When asked to list her occupation, Oneika Raymond puts down “Travel Influencer.”
“In my case,” she explains to CheapOair, “that means that while I chronicle my travel experiences for pleasure and to provide information, I also work with brands on campaigns that have the express purpose of increasing awareness about their destination, product, or service.”
Although Oneika mainly documents her experiences abroad through her award-winning blog, Oneika the Traveler, the 34-year-old has also written for or been featured in the likes of Condé Nast Traveler, The BBC, Buzzfeed, and CNN. She’s a regular travel expert on the Canadian news program Your Morning. And she’s worked with brands like Toyota and Coca-Cola.
Originally from the Toronto area, Oneika claims she first fell in love with traveling while spending a year studying abroad in France, which was highlighted with sojourns to nearby nations like Spain and England. After making it back to Canada, Oneika was soon looking for a way to get back to France and the roaming life. She was eventually accepted into an English teaching assistant program that offered stints for native speakers in French public schools.
And that’s when she started blogging.
“I was living in France, teaching English at a local high school on the French Riviera,” she says about her first blog, titled Oneika Does France. “I first started it to keep in touch with family and friends without sending emails all the time, but then it grew into an online diary and eventually into a business!”
After her second French experience, Oneika realized she could merge traveling and teaching into a career path. So upon returning to Canada, she got certified to teach English Literature and French for grades 4 to 12 and hit the international school scene. She taught in Monterrey, Mexico for a year, tried to stay in Canada again, then jetted off to a teaching position in Hong Kong, left to teach in London, and then back to Hong Kong.
Along the way, she kept blogging about her travels, gaining followers and building a brand. It was a side-gig, a part time hustle for extra money to fuel and fund her travel adventures. And then it became something more.
“I started realizing I could do it professionally when brands would continually approach me for paid writing or marketing projects,” Oneika says. “After the first few assignments I realized that doing this full-time was financially feasible.”
Now based in New York City, Oneika describes herself (aside from with the “Travel Influencer” title) as an “aspiring polyglot” (she’s fluent in English, French, and Spanish, and working to master German), who’s been to more than 90 countries.
Some peak experiences of Oneika’s travels have included seeing Bolivia: “in particular the Bolivian Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) blew me away;” a trip last year to Zambia: “a huge travel highlight was not only visiting Victoria Falls but swimming in them too! I also jumped off of Victoria Falls Bridge and over the Zambezi River;” and a solo journey to Mongolia, which featured “getting the chance to ride a camel through the Gobi Desert, staying with a nomadic family, and sleep in a yurt!”
That’s not to to say that all of Oneika’s travels have gone without a hitch. “My worst travel experience to date was getting pickpocketed in Egypt,” she says.“It happened right at the beginning of my 8 day trip!”
But Oneika’s approach to travel blogging goes beyond documenting her trips and giving advice. There’s a fierce confidence in her content’s honesty and unfiltered approach. She challenges readers with blog post titles like “I ‘Travel Fast’ and Don’t Care What You Think About It” and frequently tackles the racial issues she deals with as a black woman traveling the world. She’s even arguably bitten at the travel content hand that feeds her by pondering the possibility that travel blogs are a form of propaganda and telling readers that they don’t need to travel to be fulfilled.
“Honesty and authenticity have always been very important to me, even if what I say or write makes me unpopular,” Oneika explains. “I blog because I’m passionate about travel and storytelling, not to become rich or famous.”
And sure, while her frankness might ward off potential sponsors, Oneika doesn’t seem concerned about it. “I would rather not work with a brand if they had a problem with me maintaining my integrity and standing up for what’s right,” she says.
Moreover, she points out that while travel blogging is a passion, it’s not her life.“I had a long career in teaching prior to doing this full time and will possibly work in education again,” says Oneika.
It’s interesting that Oneika would cite her work in education, especially since one could argue that there’s an overlap in skills between teaching and travel influencing. Right?
While Oneika says she’s never considered the parallel, she does admit that there’s something of a convergence between the two. As a teacher, she had to organize and breakdown information to be more easily digested by students, as well as increase knowledge, understanding, and awareness via a variety of teaching methods and styles.
“Essentially I do the same thing as a travel influencer,” Oneika says. Her work requires her to present information about destinations, products, and services to her audience. And that presentation can take many different shapes and forms (blog articles, videos, social media, etc). She also manages discussions on her blog in the same way she would in the classroom.
“Gosh, the more I think about it,” Oneika says, “the more I realize the skillsets required are nearly identical!”