August 2023 Travel
L i z - D e s i r S e r i
L i z - D e s i r S e r i Travel Group
What inspired you to start your travel company Liz-Desir Travel Group?
The inspiration that started this journey was when I was an upperclassman while at university. I saw some of my peers take a leap and create their business (whether product or service), leveraging and using their skill set! This inspired me to take a leap, and provide services to friends, and others looking to take a trip anywhere in the world, but needed help with the planning. LDS Travels was born. It would later become what is Liz-Desir Travel Group.
This is something I adored (and still adore) doing! Prior to making my business LDS Travels, I used to plan out all of my friends and I spring/fall break trips. I would be thinking about it in class. As soon as I got to my college apartment (at the time), I would work on it for hours, and not even realize the time was flying. I had friends and others coming to me asking me how I did it. How did I find these epic experiences? They started asking for my help and resources. This is when I knew I wanted to do something with travel/travel planning.
What I love most is making people happy, and seeing their reactions after a great experience. To this day, my friends and I still talk about our trips from nearly five years ago!
LDS Travels was actually founded in February 2020. I’m sure as you see this date, you know what was right around the corner…the pandemic (COVID-19). The pandemic did impact my business given that the world was closed. No one was traveling. With the time that I had during the pandemic, while finalizing my studies at home, I realized how small the travel industry was specifically for Black women/audiences. Whenever you would Google anything that would have to do with travel, you can see how much we are underrepresented.
"The pandemic did impact my business given that the world was closed. No one was traveling. With the time that I had during the pandemic, while finalizing my studies at home, I realized how small the travel industry was specifically for Black women/audiences. Whenever you would Google anything that would have to do with travel, you can see how much we are underrepresented".
Additionally, there have been times that travel plans did not make it out of the chat. There would be a lot of excitement, and then silence. I made a vow to myself that I would never discard a plan I’m looking forward to because others can’t go. This made me think about solo traveling. At the same time, I remember how scary that feeling was to take that leap of traveling someplace on my own. It made me think I can't be the only one who felt like this, and decided to cancel travel plans because of these factors. Solo traveling, mainly as a woman, is something that can feel scary. Even though I have taken the leap and had the opportunity to solo travel to six countries thus far, I knew and remember that initial fear. I started to research, find, and follow Black travel community pages on Instagram. Ultimately, I got inspired to be a part of that change, while making an impact. My own experience, knowledge, and love for travel planning pushed me to want to rebrand my business and take it seriously. As mentioned earlier, I got inspired by my peers, and prior to the rebranding, by Black female travelers, and business owners. There are a couple of Black-owned travel agencies/companies out there, but truly we need more. I took a leap at the age of 20 years old to make Liz-Desir Travel Group (June 2020). I haven't looked back since.
Liz-Desir Travel Group is a travel company that hosts and plans group trips abroad for individuals (mainly women) to join a group trip solo, or with family/friend(s), and partake in well-planned experiences while making new-found connections. Also, we provide private trip consulting services for those traveling with their own group, by themselves, or with a significant other.
Tell us more about LDTG Travel Community!
The LDTG Travel Community is a dynamic group of individuals (mainly women) who join any group trip with us whether solo or with a friend, looking for a stress free experience abroad, immersing themselves in the culture and making newfound friendships and connections. Our travel community consists of individuals ages 20 and above. We’ve had trip members up to the age of 74 years old, and age truly has no barriers when it comes to the connections our trip members have had with one another during the trip, and even afterward. Our travel community strives for well-planned experiences. That luxury comes from the accommodation stays, to private transportation during our trips, and exclusive local guides that cater to our groups.
We provide personable experiences and curate small groups with a capacity of 6 - 10 travelers. As someone who directly hosts these international trips, I absolutely love building new relationships myself with our travel community members. I have been fortunate enough to welcome familiar faces on a second, and even third group trip with LDTG! There truly would not be a travel community without the incredible women who join us abroad. Though many of our trips are for women, we do have some co-ed eligible trips scheduled for the upcoming year (2024). We hope to welcome gentlemen as well who can take advantage and experience the amazing adventures our ladies do.
Where has been your favorite place to travel to?
This is a question I get asked a lot. Each time, it has been a challenge to answer. Only because I have loved every place I’ve traveled to so far and lived in. However, if I have to pick, then I would pick two places, Colombia and Türkiye.
Colombia truly blew my mind. I first went there solo in 2021. I’m not gonna lie, I was a bit hesitant at first. This was going to be my third time traveling solo. I am not sure why I was feeling that way initially. I am glad that I did not let the fear derail my plans. I packed my carry-on and spent a few days in Cartagena, Colombia. From the first day to the last day, I had the best time! From the food, to the vibes, to the experiences I’ve done, and everything in between! I made friends there, and I remember sharing that I would love to host a group trip there one day. Two years later (2023), I did just that! I was able to host an amazing group of ladies in Cartagena, Colombia. I worked with one of the friends that I made in Colombia for an incredible exclusive tour for the group. I am happy that I had the opportunity to share the experiences I had, and even better, with others.
Türkiye is a country with so much history. I do love some history! It’s different to learn about things from a textbook compared to actually experiencing it first hand, at that same place. Türkiye made me feel like I was watching history unfolding in front of me. To top that, the people were incredibly nice. For this trip, I initially traveled solo as well. I felt safe. I was excited to get up and experience new things. The Turkish dishes were nothing but exquisite (I am a foodie!). The views of Cappadocia were mesmerizing. The hot air balloon ride remains one of the best views I’ve witnessed. I always recommend friends to add Türkiye to their list. It is a big country with many beautiful regions outside the famous Istanbul and Cappadocia. I have yet to explore other regions, but it is on my to do list, and it’s an excuse to go back!
Are there any favorite dishes that you absolutely love when traveling to different countries?
Whew! This is a great question, and another one that is hard to answer, too. I am truly a foodie. I love eating local foods when I travel to different places. Below are a couple that definitely come to mind:
Chicken/ Lamb Tagine
Döner kebab Monfongo Manti
Okra Stew with Foutou (Sauce Gombo) - This one is more of a home dish from Cote D’Ivoire. My
absolute favorite dish!
Boeuf Bourguignon Crêpe
How has your educational background contributed to the knowledge that you have in the travel sector?
In college, I majored in Business. I double minored in International Business and Global Studies. I would say that my degree and what I’ve learned has helped me to take a leap and jump start my business. I learned about Hofstede's cultural dimensions, which describes and measures cultural differences between countries and their impact on behavior within organizations and societies. These dimensions provide insights into how cultures vary in areas such as communication styles, values, work preferences, and social norms. Learning about this taught me how important it is to be mindful of the different communication styles, and how to approach others in distinct places. Also, I made various research and projects focused on international countries and business (i.e. Ethiopia, international fast food chains, Brexit…). I still read the news and keep myself updated with what is going on in different countries because it impacts my business and places we’d like to add on for group trips.
As a small business owner, I wear a lot of hats, from social media, to accounting/ finance, to administrative tasks, day-to-day operations, customer service, and more. I have to say, though I taught myself through time, and got more experience working as a Community Engagement Senior Associate for a non-profit, my college education helped me a lot in terms of how to handle various backend tasks that are vital to the business.
I had no idea that I would be doing what I am doing now, and seeing how my education would help me run it. Owning my own business, and having the chance to work with incredible people internationally, has allowed me to utilize what I learned in the classroom to the field.
Are there any challenges you've had to overcome as a CEO?
Most definitely, I think it comes with being a business owner, or of any level of work! Being in the travel industry and having started and rebranded my business in 2020, in the midst of COVID was a challenge itself. I had to learn how to problem-solve, find alternative solutions, and be patient. After rebranding my business, there were some trials and errors in regard to finding a system that works both for me and my clients. Having taken time to try different things, doing the research, and strategizing has helped me get to a place where things have been working quite well internally, and externally.
I think challenges (though not fun) is important because it teaches you how to be a problem solver, and how to react in certain situations. It has strengthened my skills and knowledge as a business owner.
"I think challenges (though not fun) is important because it teaches you how to be a problem solver, and how to react in certain situations. It has strengthened my skills and knowledge as a business owner".
For solo travelers who might be reluctant to travel alone, can you offer some tips to encourage them to travel?
I certainly can! I totally understand because I was reluctant to solo travel as well. Truly, once you take that leap, you’ll be so glad that you did. You learn a lot about yourself, experience personal growth, and feel empowered! Below are four tips:
Start Small: Your first solo adventure does not have to be halfway around the world! You can start with a solo outing, or a solo getaway to a neighboring state to build some comfort and confidence. If you are interested in doing your first solo adventure out of the country, a neighboring country isn't a bad idea! My first solo trip was to Mexico. I think the reason why I felt a bit more at ease was because it’s a short flight, and not too far from home. In addition, it’s a great idea for the first solo adventure to be a couple of days (from 3, 4, 5 days length) - less than a week. You want to be sure you aren't away for too long of a time, but also not too short that you don't get the chance to really enjoy it.
Make your research: I love watching other people traveling and experiencing things. It actually brings some inspiration, and you can find out a great list of recommended activities, accommodations, restaurants, and more. Make your research about where you are going. Make it more fun by watching YouTube videos, TikTok, and Instagram Reels that are specifically focused on where you are going.
Stay in or near the city center: I always recommend staying in a hotel that is near, or even better, in the city center. Why? Because it is more populated, and a lot of places are within walking distance. This can save you money in terms of transport, and you get to explore your surroundings.
Partake in group tours and activities: Get Your Guide and Viator are two websites I highly recommend. You can easily find a list of awesome experiences to add to your itinerary. The best part is if you join a shared tour, then you can meet amazing people that way. You might even make a new friend!
"Your first solo adventure does not have to be halfway around the world! You can start with a solo outing, or a solo getaway to a neighboring state to build some comfort and confidence. If you are interested in doing your first solo adventure out of the country, a neighboring country isn't a bad idea!"
What are some words of advice you can give to future CEOs who want to start a travel company?
I am still learning everyday how to run a travel business. Below are some tips that can be helpful on this journey!
Think; Research; Passion & Vision: Is there a specific location or demographic that you want to cater to? What is your reason for it and experiences that drove you to want to create a travel business? This is something that is vital because this is where passion and dedication comes from; when you are able to think back to your mission, goal, and vision for your travel business.
Stay consistent and have patience: I think this one goes for everyone who has a business. Staying consistent in terms of your online presence and operations is incredibly important. Consistency is key always, always always! This then draws me to mentioning that you must have patience as well. Nothing grows overnight. It takes time! Be sure to continuously take care and water your business (like a flower), and you will see how it grows through time, like a garden. This will happen if you remain consistent.
Be you, be authentic: Let your personality and your authentic vision shine through! This will draw in the people you want to be part of your travel community.
Outside of your business, what are some other hobbies that you enjoy?
Actually, there are some hobbies that I’d like to get into! I’ll be listing a few that want to add to the list.
I used to be part of a step team and African dance club in college for nearly three years. This is something I haven't done continuously for some time, but I am looking to get back into it. I would love to dance again as a hobby!
One that has been a part of my list is learning a new language! I speak English and French having lived abroad for a couple of years during my childhood, and given that my family speaks French. I would like to add Portuguese to the list. It is a language that interests me a lot, and there are some slight similarities with the French language. I am looking to activate my Duolingo app again, and dedicate some time to it! I know a few common words, so it’s time to really practice!
Cappadocia Panorama: Turkiye
Carlos Maestre: Colombia
Mehdi Marouazi: Morocco
Muhammad Bilal: Abu Dhabi Mosque
Ruiz Martinez: Mexico