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Meet Princess “Franny the Traveler” Francois of Franny the Traveler in Downtown San Diego

Today we’d like to introduce you to Princess “Franny the Traveler” Francois.

Princess, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always had a curiosity to learn, but a long-deferred desire to see the world. Growing up, I loved learning about various cultures, largely because I did not have the opportunity to travel across the country or around the world. Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, my mom and I traveled locally, hopping on buses to explore different neighborhoods or on the subway to explore other boroughs and the tri-state area. In New York, crossing into a different neighborhood means stepping into a different world. These experiences not only provided me with a greater appreciation for different cultures, but significantly increased my desire to travel as well.

As a pre-med student at Columbia University, I could not seem to steer away from my strong historical and cultural interests. Hence, I decided to balance studying science by majoring in history, specifically focusing on colonialism. However, it was not until the summer of 2012, a year out of college, that I got a passport and went to Costa Rica.

After college, I taught in my local neighborhood high school. At that point, I realized how similar I was to my students in that I had never traveled by plane. As an educator, I realized the importance of exposing my students to the world. Although they may not be able to afford an international trip, it became my mission to organize field trips to neighborhoods outside of their comfort zone within their own city.

Since 2012, I have not stopped traveling! A former professor once stated: “Education is the best job to have. You can travel to a new country every break you have.” I took that to heart and ever since then, I travel somewhere during every break, whether it is to another state or another country.

Seven years have gone by since my first passport stamp (and 24 countries and 32 states later) and I am now an Assistant Principal who inspires more students (and even staff members) to travel. In my office, I make it a point to hang photos of my travels pinned to a world map; display artifacts from different countries and bring back souvenirs to show my school community that a person of color born from similar beginnings has a place in this traveling space. I hope to show them that they too can walk along the great winding walls of China, see the grandeur architecture of Italy, and be inspired by the majestic pyramids of Egypt.

Beyond my school, I educate others by sharing my adventures on Instagram and blogging. In doing this, I am actively contributing to the travel movement by being an example of black and plus-size travelers on the social media scene.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
As the saying goes, “the bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward.” I would not feel that I am finally living my best life if it did not take so many obstacles to get here.

One of the biggest challenges with traveling and blogging has been (and continues to be) balancing it with a full-time job. I do not have a 9-5 job in which I can clock out and not worry about until I return the next day. My job, my career, is one that takes up time both physically and emotionally. I am an educator, more specifically, an Assistant Principal. In my role, I am often answering emails in the late evenings and weekends. I am the one who people text when they need to call out while I am just barely waking up. I love what I do, but it does not center on traveling. However, despite having a career that more often than not pushes me to work over 40 hours per week, I find the energy to pursue my passion for traveling (and travel blogging).

I did not know what I was getting myself into when I started my blog. It is not just writing whenever you feel like it. It involves a whole new set of skills such as SEO optimization, navigating an online platform, marketing, and writing in a different style. I had to learn from scratch! If I added up the amount of time that I spend drafting blog posts, editing content, taking pictures, selecting photos for the next post, marketing my content through IG, and just straight up reading through blogs, it is definitely the equivalent of a part-time job! I have blogging on my brain constantly, even if it’s just brainstorming potential article ideas. Just like with a career, I go to workshops to learn how to better my traveling and blogging craft.

There is also the struggle of being a Black, plus size traveler. Growing up, I was always what many would consider fatter, curvier, thicker {insert your own adjective} than most people in my circle of friends. As a result, I struggled to accept my Black and curvy body, let alone exude confidence in a country such as the United States where people are often shamed for being Black and/or thick. As much as seeing Black travelers around the world gives me life, seeing thicker curvaceous travelers is still lacking comparatively. Being a Black AND plus size traveler has brought its own unique set of experiences. Imagine sitting in a 14-hour flight to India with your hips feeling completely smooshed against the seat dividers in an exit row. Imagine also trying to request a seat with extra hip room on your way back home and getting not only pushback, but also outright disrespect before being able to convince a flight attendant to switch your seat while already onboard the plane. Imagine feeling like prey as Indian men turn their heads a full 90 degrees to lustfully catch a glimpse of you as you walk the Taj Mahal.

I, however, own my struggle and let it be a source of inspiration—one picture, one blog post at a time. I would like to think my thicker body gives more of me to love. My struggles are life lessons.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am the owner of the Franny the Traveler travel blog. I am a part-time traveler and travel blogger while also being a full-time educator (Assistant Principal of Math and Science). Although I have been officially running a published travel blog for two years, I started a year before. I just did not have the guts to publish it! My travel blog centers on my adventures as I conquer at least two new countries and two new states a year with the goal of reaching 50 states & 50 countries by age 50!

My blog centers on black travel, domestic travel, and travel efficiency. When I travel, I like to travel with a “Black lens” perspective because I think that the Black lens is not given enough attention (especially through traveling). We are the minority among travelers to begin with. I also think it is important to shine positive light to the Black experience.

Domestic travel is very underrated. If the United States were a continent, each state would be a country. Imagine adding 50 countries to the United Nations! We may be one country, but each state is characterized by accents, history, laws, and food. Domestic travel can save time and money while also still fulfilling that desire to travel.

I want my blog to show that you do not need to get up and quit your job. With the right knowledge and balance, you can travel and work full time. You can travel and not break the bank!

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
As much as my travel blog is a proud accomplishment, my proudest moments are as an educator: graduating with my second Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership at the age of 25 and then becoming an Assistant Principal a year later. In both cases, it is because of the impact that it has had on my students.

At my graduation, several students came out to support me. For some, it was the first time seeing graduation beyond high school, let alone college. At that moment, hearing my mom, my friends, my principal, but especially my students screaming my name as I walked down the aisle to receive my diploma, I became living proof of what can be achieved despite socioeconomic circumstances.

Similarly, when I became an Assistant Principal, my students were sad to see me leave me the school. However, they were happy for me because they knew it meant that I was moving upward. For example, when I came back to watch my students graduate (the same students who watched me graduate from my leadership program), a former student goes, “Yoooooo Francois really is goals!” I chuckled, “What do you mean?” She goes, “Miss, I want to be you. You left this place. You doing great things. You a leader. You making more money. You traveling. You doing it all. I peep you on Facebook.” This was the first moment that I realized that school leadership is NOT just about having a direct impact on the school you are serving.It is about being a role model. My students will always be my students and I realize that they continue to watch me. They see me in them as much as I see them in me!

Fast forward to my second year as Assistant Principal, I was facilitating a meeting between a young, black female teacher and her co-teacher. As we were having a heart to heart conversation, one of the teachers blurts out “My goal truly is to be Francois. A boss lady. A goal getter. Eat, sleep, teach, repeat ALL while being so calm and having a smile on her face. You make it look so easy.” At that point, I internalized that being a school leader goes beyond the kids that I serve. My impact equally extends to the adults in the building who are working collaboratively to serve our kids. That feeling of long term impact beats any teaching award or evaluation.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Andy Estevez

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