Design Your Life
This Traveler Went From No Passport To Traveling The World In A Year
By DeAnna Taylor
Alexander-Julian, aka AJ, is 25 years old from Houston by way of Brooklyn. He just got his passport in March 2017 and has already seen 17 countries and five continents.
AJ recently took a trip to Yosemite National Park in California with nine of his friends. While this trip was outside of their norm, they had an amazing time. He shared with us how to conquer Yosemite and similar National Parks across the U.S.
Travel Noire: What led you to plan a trip to Yosemite?
AJ: Earlier this year I made a work trip to Bermuda, where I thought I’d spend most of my days lounging around beaches and drinking Gosling’s rum. Instead, I found myself drawn to a more physically taxing itinerary consisting of hiking, biking, climbing, and all other sorts of outdoor activities that I have never had the opportunity, or desire, to explore. It made me consider, “Why did I not know I liked this kind of stuff?”
I had previously done some research on advertising in Black travel, and lack thereof. The Black traveler is a $50 billion customer that isn’t even marketed to. I, personally, had never been sold the idea of the outdoors. Disclaimer, I am a very simple guy and only knew to either go to Jamaica or Cancun, somewhere warm and tropical that I could wade in the water. I had never realized that I might have some sort of affinity for the outdoors, so I took this as my opportunity to explore that.
Travel Noire: How did you persuade your travel crew to join you?
AJ: It was easy. My travel crew is a group of friends who follow each other all over the world. We all love to travel and experiencing new things. We had each been itching for a trip, and with all our group-chats from previous trips still active, all I had to do was drop the location and date, and it was set.
Travel Noire: Give us the deets on where you stayed and why?
AJ: We stayed in two places which I think were both really cool for different reasons.
The first spot was The Redwoods at Yosemite. It was perfect because it was right in the middle of Yosemite Park. We stayed in an amazing 5-bedroom cabin, decked out with a wood fireplace, wrap-around balcony, and a surprisingly decked out kitchen for the dinners you’re inevitably going to have to cook since the park is a food desert.
When the weekend came we moved to the Pines Resort at Bass Lake right outside of the park. Whenever we travel together, our number one rule is that we all stay in the same house. We booked two connected rustic chalets. It was like being neighbors with your best friends. The resort also sits on Bass Lake (we also love a boat rental) and has a grocery store, gas station, restaurants, and a bar that all stay open late.
Travel Noire: What types of activities did you do there? Did you use a tour guide?
AJ: You have to do the Discover Yosemite tour, it’s essentially a 9-hour, baptism by fire, immersion into all that is Yosemite. It sounds intense, but it actually isn’t bad and really gives you the opportunity to see and explore all the great parts of the park. We also went horseback riding at Yosemite Trails, and on the weekend rented a boat on Bass Lake which was very on brand for us considering our history with boats in Colombia.
Travel Noire: Where were the best places to eat while there?
AJ: Yosemite Park is actually a bit of a food desert, which is understandable, it’s just a big ‘ole park. But we did find some really good restaurants right outside of the park, all a 15-20 minute drive away. My favorite foods finds were Wild Fig Kitchen, Southgate Brewery, and Casa Velasco.
Travel Noire: Would you take a trip like this again? Did this change your view on nature-based travel?
AJ: Absolutely! I’ve lived in cities and suburbs my whole life, so it’s literally taken me 25 years to realize just how beautiful this Earth is, amidst all its madness. Nature is such a magical creation.
Getting to see the beauty if the world in its rawest state helps me also find the beauty in my everyday surroundings. I’m looking forward to visiting more national parks, seeing more mountains, rivers and lakes, and tons and tons of trees.
Travel Noire: Any additional tips for those wanting to plan a similar trip?
AJ: Grocery shop and fill up your gas tank whenever you can because you don’t want to be driving at night looking for food and gas. Pack appropriately. There’s no need for fancy gear to get dope pics. Nature as a background is enough. Just make sure you have clothes for cold nights, bug spray, portable chargers, and a fanny pack.
Travel Noire: Where can we find you 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.