With Americans looking more to road trips due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kristin Braswell wanted to create a new way for people to approach their routes when the pandemic turned the travel world upside down.
It didn’t take her long to find a path for her company, CrushGlobal, with which she had previously focused on international travel.
“[I was] trying to find a way to provide services to clients being mindful of safety protocols,” Braswell, who has contributed to USA TODAY, said, noting that when she saw RV travel and road trips trending, she had her answer.
And in taking her company on a new route, she decided to make the road trip more inclusive.
“I think there is a sort of romanticized idea of the great American road trip,” she says. “[We’re] making it more inclusive in a way that I feel like past American road trip marketing has not done.”
Braswell’s CrushGlobal Road Trip Guides aim to highlight primarily Black-owned and women-owned businesses for travelers to visit on jaunts in the Northeast, South and other parts of the country. The itineraries focus on a variety of themes with features including private cabana wine tastings, tours shining a light on lesser-known Black history in the South, bespoke cocktail classes and outdoor adventures among other experiences.
►A look inside the Green Book:Guiding Black travelers through a segregated and hostile America
She tapped into her background as a travel journalist and started reaching out to connections at different tourism boards to see what was open and what COVID safety precautions were being taken.
And then she sought to highlight diverse businesses in her guides, putting those businesses on the map – literally – for her clients.
“Another element important to me, particularly as a Black woman, was I wanted to support women-owned and Black-owned businesses,” Braswell says.
The guides,published last fall and updated monthly with the latest COVID-19 restrictions and other time-sensitive information, range in price from $30 to $60. They’redelivered to the buyer in a mobile-friendly PDF format.
Each guide has its own flavor and geographical track ranging from a 7-day, food and wine-focused route traversing Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Oakland and Napa/Sonoma to a 4-day Georgia trek through Atlanta, Macon and Savannah focused on local stops and the coast. The trips highlight national parks, “the South’s greatest gems,” notable culinary experiences and more.
CrushGlobal also offers a customized option which lets clients tell Braswell and her team what kinds of activities they hope to engage in and where they’d like to go. The custom guides are based on on individual interest and budget.
If travelers are interested in a personalizedguide, CrushGlobal asks them to fill out a questionnaire with their ideal budget for daily spending and the kind of route they’re interested in. After they do, the company provides a quote for services to create the guide and handles the itinerary, including bookings.
And the requests for customized guides run the gamut, Braswell has discovered. She is currently working on a guide for a couple interested in a magic-focused trip around Route 66.
When it comes to the pre-made guides, CrushGlobal provides recommendations and it’s up to the traveler to book.
“There are so many places in America that are worthy of traveling to,” she said. “I think with social media, people have this idea that you have to flex and have a passport and go to the Amalfi Coast.”
But that’s simply not the case, she added, noting her guides will be of value to travelers in a post-pandemic world as they explore stateside.
And the guides will help businesses recover, too, she believes.
“So many people have suffered economically because of the pandemic, so a lot of the guides connect people to local hotels and restaurants and tour guides … (They will) help bring back money to various parts of the economy affected by the pandemic,” she said.
Braswell isn’t the only one hoping to highlight diversity in travel
Braswell told USA TODAY that one of her inspirations while creating the guides was “The Green Book.”
“The Negro Motorist Green Book” was an essential guide to safe spaces published by Victor Hugo Green annually from 1936 to 1966. “The Green Book” helped Black travelers in the Jim Crow period find hotels, restaurants, gas stations and other businesses that would serve them.
Braswell stressed that her guides are not only for Black travelers – they are for every traveler. Whether they be “people who want to support diversity initiatives or they just see the guides,” she says, “The road trips are for everyone.”
And with her guides, Braswell is one among many looking to highlight diverse businesses for travelers to support.
Martinique Lewis, president of the Black Travel Alliance, created her own, modern version of Green’s travel guide. Her book, “ABC Travel Greenbook: Connecting the African Diaspora Globally,” catalogs Black-owned businesses and Black-focused experiences such as tours, among other resources for international travel.
While things have changed since the Jim Crow-era when the “Green Book” was so indispensable, the possibility of a violent encounter still gives Black drivers a reason to be wary when on the road, said Maira Liriano, the associate chief librarian at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a division of the New York Public Library. The center holds an extensive collection of “Green Book” editions.
While the new efforts pay tribute to Green’s original vision, they’re also a reminder that the books’ original mission remains a work in progress.
“Safety was a top priority in creating the CrushGlobal Road trip guides because so often, traditional road trip guides don’t consider the concerns and needs of people of color and the LBGTQA community when traveling,” Braswell said, noting she wanted to create routes that celebrate more diverse regions of the country with stops the reflect the diversity of her clients.
“We have created guides for people from every walk of life, and at the heart of this initiative is making sure that all people feel safe and seen in their particular needs during their road trip,” Braswell said.