Why One Woman Launched a Company to Help Single Moms Travel

african american woman at desk
How Traveling Transformed This Single Mom’s LifeCourtesy of Libryia Jones

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Libryia Jones, a remote-work maven and I.T. project manager, wants would-be globe-trotting mothers (and fathers) to know, “You’re not grounded when you have kids. You can travel with them. It’s just figuring out the logistics.” Jones, a single mom and world traveler who has been to 32 countries (including favorites like South Africa, Colombia, and Thailand, which she’s visited multiple times) cofounded Wandering Moms, a travel group for single parents. It started with six women over brunch in Atlanta and has grown into an online community of 25,000.

It all began with a simple request in 2015. Jones and her future cofounder, Tanai Benard-Turner, were members of a travel group for people of color called Nomadness Travel Tribe. Benard-Turner was passing through Atlanta and needed a place to crash, so she asked fellow members if anyone had a couch she could sleep on. Jones swiftly responded to Benard-Turner’s request with: “I’ve got way more than a couch. I have a whole room you can sleep in.” According to Jones, sleeping over members’ homes is “something we all do in this community. I feel like I have friends everywhere in the world because of this community.”

women in front of eiffel tower in france
Wandering Moms in France.Courtesy Libryia Jones

When the two got together, they were musing about the challenges and rewards of traveling with kids when Benard-Turner proposed they organize an informational brunch for moms who wanted to travel with children in tow. To share photos of their adventures and travel tips, Jones created a Facebook page and named it Wandering Moms. “Our desire was to create this space where we could educate, support, and encourage women to literally give their children the world, but it also morphed into a safe space for like-minded people who wanted to travel, move abroad, or slow travel with their families,” Jones explains. (Slow travel is the practice of immersing oneself in a community’s local food and culture over a longer period of time than a typical vacation.)

Today, Jones wants to help single parents (nearly a quarter of households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau) overcome both the material and psychological impediments that pose obstacles to travel, including the prohibitive costs (the median income of a single mom was $44,382 in 2021, compared with the median income, $118,328, of a married couple with children under age 18), by giving concrete tools and tips to conquer such difficulties. “The number one thing parents are most concerned about is how they can afford it with kids. The second is safety,” she says. Logistical concerns weigh heavy on travelers’ minds as well—the orchestration and planning of a trip, as well as schooling for their children. The duo also work to dispel irrational fears of the unknown, Jones says.

Slow travel, which Jones undertook for a year with her then-12-year-old daughter, is much lengthier than the typical weeklong sojourn, allowing travelers to immerse themselves more fully in local customs and culture. From the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2017, she and her daughter traveled in three-month intervals through the Czech Republic, Thailand, South Africa, and Colombia. Her daughter continued her schooling through remote learning via the Florida Virtual School. “That was really challenging. She needs an actual classroom,” says Jones, whose daughter continued to play soccer wherever she could. “Her experience was a bit mixed. She missed her friends quite a bit and felt pretty isolated. But to this day—she’s 18—she will say it’s one of the best experiences she’s had in her whole life.”

women's travel group in cape town south africa
Wandering Moms in Cape Town, South Africa.Courtesy of Libryia Jones

The benefit of travel for parents and children are manifold, studies show, which is why Jones remains dedicated to helping others realize their travel dreams. In a recent interview with Oprah Daily, Jones illuminated the ways travel has transformed and enhanced her humanity (and mothering):

Revitalizes familial dynamics

For one, it helps kids and parents reimagine their dyad. “We get to connect on a completely different level, figuring out how to get places and language barriers. We’re two adventurers about the world together. That unlocks different ways for us to think about each other,” she says.

Helps us see things anew

“It’s important to be able to remove yourself from your day-to-day environment,” Jones says. “Sometimes when you extract yourself from your environment and place yourself in a whole new one, you start thinking about things in different ways.” Old or enduring problems, for example, find new solutions in a fresh setting.

Gives us perspective and fosters better coping skills

One of the big lessons Jones has gained from her travels is perspective on her “first world problems,” she says. She recounts an experience when her daughter locked the keys in the house. “She was so angry with herself, and she had an added pressure because she assumed I was super angry at her, but I said, ‘It’s really cool that we live in a country where I can just pick up the phone or click on an app and somebody can unlock our door within 30 minutes.’ Because we’ve experienced having to jump through all kinds of hoops in other countries in similar scenarios,” Jones explains. When you apply that broadened perspective to your life, she says, it helps you manage unexpected challenges with greater ease and equanimity.

Boosts confidence and competence

Learning how to travel through unfamiliar territory without a shared language or ways of doing things can hike up your sense of agency, self-esteem, and capability. “It absolutely does increase your level of competence. If you can haggle in the markets of Nigeria, you can negotiate contracts with clients in the U.S.,” she says. Since her daughter was as young as 5, Jones has been asking her assistance in navigating lands near and far. “I would have her look at the ticket and I’d ask her, ‘Hey, can you tell me where we’re supposed to get off the train?’ She would be guiding us to our gate,” she recalls, pointing out that it’s given her daughter the confidence to trust and rely on herself. “I know if she ever gets lost, she’s not going to panic, and she’ll figure out how to get back where she needs to go,” Jones adds.

Shows us we belong everywhere

Jones shares a moving anecdote about an experience her daughter, a soccer star, had in Prague. Jones walked with her onto a local soccer field full of an all-white, Czech-speaking team. “She was the only black girl out there. It was like a movie. We walked into this sea of (white) people stopping to stare at us, including adults,” Jones remembers. Her daughter, an introvert, found it unsettling and “jarring,” and immediately wanted to leave, but Jones pumped the breaks on that request fast. “One of the big reasons I wanted to take her on the trip is because I want her to know that she belongs everywhere. You belong everywhere,” she emphasizes. By the end of practice, her teammates were giving her high-fives and trying to practice her name. “They completely embraced her. So being in uncomfortable situations and getting through them,” Jones explains, provides growth opportunities—and travel is replete with them.

But kids aren’t always welcome on her trips. In fact, to empower women to take better care of themselves to be better moms—“Happy women make the best mothers,” Jones says—Jones and Benard-Turner launched an annual Mother’s Day trip that purposely excludes children. To date, Wandering Moms has hosted 11 trips, nationally (D.C., Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, the Grand Canyon) and internationally (Mexico, South Africa, Costa Rica, France), with the biggest being a group of 42 moms on a kid-less Mother’s Day.

“It’s the one day a year where we’re celebrated for the extremely difficult task of being mothers, and we shouldn’t have to do it [mothering] on that one day...and it’s one of our most popular trips,” she says.

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