Episode 45 │ Didn't Start in Arkansas (SWEET TIFFY'S INSPIRATIONS)

photo courtesy of Tiffany Heard

"I didn't have any expectations. I was open to everything, and I'm thankful that I was... Just try it. If you don't like it, you don't ever have to do it again." (Tiffany, Episode 45)

Oh, how I love receiving referrals and recommendations! This time, I have Danielle Desir (The Thought Card Podcast/WOC Podcasters) to thank for sending a new guest my way. Not long after my feature episode of The Thought Card was released back in April, Danielle suggested that Tiffany Heard would be a great guest, mentioning that Tiffany had studied in Ghana. When I got the chance to speak with Tiffany, I learned that not only has she studied in Ghana, but she's also visited various other countries since then and is now a travel blogger among other things!

A native of Los Angeles, Tiffany had traveled domestically with her family a number of times, but she didn't get her first passport stamp until she went to Ghana during her undergraduate years at California State University Long Beach (Cal State Long Beach). She would often look at the brochures in the study abroad office and she'd always said she wanted to go to Africa, but for some reason that she can't recall, she never signed up for a program. Then in 2006 Tiffany overheard a girl in a computer lab discussing her recent study abroad trip to Ghana, and when she asked the girl for more info she was put in touch with the contact person for that trip. Cut to the summer of 2007, and Tiffany was heading to Ghana with a program organized by a local community college called Long Beach City College.

Tiffany and her 12 fellow female students were required to take a geography course in California before going to Ghana for four weeks, immersing in as many aspects of local life and culture as they could. (It just so happened that all of the participants in this trip were women except for their professor.) They went to three or four different cities, including Accra and Cape Coast, and nearly every day offered a different excursion or something new to try. Highlights included having traditional outfits made for them, doing a homestay in Cape Coast (Tiffany's still in touch with her host mom even now), dancing and drumming classes, hiking, visiting a school to deliver supplies, and of course tasting local food. The food took some getting used to, but after subsequent visits to Ghana over the years, Tiffany's eager to go back and try all the foods she was a little too picky to eat the first time.

Tiffany enjoyed Ghana so much that while all her classmates went home at the end of those four weeks, she stayed an extra two weeks just chilling in Accra, enjoying the city and spending time with people she'd come to know there since arriving. For her, that first trip to Ghana is still one of the best times she's gone because everything was so fresh and exciting, and she felt like her eyes were opened in so many new ways. Plus, since all of her fellow students were young women like her, it almost felt like a girls' trip. In fact, they're all still in touch with each other to this day.

Before coming a travel blogger (more on that later), she was and still is a social worker by trade. In undergrad she worked with children and families, and while earning her MSW at Howard University she went on a study abroad trip with her cohort to Cape Town, South Africa where they observed what the field of social work was like there. She learned a lot at that time, but even after having been to South Africa during grad school and going to Morocco this year for leisure, Tiffany is still glad that Ghana was the first African country she visited. As a Black American, she felt a fuller and more encompassing feeling of being in Africa in Ghana than in South Africa and Morocco, which have specific cultural influences that she appreciates but doesn't relate to as intimately.

"I don't care what other people think about me... I want you to be inspired to do whatever you want to do."
photo from Audacity Fest (audacityfest.com)

Tiffany kept going places, and it was after a trip to Thailand in late 2015 that she decided to start her travel blog, Sweet Tiffy's Inspirations. While preparing for the trip, she had been asked by a woman to write a guest post on that woman's blog while Tiffany was in Thailand, but when Tiffany later emailed the piece she'd written to the woman, she never received a response. So then in early 2016, she decided to create her own blog and make that piece her very first blog post instead. She's been blogging ever since. And while Sweet Tiffy's Inspirations is obviously a travel blog, Tiffany's goal is to create content conveying her experiences in way that inspires her readers to do whatever it is that they want to do but haven't yet, travel-related or not. As she put it to me, "I'm to a point now where I don't care what other people think about me... I want you to be inspired to do whatever you want to do."

Within the next couple years, Tiffany would like to earn her social work license so that she can be a traveling social worker, having an international job that allows her to travel extensively. In the meantime, she continues to travel on her own, and in addition to visiting Morocco this year she's also gone on volunteer trips teaching English in Spain and rebuilding homes in St. John (U.S. Virgin Islands). She also continues to blog about her travels, book speaking engagements (catch her at NOMADNESS's AUDACITY Fest in late September), plan trip guides for clients, and even organize her own group trips. She'll be taking a group of people in late December to ring in the new year in—you guessed it—Ghana. Tiffany can be found on her website (tiffany-travels.com), Instagram (@sweettiffys), Twitter (@sweettiffys), and Facebook (Sweet Tiffany's Inspirations).

Be sure to listen to this episode, "Didn't Start in Arkansas (SWEET TIFFY'S INSPIRATIONS)" for more! And don't forget to check out the resource list below!

RESOURCES:

Danielle G. is the creator and host of Young, Gifted and Abroad. You can find her other writings at DeelaSees.com.