Sojourner Features: Traveler Akisha Pearman

Each week, during the month of July, I’m interviewing and featuring world travelers whose adventurous spirits inspire us to keep exploring and experiencing the world. This week, I’d like to introduce- Akisha Pearman!

1.  Tell us about yourself!


My name is Akisha Pearman and I was born in Norwich, New York but my family moved a lot up and down the East coast (My father was a college coach) as I grew up.  When people ask me where I am from I usually say Charlotte, North Carolina, not because I feel any connection to it, but because it is where my family is now. I honestly think moving so much as a child influenced how I live my life the way I do today, traveling and living outside of the US.  Both of my parents are educators so that had a significant influence on my career choice and desire to use my privilege to affect others in a positive way.  I got a Bachelors in English and Spanish Lit and then went off and served in the Peace Corps in Madagascar and Mozambique as an English as a foreign language teacher.  After that I went to Korea for a year and a half to teach (and make money…living as a volunteer was fun but I couldn’t live that way anymore).  And after Korea I went back to the States to get my Masters in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).  I needed to get back on the road…no…plane, so I was lucky to get fellowships from the US State Department (called the English Language Fellows Program) and got to go back to Mozambique (where I met Sojo!!) and taught English for specific purposes at a tourism college, and got to go to Angola and worked as an English teacher trainer.  Now I am in South Africa.  I had to give teaching up for a while to avoid burnout but I will go back to it in some way soon.  It has proven to be a great profession to do what I love, work with people I care about, be able to live and experience culture, and travel around.  I am taking a course in Higher Education Studies at the University of Cape Town.   Fhhhew!  Is that enough?

2.  What is the first country you traveled to internationally? What were your impressions?

The first time I had to use my passport I went to Spain to study abroad at the University of Sevilla for the year.  I remember being so scared because although I was independent and had gone to college 12 hours away from home, I had never actually been on my own so far away.  And I was going to stay there for a whole year.  Finances dictated that.  I stood in that weird capsule tunnel passageway at JFK (does it still exist??!!) and walked into my fear.  When I got to Spain, it seems so silly to say, but the first outstanding impression I remember to this day was the fact that everyone was speaking Spanish there…and all the signs were in Spanish.  My mom is Puerto Rican and my grandmother spoke to us in Spanish but we responded in English so Newyoricans were part of a culture I knew, Spaniards were not.  I found Southern Spain a fascinating place.  The mix of cultures, from the Romans to the Moors, is found everywhere from the architecture, to the food, to the people, to the language they speak.  I dove into the culture taking classes about Islamic art, learning to dance Sevillanas (a 4 part Flamenco partner dance), exploring the vibrant tapas culture, and so many other things.  What I had trouble with , though, was finding close Spanish friends.  My host family was wonderful and I keep in touch with them until this day, but I found making friends in Spain (that lasted longer than a night of dancing at a club and drinking in a plaza) to be really difficult.  My closest friends became 4 American girls that were in my program.


3.  When did you first realize you were bitten by the travel bug?

It was when I went back home to the US from Spain.  I realized that I missed the feeling of being uncomfortable.  I missed those opportunities to learn in an unfamiliar place.  I missed being forced to speak a different language.  I missed being challenged about how I see the world on a daily basis.  My upbringing made that discomfort of moving and having to start a new life over and over something normal for me so I have continued to get bitten by the bug. 


4.  Do you have a travel mantra?

I don’t know where I first heard it or who said it to me but its “change of place + change of space = change of perspective”.  Even if its just going to a new neighborhood in your hometown.  Travel can transform how you see the world.


5.  If you could spontaneously pack up tomorrow and head anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

I would go to Mozambique island in the Northern region of Mozambique.  It’s a tiny little island that used to be the capital of Mozambique during slavery times.  Slave ships actually docked there and did business.  It is another one of those fascinating crossroads places I adore: the food, the people, the architecture, the music.  My favorite thing to do there is sleep or read all day in a guest house and wander the silent, ancient streets at night by moonlight.  I would go there tomorrow if I could.