Tamika Faulkner is a friend of our first Women Who Wanders, Kristen Wiggins. We met Tamika via an introduction from Kris and instantly fell in love with her energy, lust for life, and pursuit to her goals on all fronts – travel and career. Read on to get travel tips, advice on working for the US State Department, and learn about where she’s headed to next. You can find her on IG or Twitter – @Lovebird_Monroe or check out her non-profit on IG or Twitter – @PiecesofMeOrg.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where have you been and where are you headed?
Ciao! I’m Tamika, an Aquarian born in Washington, DC and raised in the gorgeous Prince George’s County, Maryland. I’m one who likes to dabble in many things: art, film, music, technology, cooking, etc. I’m the type of person who will try ALMOST anything once and somewhat of an adrenaline junkie. I live for in-depth conversations, astrology, Netflix, sweets, clear ocean blue waters and roller coasters.
So far, I’ve traveled throughout North America ( U.S., Mexico, Canada), Europe (Italy, U.K., and Paris), Africa (Kenya), South America (Costa Rica), Caribbean (St. Thomas, USVI, Jamaica, Cuba), Asia (U.A.E., Malaysia, Maldives,and Indonesia).
Where I’m Headed – Italy and Jamaica again this summer. Hopefully, I get to check off Belize, Iceland, and Colombia in the next year. I actually have a challenge for myself: 30 countries by 30. So far I’m 17/30 and I have a lot more to go! It honestly doesn’t help that my family keeps dragging me to the same countries, but I’m grateful to travel no matter what.
How did you begin traveling? What fears did you face? What major challenges?
I began traveling in my mom’s womb. Seriously! Almost every year, or twice a year, I would go to Jamaica all the time to visit family or go to family reunions. Then after that, we started traveling to Canada and other places within the U.S.
When it came to traveling, I never had any fears. I never had a fear of traveling honestly by plane, boat, or car. I was always excited to go somewhere, no matter if it was for work or play, I loved being on the go.
One of the biggest challenges I had traveling was when Kristen and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas. I almost got seasick. However, I popped some medicine and slept it off. That was my first time on a cruise ever. We were 16 and adventurous. Other than that, other major challenges when it comes to traveling is packing; I’m ALWAYS overweight. My mom tells me I travel with everything but the kitchen sink – which is true. My friends and family always tell me I have way too many things, but I always end up having something they need on our trips! I’m the person who has the bag full of never-ending supplies – like a Hogwarts student.
Why do you think travel is important for WOC?
Travel is important for women of color because we should see how life is outside of America. It’s important to immerse yourself in another culture, for there will always be pros and cons, but the experience is unforgettable. As a woman of color who has traveled to Europe (Italy, Paris, and London) and Asia (U.A.E, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives), I’ve been more respected in these places of the world than in my own country. The love that I get for being a Black American Woman – baby listen – it makes me feel like royalty. I feel like a Goddess because I’m approached, respected, and appreciate for my beautiful brown skin, beauty, and brains. Throughout my experience so far, I’ve been approached more by men, everyone wants to take pictures with me, more people in Asia are fascinated by my hair, and the food is always amazing in Europe. Honestly, women of color should travel to these places to get a taste of the goddess life abroad. Now don’t get me wrong, the feeling is amazing, but there are always going to be assholes anywhere you go in the world. I’ve never experienced any racism abroad except on AirBerlin going from Italy to Germany and Germany to Boston. However, AirBerlin is a German company. Please avoid that airline as much as possible if you’re black.
You chose to pursue a career with the U.S. State Department. Talk to us about the foreign affairs industry, how you got your start, and any advice for someone looking to get into the field.
The foreign affairs industry changes daily. There is always something going on and it can be a good thing or a bad thing. I work for the security section of my agency, so we handle the security overseas in embassies and consulates, as well as, domestic. Beyond that, I’ve had some great opportunities within my bureau; I have supported the United Nations General Assembly, traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, and I currently have a potential opportunity to live abroad. The best part of my agency is that you can go from Civil Service (domestic) to Foreign Service (abroad) career paths and vice versa.
I started out in Washington, DC as a Pathways Intern and moved my internship to Los Angeles, CA. After my internship was about to expire, I was converted over to a full-time Civil Service employee. After working like crazy for the first 2 years, I eventually created a position in my office to apply to. After competing, I was offered the job. Now, I’m in the process of moving over into the Foreign Service.
If you’re looking to get your foot in the federal government, especially my agency, start off with an internship if you can. It doesn’t matter if it’s paid or not because you should see if the government life is for you. It also gives you the opportunity to explore other departments and or bureaus. Next, if you make it in as a Pathways Intern or Recent Graduate Intern, find a way to STAY in. Network and create relationships with people, find a mentor to help you, and create your OWN opportunities. Do not wait for something to be handed to you. Lastly, ask people about their jobs/careers: what do they do, what do they like, what do you they not like. You shouldn’t stop at just asking one person. People have different points of view, but that should help you to decide what path is right for you after you network and research. Furthermore, see what your agency offers: do they offer temporary duty assignments abroad, flex connect opportunities to work in other offices, remote positions, training abroad? All of these things can help guide you on your journey.
What advice would you give WOC who want to better use their resources to travel or pursue a career that will enable them to live and work abroad?
My advice to WOC who want better use their resources to travel is to RESEARCH; Google, Instagram, Twitter search EVERYTHING. I also look at maps….A LOT. We have like five maps in my work office and I’m always staring at them trying to figure out my next destination. The benefit of my job is that I work with a lot of Foreign Service Officers who move every 2-3 years, so they are always suggesting places for me to travel to and warning me about where not to go. Honestly, use your network (friends), especially if you see them traveling all the time. I would ask Kristen about booking engines and hotel websites on top of Google searching and reading travel blogs/articles. To be honest, I subscribed to Travel + Leisure and they are always sending me daily emails full of articles on when to travel to certain locations, where to travel by zodiac sign, when the cheapest flights are offered, etc. Stop what you’re doing and subscribe.
In regards to pursuing a career that will let you live and work abroad, this is a little tricky. If you have a job that you like and you’re able to convince them that you want to move abroad and work remotely or at a different office – go for it! Also, sometimes, you just have to pick up and go. You will figure everything else out on the way. There are so many odd jobs abroad that will help you get money but also save money. You can become an Au Pair, a House Sitter, a Babysitter, etc. You would be surprised how many things you can do in exchange for housing or for cash — that is legal. The last thing I would suggest is to maybe join the Foreign Service. Go to careers.state.gov and look up the opportunities that are offered and the benefits. You honestly can’t go wrong with any of them. Life is a box of chocolates full of opportunities and surprises.
What, if any, do you see as cons of the nomad lifestyle or a career that requires lots of travel? What do you view as the pros?
For most people, a few big cons of the nomad lifestyle are that people get homesick, people miss certain American things, and moving all the time can feel like you don’t have any real roots laid down. A career that requires lots of travel can mean that you rarely or never see your family for months or years, you miss out on baby showers, weddings, funerals, graduations, etc. However, it eventually pays off and sometimes you have to remember that you deserve to take your vacation days. Many people forget to take time off for their mental and physical being, which makes them grumpy. With those people, you can encourage them to take a break or stay away from their energy. You do not want that energy in your presence.
One of the pros to living abroad is that it’s cheaper to jump to different countries. In addition, you also get to learn new languages, try new food, meet new people, and visit parts of the world that people do not even know of. You get to introduce your followers/friends/family members to parts of the world where they can only imagine going. Another pro to living abroad depending on your situation is the amount of money you can save. Listen — Asia is CHEAP. I’m talking about Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand CHEAP. I know if I decide to move with my job, the biggest benefit is that I will rarely have bills besides my student loan, cell phone, and internet.
What can we expect from you moving forward and how can we be of support?
What you can expect from me soon is that I hope to move abroad within the next two years. Also, I’m starting law school in the fall – finally (haha). Furthermore, I just created an AMAZING non-profit called Pieces of Me, Inc.; my organization is dedicated to teens and young adults who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and helping them with social development and educational enrichment.
You can support me right now, for I’m trying to raise $7-10K on Go Fund Me to send people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to see Avengers: Infinity War during Autism Awareness Month (April). People who are diagnosed with ASD have many talents, which is their superpower. In their own way, people with ASD are superheroes. Please help by sharing this fundraiser so we can help not only people with ASD but even the people with ASD that are in lower socio-economic areas. This campaign is called #AvengersforAutism.
In the end, how do you want your story depicted? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I want to be depicted as the person who loved everyone and everything she cared about. I want to be remembered for being compassionate, helpful, and adventurous. The legacy I want to leave behind is that I never take NO for a final answer. Always turn your NO’s into a YES! Heck, I always make sure I turn a maybe into a YES.
Just for kicks:
- Favorite place you’ve been?
Florence, Italy & Maldives
- Must have item on a trip?
Portable Toilet Paper & Hand Sanitizer – You would be surprised how many places abroad do not have these things in restrooms.
- Favorite flight booking software? www.momondo.com