The PR vet and co-founder of Travel Is Better In Color on the power of purposeful travel.
– KEYS SOULCARE
When Paula Franklin thinks about taking vacations (remember those?) trendy bucket lists and gram-worthy pics are the last things on her mind. As co-founder of a purpose-driven, travel-focused public relations firm called Franklin Bailey, she spent years helping brands and cities inspire tourists to think more deeply about how they move through the world.
Last fall, she helped launch Travel is Better in Color, a media platform and consultancy that elevates diverse voices and experts within the travel industry. We sat down with the jet-setter to chat about travel, connection, and how redefining them both might change our world for the better.
What inspired you to work in the travel space?
I’ve sort of always travelled. My mother is very German — heavy accent, the whole shebang. My dad and his family were a working-class, Black family from Baltimore. Because my mother was born during the second world war, a lot of her family spread to the wind. I sort of grew up in San Diego, but also everywhere: going to my aunt’s cottage in Canada, going to Berlin for the summers, driving through Prague or the UK. And my mom loved a road trip — we had one of those [Volkswagen] vans with the roof that pops up — so we’d also go camping in Mexico.
How does travel impact your soulcare, today?
Travel is just who I am. One of the most stressful parts of these quarantine shut-downs has been that I don’t have a trip in the works. It can sound cheesy, but travel literally opens your eyes to the “bigger picture” of life.
To this day, I’m so attracted to how similar and different things are in other countries. My absolute favorite thing to do when I travel is to go to a grocery store. There’s so much insight there. What are people eating? In the states, our impulse buys are candy and magazines, but what are they in Ghana or India? I like the connection that can bring.
How can travel foster that connection — or not?
I do think there’s this B.S. part of the travel industry that [says] you can go somewhere and make “friends” on your week-long vacation to Thailand. I just don’t think that’s authentic. But I do think that you can understand more about the world as you meet people and have small, real interactions.
In New York, you might connect with someone while you’re complaining about the train being delayed, and then you strike up a five-minute conversation. That’s an interesting connection, but that’s not your friend. You’re never going to see each other again.
If you’re on vacation, ask yourself if it’s possible someone is being friendly, but only after you paid them to guide you through someplace or teach you something. Yes, absolutely learn from them, but it’s not necessarily a friendship. I’d take genuine connections over not-real friendships, any day.
What is Travel Is Better In Color about?
It’s a platform for elevating diverse voices in travel. So we wanted to bring all of them together. What does it look like when an Indian travel writer goes to Cape Town [in South Africa]? What are they seeing that you’re not typically reading about?
There are also writer profiles. We don’t really highlight influencers. We share a lot of narrative stories — stories of how people are traveling and the stories that are not being told. Ideally, an editor can go through our feed and get a little bit of inspiration on who they can hire or who they can work with.
Shifting a bit to travel itself, how do you define purpose-driven travel?
Honestly, I see it as kind of doing a little bit of research on where your money is going before you travel. I don’t think that everyone going on a safari needs to become, like, a wildlife conservationist: some people should just go, look at the animals, and go home. But people should ask themselves what’s important to them. Is it bringing money into local tourism operations? Do you want to book local guides? Do you want to make sure your hotel is owned by someone in the country, rather than making someone wealthy in Dubai?
Hiring people on the ground takes more research, but it means that your dollar goes with you and impacts the places and people that are impacting you.
How do you think travel can better connect us to the physical Earth we share?
I think that speaks to equity and an expanded idea who “owns” the earth and where and how. I do think that in America and Europe, there’s this privilege of looking at poor nations and being like, “Well, now, you have to save the rainforest.”
But how are you empowering those people to save it? We all look at these pictures of the rainforest being cut down for lumber, but how many Indigenous villages now have selling that land as their only means of survival? ‘Cause I don’t think that they want to.
If we look at climate change, our bad behavior is affecting people who are living in the Arctic Circle and the South Pacific and now can’t fish for food because we can’t stop driving our cars everywhere. They’re not massive contributors to climate change, but they’re the ones losing their land because of our behavior.
If we want to protect the earth — and really travel better, too — it starts with acknowledging and caring for all of us living here.
Where was the last place you travelled that left its mark on you? Share your thoughts in the comments!