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Moscow, provided by Leroy Tyler IV

Traveling 30 Countries by Age 30

Breaking barriers by world travel

Leroy Tyler IV is a bold man on a globetrotting mission. His goal of traveling to thirty countries before his thirtieth birthday is nearly met. He’s already conquered a wide swath of countries — including Turkey, Russia, Argentina, Australia, China, Germany, France, England, South Africa, Indonesia, Iceland, the United Arab Emirates, and New Zealand. With one final (awesome) trip this year to Tonga, he’ll have achieved his 30-for-30 objective.

What is his secret to the ever-increasing list of stamps in his passport?

He’s not a wealthy jet setter. Nor is he an Instagram Influencer with an entourage and trips funded by advertisers. Instead, Leroy lives on a careful budget. Throughout these travels, his income sources have been steady jobs, some in skilled healthcare, others in marketing or sales. In summer 2019, he transitioned to working for an airline in St. Louis which will provide perks for additional flying.

As I write this series on extraordinary travel achievers, I find common denominators in goal-driven people. And Leroy is no exception. Like all who chase their dreams, he applies ingenuity, artful planning, opportunity and sacrifice to achieve goals — with world travel at the top of his bucket list.

And Leroy doesn’t wait around. He makes shit happen. This is a man of drive and purpose.

Along the way, he hopes to empower the black community with a message to go to far-flung places that aren’t the typical travel destinations, as well as prod the tourism industry into action that embraces people of color. Black travel is not to be neglected or discriminated against through white-focused advertising and marketing.

He’s a front runner for change, inspiration, and empowerment — part of a growing movement that rightfully demands equal recognition and representation they have been denied.

And he’s a cool guy to know on top of all this.

I found Leroy via a Lonely Planet post which featured enticing pictures of a recent trip to Russia. A peek at Instagram and YouTube gave me a glimpse of his eclectic and broad world travel. Leroy’s blog, A Black Man Abroad, was teaming with exciting off-the-beaten-path stops and practical advice for savvy travelers.

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Photos by Leroy Tyler IV

I expected to find traditional points of interest — the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, and trendy tropical vacation spots. But Leroy surprised me with the depth and breadth of his travels.

And Chernobyl? That I wasn’t anticipating.

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Chernobyl, by Leroy Tyler IV

I wasn’t the only one impressed. Travel authority writers, Robert and Adrienne Lee, covered Leroy’s trip to that remarkably eerie destination with their excellent post in Black Folks Travel, Too.

Intrigued, I reached out with an email. “Wow! How do you do all this?”

We chatted by phone, and I was struck by the maturity of this young man. Leroy is extremely articulate and quick to laugh. He seems older and wiser than his three decades.

Maybe all those ever-accumulating stamps in his passport give him an aura of confidence. Maybe it’s something inborn. But this man has heaps of personality and motivation.

Five minutes into a conversation with him — you really like the guy.

It’s easy to see why he’s built personal networks around the world. For example, connections made on a trip to Australia resulted in return visits and friendships which provided him the opportunity to live in the Land Down Under for a year in 2013.

There’s something else about Leroy you should know — he doesn’t just hop from place to place. He also travels deep and frequently to some of his favorite spots. Four trips to Australia. Four trips each to London and Amsterdam. Add that to the list of awesome accomplishments made in three short decades.

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Again, I was duly impressed and equally awestruck by the methods to arrive at his goals.

Leroy’s travel planning involves research and budgeting. Months ahead of a trip, he’ll pick his destination, and purchase tickets out of one paycheck. The next paycheck covers lodging. Subsequent income pays for tours or options. By the time he leaves, the entire trip is paid for. Leroy also chooses travel based on timing — so a paycheck is deposited just before or during his travel — allowing for emergencies or unforeseen extras.

He plays the points game with travel, racking up the miles and applying them as needed. A last-minute invite to a weekend blogging conference in London? No problem. Points solved that issue.

His fiscal planning is brilliant, and it shows his dedication. While most people can easily fritter away spare money or toss income into arbitrary possessions — Leroy wants experiences. And he’ll forgo cash in the present for future treks. However, he doesn’t see travel-focused spending as a sacrifice. With his passion for globe-trekking, it’s an easy choice.

Plus, you usually get more bang for the buck in foreign travel. A point he reiterated to me at least twice, “I want everyone to know that it’s usually cheaper to go roundtrip to Europe than it is to LA from Chicago.” (I agree wholeheartedly.)

Among other areas, Leroy could teach a course or a Ted-Talk in goal-focused budgeting and smart traveling.

I asked him, “How did this become a goal?”

Many sources have fueled his world travel appetites. His beloved mother, Sherri Tyler, planted the early seeds by gifting him with a set of encyclopedias when he was a young child. Once Leroy got to the geography and architecture sections, he was hooked. He had to visit those places.

Add to the above, the graduation gift of a family trip to Ireland, which stoked the fire of additional travel.

And when his mother tragically passed away in 2005, she had never traveled to the places she’d dreamed about visiting. Leroy discusses this as a major turning point for him. He doesn’t want to wait. Life is too uncertain. He carries his mother’s dreams with him as he goes each step of the way.

Like most globe trotters, as he went from place to place, he developed a ravenous craving for a full platter of exotic stops.

He isn’t waiting to live his best life at retirement. He’s hopping on that bandwagon now — camping on the beaches of Tasmania, drinking excellent vodka with Russian nationals, poking around ancient cities in Turkey and chilling with the locals in Indonesia.

About his year in Australia, he laughed, “I was having the time of my life!”

As the travels have increased, he’s also has become deeply aware that the media doesn’t portray safety well. He paused at this moment to let a huge exasperated sigh out. His thoughts expressed in a verbal tangent of frustration. “Fear. The media scares people. Especially black people. The media makes it seem unsafe to travel.”

His experiences have shown him the opposite. He’s never felt unsafe in his treks.

He found this particularly true when he went to Russia recently. Friends worried about his safety in a country that has a very small black population — roughly 70K out of 144.5 million. News reports frequently detail Russian discrimination and racial attacks against people of color.

And yet, Leroy’s Russian trip was the high point of all his travels, “They loved me there! I was treated so well by everyone!” He did not experience any hostility or racism — not even an unkind word. His thoughts on the country simply stated as “Russians are very hospitable. You wouldn’t think so if you listened to the news, but they are.”

So, it has been for this vibrant young man as he’s visited countless destinations. He’s had grand adventures, made friends and broadened his horizons with every stop. And overall, he ignores what the media says, preferring to research the area and get first-hand perspectives.

Like most seasoned travelers, Leroy is a profound foodie. I bonded with him instantly over this topic. It’s hard not to relish a person who shares a passion for street food. In our conversation, we found only one item we weren’t excited about. Apparently, western tastes don’t always adapt to the savory Middle Eastern yogurt concoction known as ayran, which is reminiscent of drinking salty, minty, cucumber ranch dressing. When I brought it up, Leroy chuckled, “OMG. I know just what drink you’re talking about.” Leroy’s blogging often covers his palate-pleasing adventures — but hold the ayran.

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The banner on Leroy’s website states it is, “A Place Where The ‘Black People Don’t Travel’ Stereotype Is Broken.” I asked him about his message and the disparity in the tourism industry as it pertained to African American travel, which led to my own eye-opening research on the topic.

As a white person, I usually don’t think about discrimination in advertising because brands have spent decades catering to people that look like me. But it’s not the same for people of color. News flash to white folks — when was the last time you saw mainstream media articles, advertising or travel websites that didn’t represent your race? Likewise, there are plentiful articles published about safety for tourists but seldom do we hear a black traveler’s perspective on travel from the tourism industry.

Black tourism is thriving, as well as growing exponentially, but has been woefully neglected by advertisers. Only a small fraction of advertising budgets have been spent on African Americans, yet they represent $60 billion dollars in annual travel spending.

According to Neilson Reports, as well as a brilliant 2018 article by Matt Thomas at Black Meetings and Tourism, “African Americans are more than thirty-eight percent more likely to buy when an advertisement reflects them.” It makes sense that consumers are more likely to trust brands that properly depict them and understand their values.

Where media and marketing have failed African American consumers, Leroy and those front-runners in the black travel blogging industry have stepped forward to relate experiences and to offer an accurate picture of travel to their readers. And that message is, “Go! Broaden your horizons.”

He’s been motivated by other leaders in this area, namely Eric Martin and Kent Johnson — who founded Black and Abroad — and are trusted authorities on travel for African Americans. About that site’s work, Leroy said, “Black and Abroad made me realize that the movement for people of color is forever expanding. I want to be able to break stereotypes so that we venture outside our comfort zone.”

Others who deeply inspire him include Renee Evans and Nicole Brewer, who cofounded the vibrant and detailed travel website, iluv2globetrot. “I want to give a huge shout out to them,” he stated. Leroy helps moderate and contributes savvy travel tips to that group after receiving an invite from Evans and Brewer.

I asked him what’s next on the agenda? What happens after Tonga — and that thirtieth country has been conquered?

Stay tuned, because he’s next upping the bar to one hundred countries. And with the motivation and drive that Leroy Tyler IV possesses, it won’t be long before he reaches that pinnacle. Meanwhile, as the tagline on his website states, you can follow him as he explores the world, one blog, city, and country at a time.

What sort of bohemian bucks the system and refuses to wait until retirement to live their best life? This is the second in a series about bold individualists who did just that. Abandoning the conventional, they made significant and willing sacrifices. For some, this involved career or living changes, financial risk, leaving friends and family and the comfort of the familiar to pursue their dreams.

Each come from diverse financial and cultural backgrounds. How they arrived and are living the dream varies greatly. But they share similar traits. Like the formula for successful business ventures, these mavericks apply a combination of artful planning, seizing unexpected opportunity, balls-of-steel risk-taking, and supreme dedication. Free spirits now, but they all started as regular people who made dramatic lifestyle changes, teaching us that dreams can become goals.

They are inspiring to the core.

For a serving of awesome motivation, follow Matt Ray and learn about his incredible travels crewing around the world, and Leroy Tyler IV as he breaks barriers through travel, and look for an upcoming article on author and world traveler, John Alex Clarke.

Writings of a solivagant, gypsy soul, foodie, and pirate hopeful. Unconventional mother. Sometimes profane. Occasionally profound.

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