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Melanin on the Map

Uniquely Uniting People of Color Through Travel

Headshot of Ashley McDonough, founder of Melanin on the Map
Ashley McDonough

Ashley McDonough, a 25-year-old entrepreneur and visionary, made history in the travel industry for the global black community.  She not only built a global community for travelers of all backgrounds, but she also created the world’s first app, Melanin on the Map, dedicated specifically focusing on connecting people of color. It also provides a platform for travel professionals to build their own businesses as an income generation stream. TrooRa Magazine, intrigued by this new venture, shares Ashley’s story.

Seeing the World through a different lens.

Ashley, who was born and raised in Queens, New York, has been traveling all her life since she was a child. She was exposed to travel early when she ventured to the Caribbean to visit family members with her parents. She believes that seeing the world herself allows her to see the truth in real-time.

Her passion for travel kept growing while she was studying at Howard University, in Washington D.C., and traveling on her own apart from school. She had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain as a college sophomore and continued her journey into Italy, Morocco, and London. By 25, she had already visited 10 different countries.

Her never-ending footsteps throughout America, Europe, and the rest of the world opened up more real connections. She loved that she got to experience the diversity of new experiences, new cultures, new languages, and more.

“ Travel made me become the woman I am today.”

Travel became part of her life, and she wanted to share that with others.

While on her many travels, she noticed that she could count on her hand the number of Black travelers that she encountered, and they were all from her school. This was also the case in other destinations that she visited. From that moment, she knew that creating a platform for Black travelers was something that she would eventually do.

Rearview shot of a group of young women relaxing together at the beach
A group of young women travelers relaxing together at the beach

She wanted to help Black people who were traveling abroad to see that they were not alone and that others shared that passion. When Black travelers connected with each other, they would be able to share tips and insights for making travel interesting, safe, and workable. 

From feeling overwhelmed to being travel obsessed

Then, the global pandemic happened and made traveling impossible. The whole world was confined behind closed doors in their homes. Ashley became overwhelmed again.

“ I remembered my time being overwhelmed as a former full-time journalist and producer,” Ashley said. Working around the clock at many sites and locations,; she was overwhelmed with many things to do. Travel somehow gave her balance, peace, and solace, connecting with other travelers who were also journeying to many countries and cities. 

Ashley decided to shift the adversity she felt into a golden opportunity for travelers. She knew she needed to find a way to reconnect with people again who were all living in isolation at home. Her strong spirituality and connection to God allowed her to turn her noble intention into meaningful action.

She decided to look at the global pandemic as an opportunity to capitalize on travel with technology. Embracing technology with storytelling was the secret sauce, considering she was an expert in storytelling in content creation, and her experience as a journalist and producer in various media in the past helped her to make a mark in the hearts of many.

Hot air balloons flying over the Botan Canyon in TURKEY
Hot air balloons flying over the Botan Canyon in TURKEY
Grand Canal in Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute Basilica in the background.
Grand Canal in Venice, with Santa Maria della Salute Basilica in the background.

Her mission to reconnect with humanity during the difficult economic times Covid-19 had created turned her intention into action. For the longest time, she dreamed of being more and doing more for people of color. She wanted to build a community to share their voices and stories. So, while confined at home, she would finally develop her lifelong dream, her app to connect Black travelers.

Building a Community that belongs

Shot of a group of friends sitting together on the beach
A group of Black travelers sitting together on the beach

On July 1, 2019, one month before her 25th birthday. Ashley, who wanted to change the face of minority travel in the world at large, conceived her idea. Then, amid Covid, Ashley launched the first ever global travel app for the Black community, Melanin on the Map. “ While I found that Black travelers contribute significantly to the travel industry, we are often being left out of the conversation.”

“I’m not Black, can I be part of the travel tribe of Melanin On the Map?”

Ashley explained that she gets this question a lot. The birth of her baby, the travel app, was born to provide inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity to minority travelers. The initial intention is to start with the Black community and expand to all communities of color.

Ashley emphasized to TrooRa “ No one needs to be alone. This community serves as a safe space for Black and Brown travelers to engage, network, and learn travel income-earning tactics in various sectors of the industry.”

Opening Doors to Income Opportunities for Travel Professionals

Other than running her own business, Ashley is a Branded Content producer for Essence Magazine, a black culture publication for news, entertainment, and lifestyle aimed at black women.

She says, “I saw how travel positively impacted me, so I decided to help everyday regular people who love to travel can experience for themselves.

How can we monetize travel in the fastest way? By using a technology app that brings together a community with storytelling from travel professionals and influencers.

a group trip of black travelers by Melanin on the Map
Melanin on the Map Group Trip 2022

As a production-journalist trained and experienced in the digital world, I understood how social media works in technology. I realized that I can touch people quicker using a platform like this compared to writing a book or hosting a podcast.

Coming from my experience in the social media space and with viral content, I utilized all of my skills from my career and put them into my business. And it worked.

Astonishingly, in just a short period the travel app has made a great impact in the travel space, building an organic travel-loving community of over 49,000 people in under two years. Their various features allow like-minded Black and Brown travelers across the globe to network, engage and learn useful travel income-earning tactics in various sectors of the industry. Currently, there are more than 200 travel agents under Melanin On The Map that capitalize on business opportunities beyond booking hotels, flight deals, and vacation packages. In this travel community, professionals learn how to run and launch a lucrative business from influencing to entrepreneurship and more.”

With this amazing community Ashley has built, influencers, professionals and travelers will find many ways to connect. She addresses those who want to capitalize on their influence on social media while connecting with niche communities such as entrepreneurs who travel, parents, women travelers, male travelers, solo travelers, LGBTQ people, and more.

Launching Travel Baes/Besties for Travel Consumers

Travel bae/bestie by melanin on the map
Melanin on the Map – Travel Bae/Bestie ft. @melaninonthemap @jetandreed

Other than focusing on travel professionals who are looking for business opportunities and finding ways to earn a lucrative income stream, Ashley is also focusing on Travel Bae & Travel Besties, the travel consumers. Launched recently in October 2022, travel lovers can explore many exciting deals, trips, and tricks, learn where to go and, what to do.

“We have speed-dating, travel speakers on various topics. It’s all about the real human connection, interacting while having fun.

Melanin on the Map also provides a membership program, their Travel Bae & Bestie Connect. This initiative allows travel lovers a guaranteed opportunity to promote themselves and their brand directly to the 49,000 person audiences of Melanin on the Map.

Ashley excitedly explained, “ Our audience loves to travel and experience themselves. So we want to capitalize on our strength in community building outside social media and build meaningful connections and travel experiences.”

Ashley also mentioned there is flexibility for travelers who want to explore moving from being travel consumers to travel professionals. “It’s a click of a button on any topic, from brand building, making new friends, as well as traveling as a business. It’s all on the Melanin On the Map app.”

Melanin on The Map connects travel lovers across the globe while showing, not just telling, how to take advantage of income opportunities while traveling. It’s time for everyone to come and explore this app, especially when the holiday season is around the corner.


TROORA MAGAZINE | MARCH 2023
WRITTEN BY CRISTINA DEPTULA
PHOTOGRAPHED BY ASHLEY MILANI | MELANIN ON THE MAP
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MELANIN ON THE MAP | CLAUDE PICHE | DELMAINE DONSON | RUDY BALASKO | GUVENDEMIR

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