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Singer Teraj on Travel Tomorrow

Black model Teraj next to steel beams

“Growing up in a family with very little means, travel wasn’t feasible and I used to imagine what it would be like through what I saw on TV,” recalls the multi-talented Black gay singer and former model, Teraj, who hosts Amazon Alexa’s Gay Travel Today. “My very first flight, sponsored by the admissions department, was when I visited Cornell University to view the campus before making the decision to pursue my undergraduate studies there. I fell in love with travel ever since my first international trip in college and it’s become a major component of my personal life and career as a singer and model. My partner and I have done a lot of travel campaigns across the globe, so I was super excited when Sagitravel Friendly, a huge innovator and pioneer in LGBTQ+ travel, asked me to be the host of Gay Travel Today. The rest is history!”

Teraj describes the show as “a daily Amazon Alexa flash briefing and mini podcast, where I get to share fun tips, current travel news, LGBTQ+ events and updates, while sharing inspiration and encouragement to uplift our community during this especially crucial time of need. It fills a much-needed void within the LGBTQ+ community as it serves as a centralized space for gay travel content that’s free and easy to access by quickly enabling Gay Travel Today on the Alexa app or at Amazon.com. You can also tune in by listening on any podcast platform.”

Black travel expert Teraj in Savannah under mossy trees

Of course travel has become more difficult in the current era, but Teraj says he has been able to take advantage of some staycations. He says, “My favorite was a glamping escape from the city where my partner and I stayed in a yurt for a few days in Gardiner, NY. It was a unique travel experience for us and it was incredible to disconnect and be surrounded by nature, hit up the local vineyards — while social distancing of course — unwind and focus on some self-care.” 

Teraj admits longing for the day when restrictions are lifted, but says, “Until it’s safe and the U.S. gets its act together and enforces a national strategy to get this pandemic under control, I’ll continue to enjoy virtual travel and more local experiences and getaways. I do have to say that I had a blast checking out all of the virtual Pride festivals and events that took place across that globe this year. I hope these virtual celebrations and events will continue alongside in-person Pride festivities in the future, especially for those without access to in-person celebrations and events, so they can continue to partake and enjoy the camaraderie of Pride.” (Check out his podcast on year-round Pride.)

Teraj on edge of lake, in boxers and with a rainbow flag

Teraj (who our sister publication The Advocate named one of eight emerging artists giving us life) was actually supposed to kick off his tour for Defy with a March performance at Miami Beach Pride — before the event was canceled.

The R&B/Pop signer says the album is a personal testament, “anchored in messages of empowerment to overcome obstacles, adversity, courageously chase your dreams and live boldly in your authentic truth. As a male living at the intersection of my Blackness and queerness, it was important to me to share those stories and show others out there that they aren’t alone and that they, too, can defy the odds.”

Singer Teraj shirtless

 

With that perspective it’s no surprise that he wasn’t thwarted by the change to his live performances. “Postponing my tour and all foreseeable performances forced me to get creative and find alternative ways of being productive and share my music. I was able to use my platform and music to give back and became more involved in philanthropy and activism. Having performed during the South Florida Pride Collective virtual pride was a huge honor for me, so I will continue my involvement in other virtual events and festivals. I’m also releasing a few more music videos, recording new music, and landing more awesome collabs to continue building my brand. I’m always on the move, so be on the lookout!”

Teraj received his Bachelor of Architecture (with a minor in dance) from Cornell University and says his top destination for viewing architectural marvels is a tie between Rome and Hong Kong. “For the architectural historian, Rome has a rich history and each street and neighborhood is like walking through a living museum. Hong Kong, in my opinion, has the most beautiful skyline in the world with a stunning visual assemblage of architecture, topography, and nature.”

Black man Teraj in front of Roman Coliseum

Teraj sees the future of travel responding to our raised concerns about health and safety, prioritizing good hygiene and frequent sanitization. “While most will more than likely put a pause on travel for a while, history has shown that members of the LGBTQ+ community are early adopters and generally the earliest of those to return to travel. It happened post-9/11, the 2008 recession and early data, encompassing recent travel as countries around the world begin to open their borders for tourism, already shows the LGBTQ+ community leading the charge. Travel, for the LGBTQ+ community, is a part of our identity and an expression of our individuality and freedom. We are global citizens, avid travelers and our contributions to the tourism and travel industry at large is tremendous, so I’m not surprised at all that we’re the ones projected to safely return to travel first and, ultimately, bring the industry back to life.”

Another force that will change what that industry looks like in the future, Teraj says is the Black Lives Matter movement, which has already “contributed to the expansion of the world’s awareness of systemic racism, implicit bias, and police brutality on so many levels and their consequential impact in practically every industry and facet of our lives.”

“Regarding travel, there’s a lot work that needs to be done, period,” he acknowledges. “But, the doors have been opened as uncomfortable, yet constructive conversations and discussions are being had on the treatment of Black people, who annually contribute over $60 billion to the travel industry without much recognition or regard. It’s past time to address issues, too often faced by Black people, of not feeling welcomed, the denial of accommodations to meet the needs of the Black community, and the prevalence of destructive stereotypes. Because of BLM’s efforts, I’m glad that there’s a growing call for the travel industry to dissect its past and standards of hospitality, reform those hospitality standards, policies, and ideals to be more inclusive and antiracist.”

After this year, Teraj predicts, “traveling will never be the same.” He explains, “2020’s convergence of a health crisis, systemic racism, implicit bias, and climate change will, most definitely, have a major impact on changing the travel industry moving forward. …safety and proper hygiene will be of the utmost importance in every imaginable way. I have to admit that I have a bit of germaphobia when it comes to traveling, so I’m not complaining at all about the possibility of more personal space, legroom, and cleaner facilities through and through!”

He’s also looking forward to the travel industry’s “greater sense of awareness and efforts in dismantling systemic racism and implicit bias. I’m also hopeful about growing changes within the travel industry to increase efforts to help lessen and reverse climate change. More and more hotel brands and airliners are committing to becoming eco-friendly and reducing their carbon footprint, while promoting sustainable travel. All things considered, 2020 will hopefully lead to a world with better hygiene and a greater sense of awareness, respect and compassion for all global citizens and our planet.”

Follow Teraj on Instagram @teraj08 and find more on his music at: TerajMusic.com.

 

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