Photo Credit: Iris Martin
Traveler Story: I'm A Mother Of Five Who Prioritizes Travel As A Form of Self-Care
Parenthood permanently alters your life, and Iris Martin believes that travel is not only a form of self-care, it has helped her be an effective mother for her five children. Three are adults with their own homes and families, while the other two reside with their mother in North Carolina.
Iris thinks the world of her children and her two grandsons, but does that mean she can’t enjoy what else the universe has to offer?
For her, the answer is a resounding no.
“Being a mom is hard!” Iris told Travel Noire. “Mama needs a break, and she needs it often.”
Simply put, travel allows her to be the most balanced version of herself. To understand why this form of self-care has been so invaluable, it helps to be familiar with her formative years. Iris became a mother for the first time at fifteen, and shouldered a kind of responsibility that would be challenging for an adult, let alone a child.
“I have roots everywhere,” Iris said. “As a child, I lived with a lot of family members and friends. At one point, I was a homeless, teen mom living in an abandoned building in Buffalo, New York. Perhaps that is what truly sparked my interest in travel because I had lived in California, Mississippi, New York, Illinois, Texas, and Virginia by the age of twenty-five.”
Back then, all that domestic travel wasn’t for pleasure. But it was still a growth experience for Iris, who saw each state’s unique qualities firsthand. Once circumstances allowed, she was determined to not only up the ante on her own travel, but bring her children along for the ride.
However, this hasn’t come without moments of hesitation and self-doubt.
“I do often think about the guilt associated with traveling while still having two children under my roof and three adults that rely on me,” Iris said. “But I have to prioritize my happiness so that I can show up for those that need me. There’s sacrifice with everything. I do travel without my kids quite often, both for work and pleasure. However, I also travel with my kids. They’ve been all over the United States and also the Dominican Republic, Grand Turks, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and Mexico, just to name a few.”
Iris describes herself as an eclectic, random woman, and one could draw the same conclusion about her travels. In the travel group Live Be Do, she posted pictures and a glowing review of her experience with Virgin Voyages, an adult only cruise line. It had everything you would expect an adult playground on the sea to have. Gambling? Yes. Alcohol flowing in excess and delicious food? Yes. Themed parties and plenty of raunchy fun? Well, obviously.
“Next time, I’m bringing friends!” Iris declared. “I’ve been on a lot of cruise lines, but there is nothing like an adults-only experience, whether that is on a cruise or at a resort. This particular cruise was very edgy, exciting, and inappropriate, which I love. Nothing was kid-friendly.”
Iris has spent much of her life being innovative, and it hasn’t failed her yet. As a young mother, she had to be for her own survival and that of her children. As an adult, her innovation spawned a series of businesses, once she determined that working for somebody else would inhibit her professional growth.
In 2006, following the birth of her twins, Iris started a daycare center. The success of that allowed her to create Queens Entertainment Group, an event planning agency. Finally, she founded Surreal Journeys Travel, which is entirely run by Black women, each with her own area of expertise.
“Surreal Journeys Travel has a great social media following, and a group of 10,000+ clients that travel the world with me, or allow me to craft their dream vacations,” Iris said. “I offer trips for a wide range of budgets, with low deposits, and flexible payment plans. That makes it possible for people that have never been on a vacation, to finally experience the world. I’ve always said, ‘do what makes you happy and the money will come’. Lucky for me, that love is travel, and I’ve been able to turn that into a full-time job.”
Iris plans to go full steam ahead in 2022, and has a trip scheduled each month. In January, she’ll be in Mexico, followed by trips to the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. She’ll round out that year with a flight to Dubai, and if you can believe it, her 2023 itinerary is already in the works.
“I get a bit of surprise from non-Black people when they try to travel flex with me, until they realize I’m more well-traveled than they are!”
She knows what it is to start with nothing, and fought tooth and nail to get where she is today. For the child inside her, forced to mature before her time, it’s a dream come true.
“I know my inner child is loving my current life. I didn’t have a lot of opportunities growing up, so when something piques my interest, I make sure to try it at least once. I never would have guessed that I’d be able to travel back when I was homeless and feeling unsure, unloved and misguided. I’ve learned so much about the importance of self-care while enjoying each and every moment. When I need solace and relaxation, which I don’t often get at home, travel allows for that.”
When Iris isn’t hopping between states and continents, she loves spending time with her children, cooking, laughing and kicking back with an adult beverage of one kind or another.
Follow this extraordinary woman on Instagram @SurrealJourneysTravel.