.
In the grand scheme of things, I need a partner who is 100% comfortable and secure with me traveling with friends or alone, even if I choose not to.
So here I am, single again. But I knew exactly what I needed. I had a week off of work in February and would need to leave cold NYC behind, so I did what I do best and booked a flight to Antigua, a destination I have been eyeing forever. I was excited to finally be alone with myself, on a beautiful island, with a mojito in hand and nothing to worry about.
I opted for The Royalton Antigua, an all-inclusive, as opposed to my usual Airbnb, because I truly wanted to unwind and not have to do much thinking and planning. This would give me the freedom to really enjoy my vacation on my own schedule and timing and have everything I needed at my fingertips.
I literally had butterflies while booking my accommodations. That is how much I needed this.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a sense of comfort that I had not felt in so long. Every single day that I spent at that resort, soaking up the sun, and all that Antigua has to offer, I began to feel lighter. Antigua is such a beautiful island and the people were so friendly and welcoming, so I immediately felt at peace.
Though my breakup was my choice and the right choice, I was still carrying around some sadness and heartache. But as the days went by, I spent time sitting on my balcony, journaling and reflecting on my life over the last two years, as well as what I would like it to look like in the next two.
I allowed myself to cry, to breathe, to forgive myself, and to heal. I woke up when I felt like it, ate when and where I wanted, and allowed myself the comfort of just being free.
I knew that I needed this trip, but the type of spiritual and emotional relief that I experienced was unexpected.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
I realized that giving up solo trips seemed like a small thing to me at that time, but in reality, I was giving up a part of my independence and a part of my own needs. And in the two years I spent without solo trips, nothing else was put into my life to replace that feeling. And so a part of me, the fun and carefree girl, disappeared along with it. During my trip, I spent time on the beach just enjoying the scenery and my solitude.
I did morning workouts on vacation, which is not my thing, but getting a sweat in while overlooking the ocean hits different than any gym. At the pool bars, the staff at the Royalton treated me so kindly and always made sure ya girl always had everything she needed. One thing about being beautiful on vacation, you will be taken care of. I even ventured off the resort to see more of the island and immerse myself in Antiguan culture.
And in the midst of this solo trip, I made friends with three Black women who were celebrating a birthday, and I ended up hanging out with them and partying into the night. It made me realize all the reasons that I love solo travel. The ability to be at peace and enjoy reflective time with myself, but also the ability to make friends and have a damn good time. Not to mention, while partying, I met a fine, tall, handsome man from the U.S. who was also vacationing, but that’s a story for another time...
The point here is that by the time I was headed to the airport five days later, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was sad, or even happy for that matter, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
There's a quote that I've always loved that says, "Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along." There are so many reasons why I feel that travel is not only an important part of life but a necessary one, and discovering more about who you are as a person is one of those reasons.
I didn't "find" myself on that trip, I already knew who I was. Rather, I awakened a part of me that I had allowed to be dormant for far too long.
Antigua reminded me of how much I love stepping off the plane in a new place and knowing that when I step foot back into the airport again to go home, I won't be the same person I was in that moment. I don't have any regrets about the decision I made, but I know that going forward, I'll be more intentional about compromising parts of me that I love so much.
I hope this inspires someone to reawaken that side of you that you've pushed to the back burner and let fizzle because that version of you cannot wait to shine again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robin D. Thomas