Like many travelers I now follow, I first came across Kiona on Instagram, though I didn’t know what her name was at the time. In fact, I knew nothing about her then, except that her Instagram handle was unique: @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch. Hmmm. How not to travel like a basic bitch?
It’s one of the longer IG handles, but serves its purpose well. It’s memorable and gets people to stop and think, “hold up — here’s something different!”
In the months that I’ve been following Kiona, her following has been steadily growing. She’s controversial. She thrives on getting a reaction out of people and stirs up strong feelings in her readers. I love lots of what she writes and posts — but some of it, not so much.
What I do respect, and what keeps me coming back for more, is her openness to — nay, her insistence on — discussing important themes and her brutal honesty. She’s built a platform where men, women, and gender-diverse folks — but mostly women — discuss topics such as race, privilege, or how not to cultural appropriate like a basic bitch. (LOVED that one, btw, and not just because a quote of mine was featured in the post!)
And, naturally, another hot and frequent topic Kiona tackles is her site’s namesake question, how not to travel like a basic bitch.
What’s a Basic Bitch?
Well, you can find the full basic-bitch definition here, but for you, I’ve summarized my takeaway below.
Basic Bitch, Defined
Kiona says a basic bitch is “Someone who is unflinchingly upholding of the status quo and stereotypes of their country without even realizing it.” Some key offenses include visiting a place just to say you were there or traveling to foreign lands, but interacting only with people just like you. For example, spending your whole time abroad only with fellow Americans would be basic af.
To give more depth to her point, Kiona included this non-basic quote written by one of her readers, Dhawani Parekh:
“Travelling is when one goes to a different/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. The primary purpose of traveling is to expose oneself to a new culture, cuisine, ideas, etc.”
Kiona then honed her definition further with the following paragraph, which definitely resonated with me:
“I once read a quote that said, ‘The antidote to fear is information.’ Our world operates off of fear of the unknown. So the more you know about someone else, the less you fear the customs, religion, or place they live in, and vice versa. It sure would solve a lot of the world’s problems, you know, understanding each other?”
Right on! So, with that little intro to Kiona and “how not to travel like a basic bitch” behind us, let’s get to the Q&A session.
"Woke Around the World" shirt by @1stclassfrance! She sells them here.
Kionafication: The Art of Non-Basic Blogging
Firstly, where are you from? Where do you live? And where have you been?
I’m originally from Hawaii, but I live in Texas. But where have I been? Like in life? Idk cause I’m not a basic country-counter-ass-bitch. Better to tell you where I haven’t been 😉
It’s really sad, but I haven’t been to South America, Australia, or Antarctica. But really South America has been on my list since the beginning of time and I’m super ashamed at my lack of effort to make it there.
You know who is a "basic country-counter-ass-bitch?" Me! And I ain't ashamed! 🙂 I'm 100% guilty of keeping track of where I've been, and you can check out my travel map here! 😉
When, how, and why did you start traveling?
I started traveling at birth. Cause my parents are lit. (And privileged.) Being a child of immigrants means going back to your parents’ home countries for holidays. MAJOR KEY.
It actually super pisses me off when people are like “5th passport!”
When you start traveling at a young age, it just means your parents were wealthy enough to pay for your young ass to jet across the world. It is also mandatory to change that shit out every 5-10 years. Rarely is it because you’ve used all the pages, so sitcho ass down. Congratulations on being spoiled.
Please tell us about your background or dish on any biographical details you’d like to share.
Both of my parents are fluent in German, but I’m not. My mom decided to study German abroad in Austria. One day, she crashed a military ball, and my dad, who was a solider in the Austrian military, saw her, stalked her, and decided she was THE ONE. (Imagine being the only Asian woman in a sea of white people. She was super easy to spot.)
For 3 years they wrote each other letters long distance, and every quarter when my dad received his check, he bought a ticket for my mom to come visit him. Then one day, my mom came to visit and SURPISE! My dad had surprised her by planning an entire wedding to take place ON THAT DAY. She didn’t even know she was getting married. Didn’t get to pick out a dress or anything. 300 people were invited! Even the mayor! Talk about pressure.
I’m not sure how I feel about that story, haha. A little romantic, a little oppressive, but regardless, that’s how I came to be!
How do you afford your travels? Do you have any advice or tips for other travel-minded people?
So some people ask for free shit along the way, I choose to hustle my way so I can fairly pay for all of my travels.
But because I am currently a student, my time isn’t super free. My jobs have to revolve around my class schedule. (I just want to say, paying my own way through college AND being able to afford to travel has been a bigger accomplishment than actually attaining the four degrees I have.)
In order to get my tuition paid for, I teach assist at the university in exchange for a small stipend and tuition reimbursement. It does not cover any extra costs outside of my rent. So I have side hustles, some of which include:
- Running and managing four AirBnBs in Austin and Cuba
- Having my own hand-made yoga clothing line Aloha Kiona
- Childcare expert and glorified babysitter
- Sports medic, which I do on the weekends (and yes, this requires a medical license and degree — but not an MD, an ATC)
- Selling art online
My advice is to budget, budget, budget. Find multiple avenues to make money, prioritize your spending, and create emergency funds for every aspect of life. A percentage of every one of your checks should go to travel, as should go to your health, your rent, your car, your food, etc. and this all depends on your personal situation.
"A percentage of every one of your checks should go to travel, as should go to your health, your rent, your car, your food, etc."
AND STICK TO THAT BUDGET, whatever sacrifice that means to you! However, it is different for everyone. For example, I rarely eat out and I do my own nails. Other people prefer to have a roommate and save on rent. It all depends on your personality and opportunity.
What’s something about you people may not know?
I really like pumpkin-spice lattes and I’m not sorry for being basic about it.
What’s at the top of your bucket list? Or do you have any upcoming trips planned that you’re excited about?
The top of my bucket list at the moment is probably Peru or Colombia. But my next trip is to Honduras, which I’m REALLY excited about!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I started the Healthy Eating Initiative in Guanajuato, Mexico, that teaches an entire community about nutrition, healthy cooking and snacking, and preventing disease. It also provides them with weekly groceries every time a workshop takes place. But we need more qualified volunteers! Visit this website to find out more information or email me at email@example.com if you have any questions!
As I’ve gotten to know Kiona a little bit more, it’s been cool to find a bunch of things that we have in common, such as the following, to name a few:
- We both have ties to Hawaii! (That’s where my dad’s from!)
- We both have ties to Korea! (I lived in South Korea for five years growing up, which is where we adopted my little bro — who, at 6’2″ — is not little!)
- We both have ties to the German language! (My two moms are German!)
- We both have four degrees! (Just kidding. I don’t have four degrees.)
- And, of course, we both love to travel!
That wraps up our non-basic Q&A, but if you have more questions, please ask them!
Thanks so much to Kiona, for agreeing to be featured in my Spotlight Traveler series, and for letting me pick her brain! And thank you all for following along! Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section! 🙂
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