Let it not be said that Mr. Travis Levius wasn’t hungry enough to make the changes he needed to make in his life. The young man literally launched himself on a whim, a prayer, light of wallet and heavy with expectation from his new home base in London, UK. Travis doesn’t shy away from re-telling his tale of crisscrossing the Atlantic, and has opted to make his story the central theme of his seminars and online coaching programs.
This former Atlanta teacher has reinvented himself into a rising travel star, having collected stamps at 25 countries on six continents since his first international trip in 2008, and he shows no sign of slowing down! We talked about what his idea of luxury travel means, and how he keeps inspiration to others as his main drive in the business.
What is something you often get from strangers when they approach you about your brand/business?
Well first, they are surprised that I’m a travel writer, then the next thing is asking, “can I be your plus-one?” This doesn’t make me someone lucky… I quit my job and pursued the unknown to get here. It’s not something that just fell in my lap, or I studied in university. I am deserving of the blessings I am getting, and honoring my heart.
What made you finally jump in and make the move to London? What was it that made London your dream destination to launch your career?
It all happened because I had my first international experience studying abroad in 2008: A two-city program to Galway, Ireland, and London, England. I am originally from New York- I was used to a diverse city- I felt it was more inclusive, the architecture, museums, the style. The food is better now (laughs). I just thought one day I want to live here. Fast forward to 2013 I had another trip to visit a friend. I tried something different: I just surrendered and let whatever happen happen [to realize my dream to live in London]. A month or two later, I felt a hunch to make the move. Very frightening! I think everyone has the intuition, but many people aren’t tapping into it. What really helped me to surrender was that I was on the passenger side of a car that went out of control, on my way to a wedding I was called to shoot. Surviving that made me think, “I could have died. What is the cost of me trying to follow my dreams? The worst that could happen is that I just go back to Atlanta and start teaching again.”
Do you feel that your print has gotten you the same amount of respect and acclaim in the travel industry as your photography?
This is precisely why I am slowly transitioning into more video content and my own brand. I think when it comes to consumers consuming travel content, words are nice, but what’s even better than images, and ten times that is video. It is so much more information and detail in video. It is a way to connect an audience in front of a camera, whether it’s real-time or a montage. Right now we are in a very visual age, it’s the next wave right now.
Is your preference solo or partner or group travel, and which style are you catering to when you present your findings?
I am Team Solo Travel, especially on-assignment. I see it as a spiritual journey, going to a new place. I am mostly catering to those that travel solo, but I get a lot of people that travel with a partner, so where I go can be tailored to the interests of couples and groups.
Do you see yourself as a participant in and/or an advocate for luxury? When you started Mister Levius, was your intention to be focused on the luxury travel style, or did you just fall into it?
I kind of just fell into it. I wasn’t thinking that I would just do luxury. I got my foot in the door with a London editor for a major website called The Daily Meal. I started covering the city’s dining scene, street food, reasonably priced restaurants. Sometimes they were posh, but more often they weren’t. When I got into travel, I wasn’t writing about luxury, just took assignments that were given to me. Then when I went to South Africa, a guy marketing Maputo, Mozambique offered me the opportunity. He put together a press trip for a 5-star resort, with a helicopter ride, butler service! After having that experience, snorkeling with dolphins, the best shrimp of my life, I thought, I’ve found my niche! I’ve kept things consistent since then. I was one of the editors of the website, so it was up to me [what assignments I did]. I had always had a vision about living as a jetsetter, but I thought I had to win the lottery or have a multi-million dollar business in order to be that. Life made an answer for me through the travel writing. I don’t have a million dollars.
That’s great because that means that in a way, it is something that other people can attain if they have the talent and the drive, It’s not out of their reach. Considering where you started, what level of importance to you place in giving back, aside from your coaching, speaker slots, and videos?
It’s very big to me. People see the luxury lifestyle and many people feel that they can’t afford this. I can’t afford this, not right now. This is just a job for me. I’m not at that income yet. People see that “he’s humble, this is not something he’s just trying to flaunt.” I make people see that it is possible for them, if they are called to do it. As a Black person, I want people to see possibilities, that you can change your circumstances.
#NICARAGUA Late posts for the next few days (my current location is London), but hey, enjoy anyway! ——— People: Where are you headed? Me: Nicaragua People: Oh! Is it safe? Hearing this follow-up question over and over reminded me of people’s (outdated) perceptions of Johannesburg. The short answer is: YES, Nicaragua is safe. In fact, hella safe these days. The tumultuous civil war and heavy violence died down some thirty years ago. The country has since been picking up the pieces to become one of Central America’s safest countries, now going toe-to-toe with its popular neighbor Costa Rica. Nicaragua is my first Central American encounter, of which many local Nicaraguans were surprised. They know foreigners put Costa Rica and Belize in a better light, and therefore get most of the tourists in the region. And to that: most travellers have no clue what they’re missing. I thoroughly enjoyed the warmth of the people and laid-back way of life in the Emerald Coast region, known for its lush forests and world-class surfing along the Pacific Ocean (that’s where I learned to surf…evidence to come shortly!). It’s a poor country, but many do their best with a smile on their face. Tourism is beginning to develop, but in a sustainable and smart manner, so that people can come visit, put dollars into the underserved communities and still experience an authentic destination (to anyone who feels Costa Rica has become too touristy, look to Nicaragua as your haven). More posts to come, but in short, Nicaragua is painfully underrated and I’d LOVE to return as five days weren’t enough. —– **Have you been to Nicaragua? What did you like about it most?
Nicaragua was your first Central American country. You said (in an Instagram post) that “many do their best with a smile on their face. Tourism is beginning to develop in a smart and sustainable manner…authentic destination.” What do you view as poor, smart and sustainable and authentic in this context?
I think that there is a trend in emerging destinations where one corporation buys a huge plot of land to make is a “Disney[like] destination”. Then you don’t really get to see the real place… even if it is luxury. The Emerald Coast [in comparison] was not too closed off. They hired within the community in Rancho Santana, there were no gates along the beach, so you can get off the grounds and you have access to the local life. It just felt so nice. It is very safe. The PR has done a good thing to reverse perceptions of safety from 30 years ago.
Where are the hottest spots you recommend for 2018?
The Maldives, the epitome of paradise, where you can do either a private resort (do whatever you want), or the island among the locals. Since it is a Muslim country, the inhabited islands forbid alcohol, however. I would recommend Easter Island. When people think about luxury, it doesn’t have to be a five-star Michelin establishment all the time. Access to someplace new and remote can be enchanting if you have the means. The history of Easter Island makes it a weird and wonderful alternative. For traditional luxury, I would recommend the Seychelles, which is not as heavily marketed in the States as Maldives. For Black travelers, it is nice to see our people and invest in the community. The resorts and the hotels are among the world’s best, the best beaches, and a very laid-back style.
One can see the evolution of your experience on your Instagram page, from photographing the famous, influential people to becoming one yourself. How does it feel to place yourself in the settings people often associate with “having made it”?
The term success and I have had an evolution of sorts. I think that most people think success is having lots and lots of money. Now I am not where I really want to be, but I feel that I am on the track. But if I died tomorrow I would be happy knowing that I pursued my dream. I don’t ever think that I have made it, but I do think that I am on my journey enough to start helping others in their journey, and giving them motivation.
How do you belong to/own the places that you go?
Affirmations help. Traveling while Black is very interesting, especially in luxury places. Most often I don’t see other Black travellers in the places that I go. I didn’t see one Black person in Easter Island, but I am used to being around people that don’t look like me, that helps as well. Cultivating the confidence that I belong here. If they’re not used to seeing Black people in these places, well, get used to it.
Where to next?
I’ve been invited to cover a traditional black tie ball celebrating coffee and sweets heritage in Vienna in mid-January.
Where do you go to hide out?
Always South Africa, my favorite country on earth! Capetown for luxury beaches, villas, coastal hotels, The Cape Winelands wine country, and restaurants. South Africa is cheap for us, the Rand is low, so take advantage. The food is great: the best meat, steak, the music scene is great: deep house has permeated the culture more than any other genre. South Africa has a modern and worldly culture, with stylish “woke” Black Africans, an [overall] electric place.
What would you most passionately want to convey to those that seek you out, or happen to come across a video or a picture in social media?
Inspiration for sure. I’m a very passionate person. When I do my own thing, I put my heart into it. I do the videos, the coaching, the photography because I’m passionate about it, not just to make a quick buck. And that my story doesn’t have to be a rare one.