As the visibility of the Black travel movement continues to grow in social media and digital spaces, we get to witness more people who look like us, and live near us, explore other parts of the world. We have our own hashtags and branded t-shirts, and correspondent seats on major networks are being reserved for us to discuss the growth of the movement. Though there is an increase in visibility, the main narrative surrounding black travel is still that we don’t travel. For the most part, our stories are still told from the scope of overcoming poverty to getting passport stamps. In reality, African Americans spend 50 billion dollars a year on travel. We’re experiencing local and exotic wonders. We’re forming expat communities. We exist. Though the proof is expanding and being viewed on smartphones and computer screens, there is still a lack of African American faces on television screens.
The air waves are dominated by middle aged white men encountering foreign cultures and telling you where you should plan your next vacation. Dayvee Sutton is leading the charge to change this visual with her aptly named travel series, Beyond the Usual. Sutton’s vision is quite clear, “The experience is not colonialist. We are not eating our way through Spain. We’re providing adventure and culture and if I’m wearing the traditional dress of that culture, it will be because they gave it to me. I’m not going to the market to buy and appropriate their culture.”
Sutton is not just a traveler who decided to record her experiences. After spending 15 years as a Sports and Lifestyle journalist and earning two Emmy Awards for her talents in storytelling, Sutton decided to take her career into another direction. Traditional media has a way of boxing in their on-air talent. Sutton recalls only being allowed to cover one category at a time. “The thing is, it doesn’t matter what beat I’m doing. I’m a storyteller. Whether it’s hard news or the fun stuff. I’m a storyteller.” With that, she assembled her own crew and took control of the stories she wanted to tell by starting her own production company. Her travels are just some of visuals that will be captured by her crew, but having her own travel show seemed to be destined, as her mother recently reminded her that she thought pioneer travel journalist Samantha Brown had the “best job ever.”
A seasoned traveler, Sutton remembers her father packing up an RV and driving the whole family across the country for two weeks each summer, allowing her to visit every state before she was 20 years old. Describing herself as a “moderate adventurist,” what you can expect to see when you watch her show is a “regular brown girl who is definitely scared as she is pushing her limits.” Some of her travels have led her to the middle of the forest at the Komodo National Park in Indonesia, walking among the dragons (Episode 38), encountering the African American community seemingly living in a racism-free utopia in Oslo, Norway, where she ate such delicacies as moose, reindeer, and lamb’s head (Episodes 11 and 12), pushing through a storm on a kayak, and going high speed on a jet ski through tumultuous waves. “The one thing you won’t see me do is bungee jumping or anything with a fall.” But as the sensation is different, “I will skydive,” she adds.
On the first episode, Sutton jumps off of a boat into the ocean with some of her friends in the British Virgin Islands. That moment was pivotal, “It was inspiring for me to know there is no limit to what I can experience and shoot,” she recalls. Beyond the Usual, provides an experience where the traveler isn’t just learning about places to visit. Technology such as drones and underwater cameras, allow the viewer to travel with Sutton as opposed to just watch. “I want people to feel what I feel,” she says. “I want to tell the story in a hybrid of high production.”
Beyond the Usual is made for the viewer to consume at their own pace. You can travel with Sutton for a brief escape or binge watch the entire first season. Follow her to eleven international and stateside locations, including Norway, Colorado Springs, Los Angeles, Kentucky, US Virgin Islands, and North Carolina. “We wanted to show that there are a lot things you can do here,” says Sutton.
The darker side of travel stories being shared on social media and digital spaces include the “travel-shamers.” There are some who share their travel stories with an underlying and sometimes not so hidden message of “you could see the world too if you saved your money or didn’t spend it on (insert tech or fashion item here).” Sutton strives to make sure her message is inclusive as she states, “My job is to inspire you to go.”
She knew she was definitely filling a void in the travel media space when she announced the show. “Women were tagging each other saying ‘Look! There is someone who looks like us who’s hosting a travel show,’” Sutton shares. That birthed the tagline “Because middle-aged men aren’t the only ones who travel. Finally! A travel show with a host who’s like you,” which is currently pinned to the top of her Twitter paged and has been loved and shared hundreds of times.
Sutton concludes: “It’s about representation. If people see me doing it maybe they will try it. We have been neglected in major media, but it’s not a black show. It’s a show hosted by a black woman. We’re here!”