Black Girl Magic in Kyoto: 4 Remote Year Travelers, 1 Unforgettable Adventure
Four Remote Year female travelers reflect on connecting in Japan, the power of sisterhood, and where they are now after their year-long journeys.
Traveling the world for a year is incredible, but traveling alongside a vibrant global community - now that’s unforgettable. Just ask Chimdi (Maryland, USA), Kiana (Los Angeles, USA), Tiffany (New York, USA), and Kristin (Chicago, USA), four adventurers brought together by Remote Year in Kyoto, Japan. Chimdi, Kiana, and Tiffany were all on month 7 of a 12-month Journey, while Kristin had recently completed her own 12-month Journey 2 months prior.
Early in the morning on a spring day during Japan’s cherry blossom season, the four women gathered to visit one of the most photographed locations in Japan - the Fushimi Inari Shrine. As they walked among the thousands of brightly-painted orange and black torii gates, they snapped a series of photos to celebrate and capture the moment as a group of Black female travelers together in one place.
Strong. Powerful. Inspiring. Joyful. Triumphant. Photos worth a thousand words.
Today, the four women reflect on their experiences in Kyoto, the power of sisterhood, Japan’s relationship to Black culture and identiry, and give us an update on where they are now.
What do you remember about taking the photo that day?
I remember loving that we were all excited about doing a full photo shoot at the red gates and we were fully committed to waking up early and color coordinating to capture a powerful shot. Having that many Black women together was an opportunity we knew could not be missed, and I knew that we were going to create the kind of photo that I would have wanted to see before embarking on my travels. I would have been more than happy to just take the photos and head home, so I’m glad the other women actually wanted to do the hike too because I would have missed that wonderful experience if it hadn’t been for them. These ladies will always have a special place in my heart! - Chimdi
The thing I remember most about taking that photo was knowing in my spirit just how STUNNING we were going to look! Seeing the other ladies and their radiant smiles, glowing skin and overall queen energy was very powerful to me. It was a statement, and I think all the other tourists that witnessed our little photoshoot felt it too: “We out here…” Sharing the day with the ladies was such a vibe and I was so happy to be a part of it! - Kiana
I wasn't expecting to do a photoshoot that day while visiting the temple, but magic always happens when we joined forces. We didn't plan to wear Black either, but there we were, black women in Japan looking like models. The temple’s orange pillars were the perfect background to compliment our smiles and sultry stares. We were a vibe. - Tiffany
We planned to experience Fushimi Inari Shrine together and wanted to commemorate having so many beautiful, strong Black women in one place. We met at the co-work space early in the morning and traveled to the shrine together. As we took the photos, people stopped and watched. Some even commented on how beautiful the shot would be. It’s one of my favorites and is currently hanging on my wall. - Kristin
What was it like meeting other Black women from different Remote Year programs in Kyoto?
It was such a joy to connect with other Black women from the Remote Year community, learn about their travels, and laugh over the ways our experience had been identical in some ways and wildly different in others. It felt extra special to connect with these Black women in a country with it’s own beautiful history and distinct relationship to the Black community. It was definitely a highlight of the trip! - Chimdi
Meeting other Black women from Remote Year, in a city where I was certain that I would not see many other Black faces, was so incredible. It was the family reunion that I didn’t know I needed. Plus, it just made me happy seeing other Black women choosing to make global adventure a part of their ministry. - Kiana
I was nervous meeting other Black women from different Remote Year programs because all of them are so fly. The ladies are stylish with unique personalities. - Tiffany
It was inspiring and energizing to see other Black women successfully living life by their own rules. We were able to bond over shared experiences, learn from each other, and support each other. The sisterhood we created and memories we shared together made Japan one of my favorite Remote Year destinations. - Kristin
What was going on in your life before and when you first went on a Remote Year program? And what are you doing now?
Chimdi before Remote Year: I was dissatisfied with my job and my relationship before Remote Year because I knew I was not taking full advantage of everything life had to offer. Remote Year allowed me to access my confidence to create whatever life I wanted and the wisdom to know that no matter the ups and downs, I was always going to be okay. After the program I relocated to a new city, shaved my head, quit my job, and I’m now thriving as a full-time creative.
Chimdi Today: I am now a full-time content creator, sharing authentically and joyfully on my YouTube channel as I navigate my spiritual and creative growth. After spending some time in LA, I returned to Maryland, with a few stops in Mexico, Costa Rica, and Cape Town. In addition to video content, I support other creators as a creative coach and through Adobe as a community leader, I dabble in voice over work, and I just participated in my first web show.
Kiana before Remote Year: Before Remote Year, I was at a desk job daydreaming about doing what would ultimately become my Remote Year experience. I edit video for a living, so I’d always find myself living vicariously through these fantastic worlds that I create for work. I had been putting my own life experiences at the end of the cue for years while pretending to be satisfied with it. I wasn’t, so I made a choice to change that with traveling.
Kiana today: Today, I still edit and produce which I absolutely love, but now I make it a regular practice to recreate some of the magic that I had on Remote Year in my own backyard. Instead of waiting for an occasion, I plan an adventure for the day. Try a new museum. Make something with my hands. Embrace the randomness of any given moment and find beauty and joy in it. The best part is bringing a friend or two along to share the experience with.
Tiffany before Remote Year: I always wanted a gap year but never took one. In my 40's I took my chance to travel the world.
Tiffany today: I continue to travel and I'm looking to purchase land abroad and build a house in another country.
Kristin before Remote Year: I worked in regulatory affairs for a financial services firm before Remote Year. A company merger created the opportunity for me to fulfill a lifelong dream of living outside of the United States.
Kristin today: My Remote Year experience inspired a career pivot into the DEI space. I truly love learning about other experiences and cultures. I now live in Chicago and work for the Federal Reserve on the diversity, equity and inclusion team. I also volunteer with an organization named Friends of Sabina that supports a boarding school in Uganda. I had the opportunity to spend three months volunteering at the school in 2019.
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Black Culture, Identity, and Travel: Our Community Shares Their Stories