Traveling to make a difference – How to not travel like a basic bitch

TakeMeThereToday is thrilled to introduce Kiona, the creator of She is an Instagram addict and avid travel blogger who writes about her unique travel experiences in destinations that are under explored by most tourists. She has also successfully tried her hand at stand up comedy and is actively involved in social causes – raising money for victims of the devastating earthquakes in México and helping people in South/Central America lead healthier lives by making smarter dietary choices.

Kiona is passionate about discussing topics that people people often shy away from – be it politics or minority rights. She is witty at sharing her thoughts while trying to bring awareness about issues like cultural appropriation vs. cultural appreciation, privilege, discrimination etc.

I’m sure people must have asked you the same question a 1000 times, but how did you come up with the blog name howtonottravellikeabasicbitch?

I was just drunk lol. And bought the domain name, because that’s just shit I think about when I’m drunk. I didn’t even write a blog post until like 6 months later and just used the domain name because I already had it.

Do you have friends who are basic? What defines a “basic bitch”?

WUT. All my friends are basic haha. They’re my muses. I even feature them in my stories, like #BasicBitchRich. But I mean, we all have a little basic in us. However, the blog definition of a basic is a traveler who is selfish, unaware, and self-serving at the detriment of other people and the local environment/economy.

Mexico City, Mexico
Source: Location: Mexico City, Mexico

The purpose of traveling is to understand someone else not like you. And to also offer them a fresh perspective of who you are (hopefully for the positive), and how it could be quite different than what they originally thought. You should be going into a foreign place to see and experience a different way of living. It is more of an attempt to blend in and wanting to leave as an altered and more educated person by EXPOSING oneself to a new culture, cuisine, ideas, etc. Not IMPOSING oneself onto a new culture. And that’s what basic bitches do. They impose.

Basic Bitch | ba·sic\ˈbich\ | (noun) Urban dictionary
Someone who is unflinchingly upholding of the status quo and stereotypes of their gender without even realizing it. She engages in typical, unoriginal behaviors, modes of dress, speech, and likes. She is tragically/laughably unaware of her utter lack of specialness and intrigue. She believers herself to be unique, flyamazing, and a complete catch, when really she is boring, painfully normal, and par. She believes her experiences to be crazywild, and different or somehow more special than everything that everybody else is doing, when really, almost everyone is doing or has done the exact same thing. She is typical and a dime a dozen. There are many subtypes of basicness, such as the basic ratchet, the basic sorority bitch, the basic groupie bitch, the basic I'm-so-Carrie-from-Sex-and-the-City bitch, etc, but ultimately, they all share the common thread of being expendable and unnoteworthy and, in some cases, having absolutely no redeeming qualities.

How do you support your travel being a full-time PhD student?

Side hustles side hustles side hustles. I get my income from 5 different sources.

  1. I teach at the university so my tuition is comped and I get a small stipend to pay my rent.
  2. AirBnB. Instead of renting a one-bedroom apartment, I rent out a 3-bedroom house for around the same price and use the other 2 rooms as a source of income. I also co-manage multiple listings for people who need help. I get paid to do this as well.
  3. I babysit. Babysitting is the best because you literally do nothing. I wrote my dissertation while watching kids sleep. And they offer hours that you are probably not doing shit anyway. So instead of sitting at my house from 6PM-11PM, I’m sitting at other people’s houses and getting paid.
  4. My first degree was in sports medicine, so on weekends and after school I work sporting events as a first responder and do emergency triage. This job is either really slow or really stressful, but I really enjoy it because it’s the one job I get to be outdoors.
  5. I sell things online. I have a yoga line that I sell on Etsy, along with crafts I’ve picked up on my travels, and also sell art online. This is not real income. It’s more like beer money.

With that said, I work 110 hours in a week. It’s not easy and it’s not for everyone. People will only see the vacation pics, and be like “you’re so lucky,” but I promise you they would not be saying that if they saw what went into the hustle. However, they say the average millionaire has 7 sources of income so I’m on my way haha.

How does social media play a part in your life and career?

OMG social media has always been cool, but it was super easy for me to walk away from. I did not really check it that often. Now with the blog it’s taken over my life.

Sahara Desert Merzouga
Source: Location: Sahara Desert Merzouga

I did not expect the blog to grow as fast as it did and I get over 50 DMs a day, 7 emails a week, and they’re all filled with requests. That’s not counting the times I get 200+ comments on a photo thread and attempt to respond to everyone. And people will call me out if I have read something but don’t respond right away. Like people have been like, “so you’re just gonna be basic and read my message, but not respond.” I try my best to respond to everyone, but I’m almost always at work, so sometimes I forget.

Also if I go one day without posting a story, people will ask me if I’m OK. Or where I am. It’s super bizarre, for me, to people care like that. Still, I try my best to produce something once a day, but it’s a lot of work and probably takes up 3 hours/day.

As for my career. It’s done nothing for my career lol. My professional life is very separate from my online life. I don’t really think they should cross over unless your job is social media.

no one deals like we do!

Can you share a funny/embarrassing moment you witnessed while working or travelling?

Uhm, let’s talk about the time it was my Cuban papi’s first time ever to be on an airplane. So we were in Baracoa, the complete opposite end of the island from where he lives. I left him alone for one hour and he came back with a freaking pigeon. A PIGEON. He said the pigeon was really smart. (I’m not really sure how he knows that.) So he decided to catch the pigeon and bring it home….on the airplane. Like he legit just put it in a box and put it in his backpack. And I felt it wasn’t my place to crush his dreams and tell him he can’t bring a fucking bird in his backpack. But this fool got the pigeon all the way through! Meanwhile I got stopped for bringing on nail polish…like for real? The lady at the counter saw me painting my nails and tried to trick me into giving her my nail polish by saying it wasn’t allowed on the airplane. But mama ain’t raise no fool. I just snatched my ticket and walked away.

Holguín, Cuba
Source: Instagram Location: Holguín, Cuba

What is your favorite destination? Any place you haven’t crossed off your bucket list?

I don’t think I really have a bucket list anymore.

I’m just looking to make a human connection, wherever that might be.

I don’t really have a favorite destination because I have favorites for different things. But my favorite vacation ever was to Nicaragua, I think Belize has the bluest water, Amalfi was the most breath-taking views, Vienna has the world’s poshest people, and Mexico the most polite. Like I can go on and on like that.

How should a first-time traveler experience the true uniqueness of each place?

Hmmmmm this is a good question. I’m not really even sure. I think trying to learn as much as possible. I’m not really sure how one does that? Idk the answer to this question lol.

What are your favorite things to do while abroad?

When I used to work out, I would say go for a run. It made me appreciate my surroundings at a slower pace. But now I don’t really work out that much. So I would say chatting or hanging out with my AirBnB hosts. They are usually so lit. And its like an instant friend. Plus you get insider tips on all the cool things to do in the city and get to peak into someone’s life.

I also like to walk around and take pics of flora/fauna and doors, tbh.

Where has been your longest stay?

Mexico-4 weeks haha.

Wait, I lied.

Spain-3 months. But I was studying ORGANIC CHEMISTRY and did not really travel that much at all. DON’T EVER STUDY ORGANIC CHEMISTRY ABROAD. BAD DECISION.

Caye Caulker, Belize
Source: Instagram Location: Caye Caulker, Belize

If you could stay in one place (overseas) where would it be and why? Let us guess, Mexico?

OMG HOW DID YOU KNOW. And it’s because Mexico is just 100% more civilized than anywhere else I’ve ever been. The humans living there are perfect examples of what a nation should be. 

Who or what inspired you to be a social advocate? How do you apply these skills to your everyday life (in or outside the U.S.)?

I don’t think I, on purpose, decided to be a social advocate. I just was taught right and wrong and I just grew up putting myself in other people’s shoes. I guess a lot of it had to do with how I was raised and my mother never letting us become complacent in our situations.

That we had to fight for ourselves and fight for others around us, because if we didn’t work together, all of this shit is a fail.

I think also being of not only mixed race, but also mixed culture (such as being born and raised in Hawaii, which is completely different than mainland America) you are forced to see how differences work and don’t work between human beings from different experiences. And as a product of that, you have to come up with a solution on how to survive and navigate multiple different dynamics.

Regarding socioeconomic, as a PhD, you achieve the upper echelons of academic society and learn real quick how you really aren’t welcome there, nor is that space meant for you. You were never really meant to survive that far. And it’s pretty apparent once you’re at the top and all the people you see don’t look, act, or empathize with you.

So knowing the hardship I’ve been through and seeing others going through, I try to apply it to my life by being a voice that too often gets silenced. I know I am inconvenient for a lot of people. But honestly, a lot of things in life have been incredibly inconvenient for me so I try my best to uplift people who feel they don’t have a space by giving them a space. Because they will always have a space with me. And I am just as important as the next person.

Your blog explores important topics that people avoid talking about. How do you come up with inspiration for your blog post and discussion topics?

I just talk about things I want to learn about. And things I want to read. It’s mostly self-serving. I am just really interested in the human experience and how we can improve. Or really, how I can improve. So my inspiration comes from y’all, really. My followers are so awesome. I follow them, too. It’s not a one-way dynamic.

I’m constantly learning and growing from feedback I get, from reading other people’s captions, from hearing voices talking about experiences unlike my own.

So now that I have a platform, I’d like to give them the opportunity to showcase it and not let it be lost on just my ears.

Do people troll you because of your work? How do you deal with unpleasant people?

I get trolls all the time.

I actually think this highlights a psychological problem in our society. It’s an arrogance problem, a privilege problem, a hate problem.

I definitely don’t agree with everyone and not everyone needs to agree with me. But I don’t think I’ve out right attacked anyone for their work ON their piece of work.

I’ve now become better at deciphering when I need to respond and when I don’t need to respond. It’s becoming simpler to tell when someone could probably see your perspective or at least use a little push back, and when someone is just a fucking insane person. So with people who could honestly just use a lesson, I try to present my argument. With just straight out trolls, THEY LEARN THAT I’M JUST A BETTER TROLL. And I troll them back. They don’t even know what to do with themselves.

Sahara Desert, Morocco
Source: Instagram Location: Sahara Desert, Morocco

Although, just yesterday I blocked someone I’ve interacted with for a long time. I literally said, “YOU GO GIRL” and she said my comment was rude and wrote an entire paragraph on why it was rude lol. So I blocked her because she’s obviously just an insane person. It’s ok, though. I just don’t have time for it.

Tell us more about your advocacy goals while you travel.

I don’t go into travel trying to be an advocate. I just am trying to eat and maybe date my way through the world one papi at a time. So I don’t think I on purpose go and look for causes to fight for. Sometimes I just see really fucked up shit, and idk how to handle it, so I tell the blog. And I get feedback. Like I said, it’s a two-way dynamic between my followers and I. We help each other. Something’s they have never known, other times they inform me.

But when I do see things that could be improved, I try to find solutions. I never want to instigate a problem and complain about it without finding a solution.

However, I did start a Healthy Eating Project in Guanajuato and this project I feel can be spread throughout the world, because we could all use that information and it’s applicable anywhere. So I would say my goal is to spread that program around, if possible. With that said, I’m doing zero things to make that happen haha. One thing at a time!

International Flights!

We have read a lot of your blog posts about social causes. Would you like to share your experiences about a recent trip or social cause you are involved with? How can someone sign up to help?

Ooooo! So I guess this is the time to tell you about the Healthy Eating Project in Guanajuato. With my PhD in Nutritional Sciences, I’ve started a program in a community that ASKED ME to come in and do a program on healthy snacks. It was so successful, they’ve since had 3 more and have taken it upon themselves to organize each other when we announce that another workshop is taking place. It really is an entire community effort. They bring out their grills and store all the supplies, while I just provide the lectures and the money to buy food and groceries, a community leader on the other end buys the food and organizes the lecturer, and then a professional within their community will teach the class.

The lecture is now being spread to Ecuador. And the classes in Mexico are getting larger! More people are coming out! So if anyone would like to volunteer or donate, please contact me!

Oaxaca City
Source: Instagram Location: Oaxaca City

We are looking for health professionals to give lectures and offer information. You can email [email protected] You can actually email her if you’re a professional in anything and she can find a space for you.

For donations, you can donate here and 100% goes to the project. $25 funds an entire workshop.

And to read more about you can check it out here

What’s next on the road ahead?

In December, I finally finish my 11th year in higher education and all 4 of my degrees will be complete. I’m taking a break for a few months to travel and visit family and then, who knows? If you know someone hiring, let me know haha.

As for travel, I’ll be in Honduras next!


We, at TakeMeThereToday, would love to thank Kiona for taking the time to do this interview. This has especially been one of the most intense and informative interviews we have done till date. We greatly appreciate her honest and humorous answers and hope that our new series inspires you not only to travel, but to have a positive impact on people you meet. Check out her blog and instagram

Author: Jackie BD

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