In 2011, Zim Ugochukwu spent two weeks exploring India on a chartered train. The far-flung expedition gave her the travel bug that would later propel her to China, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. But Ugochukwu's life-changing trip was marred by one tremendous low. "On my first night in Delhi, I saw a commercial for skin-lightening cream," says the 28-year-old. "As the woman's skin got lighter, her smile got wider. It seemed to say that being as dark as I am is something to be ashamed of."

She responded to that painful moment by creating Travel Noire to provide black globetrotters with resources and community. "If you skim through the travel section at Barnes & Noble, you'll find blonde women gallivanting across Iceland or Italy, but that’s not me. I set out to change that narrative," Ugochukwu says. What began three years ago as a collection of online reviews (must-see African music festivals, the best bakeries in Paris) and tips (how to make the most of a long layover, how to travel for free) now offers small guided tours to destinations from Cuba to Zanzibar. "We take 14 strangers on the ride of their lives," says Ugochukwu. But Travel Noire's journeys aren't all posh affairs: "In Cape Town, we visit townships to talk and walk with people who live there. In Bali, we fish on local wooden boats, not yachts. It's sometimes uncomfortable—but yields insights. My time in India was transformative because of difficult experiences."

In the city of Modica in Sicily.

Today Ugochukwu, whose well-worn passport has stamps from five continents, oversees about 60 trips each year. And thanks to Travel Noire, she’s become a prominent figure in what's known as the black travel movement. "It's a reaffirmation of the idea that people of color can go anywhere they want without being afraid," says Ugochukwu. "Because the image of the international explorer includes us now, too." Bon voyage.

Photos are courtesy of Zim Ugochukwu.

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