SJS Founder, Steven Johnson-Stevenson is an openly gay Black man that curates bespoke travel experiences for travel enthusiasts and couples with children.
Travel is an education. We must recognize that as a fact. I highly recommend that, if possible, couples do their best to expose their children to travel.– Steven Johnson-Stevenson
How long have you been married, and how did you meet your husband?
In November, we will be married for six years. We initially met online. To be transparent, it was on Adam4Adam.
We finally met in person in March of 2014. My husband says, my reluctance to meet in person, following meeting online, pushed him off. I liked the fact that he was persistent.
A lot of relationships are ending during Covid-19. How are you and your husband balancing your lives during the pandemic?
It was an adjustment. We went so abruptly from our “normal routine” to being-at-home, with a 5-year-old energetic son. Typically, I am the worrywart of the family. There was much on our plate.
Our approach to homeschooling was a spot of contention initially. I was trying my hardest to follow every instruction. That soon led to frustration, given that I had to juggle my full-time job and homeschooling.
We spoke about it, and I realized that anything that created additional tension was not the way to go. I had to relax and just do the best I could. We learned the importance of communication.
There were periods when we needed our space. There were some unpleasant exchanges, but thankfully we were able to work through them. COVID-19 has taught us so many valuable lessons.
What advice do you have for couples who want to travel with their child or children?
Travel is an education. We must recognize that as a fact. I highly recommend that, if possible, couples do their best to expose their children to travel.
Children often are part of the travel decision-making process. Many parents consider destinations that they ordinarily would not merely because it was a suggestion made by one of their children.
The first place my son said he wanted to travel to was Costa Rica. His first trip outside of the US was to my homeland of Dominica. He loved it and longed to return. Costa Rica and Dominica are both nature destinations. I never forgot that.
Given our present situation, this is the perfect time to start doing things locally. I encourage all families to take a short road trip. Venture to unknown parts. Our first road trip for the summer was to Maine. We did a 6-mile hike, ate great seafood, and met some interesting people.
Our son is quite the Foodie! He, along with me, enjoyed fresh raw oysters. His request for dinner that night was lobster. As a gay family, we felt comfortable and welcomed in Maine.
Explain the SJS Experience and Bespoke Travel concept.
I offer my clients the benefit of my travel experiences and create meaningful, unforgettable, luxury experiences that will create lasting memories.
Luxury does not always have to mean super expensive. It is about the experience, the human connection, and of course, the memories. Many of these are priceless!
I work with each client to meet them where they are. I also make recommendations that allow each experience to have that bespoke touch.
Top 3 Travel Destinations.
That one is hard. I must connect with a destination and its people to fall in love with it. Thailand is the top choice. You can have several different experiences all within one country. The people, food, culture, elephants, beaches, and grand hotels are just some of the reasons I think it is a great destination.
I want to return to India and Morocco with my family. Sri Lanka is also high on my list. It is undiscovered and great for wellness tourism.
Being Black Wanderlust travelers, why is it essential to include your son into your travel experiences?
He is part of who we are. We want him to grow up with a broad mind. We believe that by experiencing and understanding different cultures and ways of life, he will become more evolved.
He hopefully will grow up with a more profound sense of purpose. It will instill empathy and understanding. It will help him understand the concept of self and the importance of equality.
How do you keep your son empowered with all of the noise and chaos daily?
By teaching him. By allowing him to be a part of history. He attended a recent protest march with us. We will eventually have to have more in-depth conversations with him as he gets older. We are always honest with him and do not sugar coat reality.
What are you and your husband instilling into him as he is getting older?
Humility, empathy, compassion, understanding, acceptance, love, forgiveness, tolerance, etc.; the list goes on and on. We strive to teach and instill such values through action.
We want him always to be proud of who he is. We want him to be proud of the fact that he is a man of color. We want him to embrace all aspects of his life. We hope that he will be able to speak with pride about growing up with two gay fathers. We hope that, in his own way, he will be an advocate for acceptance and tolerance.
Once the pandemic has ended, what will be your first travel destination as a family?
Thailand! We promised him an opportunity to interact with the elephants.
Steven and Robert represent the positive the we need to see representing Black gay men and couples.
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