This Couple Turned Their Passion For Travel Into A Thriving Business
By DeAnna Taylor
Kalisa Martin and her partner Jeff Belizaire currently operate their joint business The Runaway Experience. Kalisa is a chef and oversees operations, while Jeff is in marketing and business development.
We spoke with Kalisa via email about their love for travel and how they run their business as a unit.
Travel Noire: What initially led you all to start your bed and breakfast in Jamaica?
Kalisa: During the long, drawn-out NYC winter of 2014, we took a last minute getaway to Jamaica. It was then that we realized the time was right to make our dreams come true. We were both at a place in our careers where we were ready for a change, the location was the perfect place to incubate our idea, and we knew that — with our complementary skills and experiences — we would make great partners. As cheesy as it sounds, we knew after that weekend in Jamaica that it would be the beginning of an awesome adventure.
We moved to Jamaica in 2014 and lived there full-time operating our bed & breakfast until 2017 when we expanded to become The Runaway Experience.
TN: What types of experiences do you offer at The Runaway Experience?
Kalisa: We host three kinds of experiences: international cultural immersions, wellness retreats in partnership with leading self-care experts, and domestic long weekend getaways and one-day events. In all cases, we partner with local small businesses to support the local economy, to celebrate what’s happening in the community, and to give travelers an authentic taste of life in each destination. We focus on Jamaica, Cuba, Bali, Morocco, and select U.S. cities.
TN: What is it like traveling the world and sharing in these experiences with the one you love?
Kalisa: For us, traveling isn’t a vacation. We travel for our business to research, to build relationships, coordinate logistics and eventually host guests, and create content. People say you learn a lot about your partner when you travel together and that building a business with your partner is challenging. We’re doing both of those things at the same time, all the time.
All that said, we wouldn’t have it any other way. Traveling the unbeaten path and starting a business has its ups and downs but experiencing the ride with your life partner is the most reassuring thing. Plus, a lifestyle of constant traveling and entrepreneurship is not for everyone, so we appreciate how aligned we are.
TN: Where has been your most memorable experience together?
Kalisa: Cuba was one of the most unique destinations for sure. As everyone knows, the culture is incredible from the art, music, architecture, history and more — but there’s nothing like being there and experiencing the richness for yourself. The complex politics and the strained relations with the U.S. also made us appreciate the opportunity to connect with folks there that much more. We traveled between three distinct regions of the island and had the privilege to meet and become friends with families, business owners, artists, and musicians, and learn from their varied perspectives. Last, but certainly not least, I have some of the most delicious food memories from our time in Cuba.
TN: Tell us about Kalisa Mari Eats?
Kalisa: Kalisa Marie Eats (KME) is a new food content platform we’ve launched as an extension of The Runaway Experience. I’ve spent my whole life studying, creating, marketing, curating, and happily consuming FOOD. I have degrees in food science and culinary arts, and built an extensive career in food media before launching the Runaway. Now, after eating my way around the globe, I’ll be sharing my unique perspective on food with the world.
TN: Where can our readers find you all on social media?
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.