Of all the places for Zim Ugochukwu to be in the world, I surprisingly learn on our call that she's only an hour away from where I'm hiding out in North Carolina. “I just got my apartment in Durham two weeks ago," she says.
But why Durham?
“My boyfriend's here. And it's also where I grew up, so I'm giving myself a year here and then I'm going to move to another country."
Ahh. That makes sense.
It's the first time that the young entrepreneur and founder of Travel Noire—a digital platform that has become the ultimate guide for the unconventional Black traveler—has had a place to call home since she packed her bags back in January. Over the last six months it seems that she's been living the dream: dashing from country to country, as beautifully documented for her 17.4k followers on her personal Instagram page, while working on creating products for the recent launch of Travel Noire Experiences. Who wouldn't want to set up an impromptu workspace in a picturesque country where an ocean view is not an option, but a requirement?
However, Zim admits, as with anything in life, all that glitters ain't gold.
“Like I'm in bed right now. I woke up today and I was like I don't feel good, I've been here all day."
She hasn't quite recovered from the jetlag that flew back with her from a last-minute trip to Portugal. No, she didn't go there to stunt for the gram, but because she needed an escape from the solitude that leaves many entrepreneurs desperately clinging on to their sanity.
“There are periods of time where I won't even leave my house," she admits. “People see the Portugal part and they're like 'oh my god, you're traveling!' And it's fun; it's great, but the period before that locked up in your apartment staring at a screen for 15 hours, like that's not sexy at all."
She talks about the battle of an entrepreneur in one of her recent posts. How people don't understand the sacrifices that come with the title of being a B-O-S-S. Dealing with taxes, and the government, and other people's problems. How working 15-hour days have left many of her fellow entrepreneur friends fighting depression, no matter their level of success. It's a topic that's brushed over in the black business world, but that's claiming the lives of many who can't seem to find light in their endless world of darkness. It's not something that Zim wishes upon anybody.
“Whenever people say they want to be an entrepreneur I tell them that they don't. You don't want to be an entrepreneur. You like the idea of having something of your own, but in all reality it's the hardest thing you'll ever have to do."
Luckily for Zim, traveling is not just her business, but one of the ways she escapes the chaos that comes with her lifestyle. She also prays, nourishes her mind with inspirational books and quotes, and takes advantage of the listening ears of her friends and boyfriend when she needs words of encouragement.
She describes her significant other as the yin to her yang: a little bit more calm, cool, and collected. Amidst the frequent business trips, managing her team, and over a hundred other contributors, it seems as if he is the one constant in her life, quietly holding her down behind-the-scenes since they met back in college in Greensboro, North Carolina four years ago. The mystery man is a sacred piece of her life that she chooses to keep private. Just a couple of weeks ago they celebrated their anniversary, which she publicly acknowledged with a lower body shot of them lacing fingers. The caption simply read: it's so easy loving you.
I curiously asked her how she manages to run her business and have a love life—something that many women claim they have a hard time balancing. She accredits their constant communication (they speak frequently over the phone or via text when she's out of the country) and him also being a traveler as keys to their success.
Their relationship is, thankfully, much different than that of her parents.
Her mother arrived to Mankato, Minnesota arranged to marry her father, but soon after Zim was born packed up her children and caught a Greyhound bus to California, refusing to stay in an abusive relationship. Her father, who would return from a business trip only to find an empty house with no contact information left behind, moved back to Nigeria. He wouldn't see Zim and her brother until 15 years later when they would take their first international trip to Nigeria to visit the village where her mother grew up. For six weeks she enjoyed meeting distant cousins, family members, and exploring the foreign terrain. But meeting her father, well, that was a different experience. Her only connection to him was through the letters her mother kept hidden that she used to sneak and read. Although her mother never spoke ill of her father, meeting him in person allowed her to formulate her own opinion—the five kids, wife, and mother that lived in his tiny two-room home was enough to convince her, as if she didn't already know, that her mom was superwoman.
“To see where we were living and what my mom was singlehandedly able to do in the U.S., and to see where he was living, it was crazy; it was mind blowing."
Growing up Zim learned at an early age that traveling would be her way of life. She moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles, and back to Minnesota before settling in Durham. Her strict upbringing and expectation of excellence would lead to her cloning genes at the age of 19, becoming the youngest precinct judge for North Carolina's Board of Elections, and being on the executive board of an anti-tobacco organization, amongst many other accolades. Her credentials earned her spot in the prestigious Henry Luce Scholars program, which sent her and at least 14 other post-college graduates to Asia in effort to bridge the cultural gap between them and the western world. Zim openly speaks about her time there as being the catalyst to her wanting to create something that would empower people like her, to share their love of travel and cultural emersion in effort to educate those who were skeptical about traveling abroad.
After returning to America with limited funds and no concrete career plans, she moved to southern California to live with her mother and stepdad. It only took six months before her mom started hitting her with daily suggestions of nursing or medical school, so she packed her bags and headed to San Francisco with $300 to live with her fairy godmother—a board member of an organization she was previously a part of, who kindly opened up her home free-of-charge. It was just the break that Zim needed to get her thoughts together, stack her cash, and start planning her next big venture—Travel Noire. After being fired from her full-time producer job, she took her $17,000 in savings and began to put her business blueprint into action.
It's been almost two years since Travel Noire burst onto the scene with enticing photos and creative offerings, and it shows no signs of slowing down. New positions are being advertised on her social media feeds, offering a benefits package that would make many reconsider their current situation: employees can kickback anywhere in the world with unlimited vacation days (she requires a minimum of 25 paid vacation days), paid cell phone plans, and memberships to Oyster and Fitbit to allow them to stimulate their minds and take care of their bodies while on the road. There's even an option to take unlimited classes through Skillshare to brush up on those photography and painting skills that you always dreamed of mastering.
“It's super important to me and the culture of the company to make sure that we are flexible and open, and that we make sure that our team is happy," she says.
To make sure they're happy, healthy, fulfilled and learning what they want to learn.
The team is constantly working on new products and creative ways to package them. Their direct feed from travel glitch sites, such as The Flight Deal and The Deal Alert, are included as a part of their Travel Noire District $60-per-year subscription-based service, which only opens up to the public every few months. And for those free-99 lovers, there's always the how-to videos on Travel Noire TV, pieces on travelnoire.com, and weekly emails from Zim herself. The Travel Noire hashtag, also has over 169,000 posts from fellow travelers sharing unique experiences from around the world.
Although running the Travel Noire machine may be daunting at times, there's no doubt that Zim cherishes the opportunity to be able to wake up in a different country on any given day and do what she loves, because there was a time when she worked a job that she had no passion for or desire to stay in.
To those in similar situations, she offers this advice:
“With no risk, there's no reward and you either get comfortable with uncertainty and not knowing where you're going to end up or you settle and you live this life that you don't want to live."
Well said, boss lady.
All images courtesy of Zim Ugochukwu
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
2023 has become the year of celebrity breakups with headlines breaking left and right about celebs filing for divorce or ending high-profile relationships. The latest couple to announce their dissolution? British actress Jodie Turner-Smith. TMZ reported that Jodie has filed for a divorce from her husband, Dawson Creek alum Joshua Jackson.
As far as her reason for calling it quits, Jodie cited "irreconcilable differences," according to TMZ, and has requested joint custody of the couple's daughter, Juno Rose Diana Jackson. Late last year there were rumblings of there being "trouble in paradise" for the couple after the media realized they were no longer following each other on Instagram.
Those rumors were more than laid to rest when Jodie and Joshua went to the 2023 Oscars together earlier this year, and even more recently, when they celebrated her birthday together last month during the September unveiling of the Lotus Emeya.
Jodie Turner-Smith celebrates her birthday with husband Joshua Jackson at the unveiling of the new fully-electric Lotus Emeya on September 07, 2023 in New York City.
Brian Ach/Getty Images for Lotus
Despite seeming particularly happy and in love, perhaps the writing was already written on the wall even then. In the past, Jodie has been very celebratory publicly about her love for her estranged husband, even boldly recounting their love story for the books in a 2021 interview with Seth Meyers.
When Jodie and Joshua met, it was while at his birthday party in 2018. Their relationship was hot and heavy from the start, with Jodie openly noting that they began as a "one-night stand." During her 2021 interview with Seth Meyers, she jokingly referred to their love story as a "three-year one-night stand." She shared:
"First of all, I saw him before he saw me and when I saw him, I was like, 'I want that.' And then when he saw me, I just pretended like I didn't see him. He had to yell across the room to me, and I was wearing this T-shirt from a movie called Sorry to Bother You and [actress] Tessa Thompson plays a character called Detroit, and she has this T-shirt that says, 'The Future Is Female Ejaculation.'
"And so, he shouts across the room, 'Detroit!' He comes over and… does this really cute, charming thing that he does and just all night -- he just basically followed me around the party."
The couple were together from that moment forth, and even made things "Instagram official" less than two weeks later while on a dinner date. Joshua would later clarify to Insider that the night they met in 2018 was not a 'one-night stand' or a 'three-year one-night stand' like his then-wife joked but instead, it was "technically a three-night stand."
"It was sealed with a kiss that night and then we didn't leave each other's sides for, well, three years now," Joshua continued at the time.
In a July 2021 interview with Jimmy Fallon, Joshua dropped more details about the why behind getting married. He revealed that he didn't know he wanted to get married to Jodie until "the moment she asked me."
"She asked me on New Year's Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic, we were walking down the beach and she asked me to marry her."
He added, "I did not know [she would propose], but she was quite adamant and she was right. This is the best choice I ever made."
Joshua Jackson Reveals Jodie Turner-Smith Proposed To Him
Jodie received quite a bit of flack for proposing to Joshua because it goes against tradition and what society sees as acceptable for a woman to do to a man, and proposing isn't one of them. No matter how much time has passed, the viewpoints around who should do the proposing and who should be proposed to are still very traditional.
After being on the receiving end of such backlash, Joshua would later clarify to the media in a separate interview that it wasn't just Jodie's proposal to him that sealed the deal of them getting married, he proposed to her too. She might have initiated it, but Joshua followed through.
"I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn't give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist," he explained to Refinery29 that same year. "We were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic."
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images
He continued, "And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn't say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I'm still old school enough that I said, 'This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].'"
"She has a biological father and a stepdad, who's the man who raised her. [I said], 'You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.' And then, 'I would like the opportunity to re-propose to you and do it the old-fashioned way down on bended knee.' So, that's actually how the story ended up."
Joshua and Jodie would eventually marry in December 2019. Shortly thereafter, Jodie gave birth to the couple's first child, Janie, in 2020.
In a recent interview with Elle UK, Jodie shared the ways becoming a mother to Juno helped to heal her of her wounds from colorism she experienced in the past. "It's interesting because I had a lot of resistance to becoming a mother and, throughout my life, I always said if I were to have children, I wanted to have Black, Black babies so that I could affirm them as children with the love that I felt I needed to have been affirmed with by the outside world," Jodie shared with the outlet.
She continued, "Then I fell in love with my husband and we talked about having kids. I did have this mini pause, where I was like, 'She's going to be walking through the world not only having an experience that I did not have, but looking like people that, in a way, I'd always felt a little bit tormented by.' Now that I've got this little, tiny, light-skinned boss, I feel like it’s the universe teaching me lessons. I've been given a daughter who looks this way to heal my own conversations around colorism."
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Featured image by Amy Sussman/Getty Images