Haitian-Born Traveler Richard Cantave (or the Haitian Nomad as you might know him) is a self-made travel aficionado. Through his various explorations, he took the Haitian Nomad name from a part-time hobby to full-time entrepreneurship. He is living the phrase “It never really work when you are doing what you love”. We spoke with Richard to break through some of the travel taboos that plague the industry and how he turned his daydream into his day job!
What prompted the start of your personal travel journey? Your travel agency?
Believe it or not, during the recession I lost my job and while browsing for jobs on craigslist, I found a job that promised to pay me to travel the world while doing community development projects, wildlife rehabilitation, and marine conservation. I thought it was a joke but still applied—they responded within hours and ended up offering me a contract so next thing you know I was traveling throughout the U.S. recruiting college students to volunteer with Reach Out Volunteers. Eventually, I was chosen as a Team Leader in Cambodia—building schools for children, working with elephants and going scuba diving to build artificial coral reefs off of Koh Rong, a small island in Southeast Asia.
I founded the Haitian Nomad LLC after the idea to host a Fritay party at my house in Haiti called #FritayGate came about in March 2016—before I knew it 45 people book their tickets and we were going to Haiti. Recognizing the opportunity to sell the best Haiti has to offer to this group of friends/travelers and their network of over 20,000 travelers, I slept 2 hours/day to make sure all went well. From then on people kept asking when the next trip was and from there I branched out from just hosting Haiti but also all the other countries I knew well and had good connections in Cuba, Cambodia, Egypt, St Tropez, France, Montreal etc. Seeing how many Haitian-Americans had left Haiti young and those born in the U.S. who had never been appalled me—I wanted to change this by building a platform that allowed them to reconnect with their roots, immerse in their culture and contribute to the change we desperately need.
What is one place you’ve visited that made you want to stay forever?
This is always a tough question to answer as almost every place offers something different. As much as I’d want to say Cuba, the embargo still affects everyday life and would make it hard to run my business. That said, the one place I fell in love with on my first visit and that has everything that is “ME” is the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten: accessible flights to the US, direct flights to Haiti, Europe and the rest of the world, the Creole cuisine we enjoy at home in Haiti thanks to its Haitian community, gorgeous beaches (including a nude one), 20 mins away is the island of Anguilla with its world-class beaches makes an amazing one-day getaway, the stable political climate it benefits from being a French and Dutch territory , the French pastries and the festive dutch nightlife.
Unlike most travel agents, you frequently highlight tourism in Haiti. How do you encourage others to visit?
Haiti is HOME! The first time I saw the Citadelle Laferriere in the North of Haiti—I wanted to cry! It was beautiful, powerful and imposing! This is something the world needs to see—this is what 20,000 former slaves did ! I make it my mission to not only share but serve as a liaison between people and everything Haiti has to offer from its history, its gastronomy, its culture, the beaches. My network of “travelers” reaches close to 100,000 —I serve as the “unofficial” ambassador of Haiti in all travel groups. I make sure during my trips to capture and share on all social media platforms the Haiti they never see or gotten to experience.
It’s always hard to describe exactly what I do as I’m not really a travel agent, I’m an all around “Travel Brand/operator.” Not only do I plan and host group trips to Haiti and around the world, I also put together private trips for people/organizations who want to visit Haiti and other places on their own, with friends etc. I’m also an expert on credit card points/miles strategy to earn and redeem maximum value and travel for cheap or even free. I host several online workshops on this.
What is one activity you feel you must do whenever you travel somewhere new?
Anywhere you go, you should try to immerse yourself in the local culture as much as possible. Forget the all-inclusive resorts! What’s the point of traveling to another country only to pay more money for the same American breakfast you eat at home? Although it’s cool to visit the museums and the typical tourist attractions, you definitely need to see each place through the lens of a local.
Hire a local guide or just pay attention to where the locals are eating; THIS is where the good food at great prices are.
How has traveling changed your life?
WOW! such a loaded question but traveling has prepared me for anything and everything which is the mindset you’re in when you travel full time. Anything can happen—you just have to know how to improvise and make things work. It has given me a better understanding of people and what life is really about. I’ve seen the happiest people in the world living with almost no material possessions. It made me appreciate the little things in life and the more grandiose things I’ve experienced, the more humble it made me.
Do you prefer traveling solo or in a group?
This is one of the things traveling has done for me: Given me the ability to adapt. I’ve traveled solo on a 15-city Eurotrip and I LOVED it! I did lots of solo travels since as I learned to enjoy my own company which taught me so much about myself. I also enjoy traveling with a group of like-minded people who understand what travel is about and don’t have unrealistic expectations of how things should be everywhere they go.
You already have a pretty packed travel schedule for 2019. Which trip are you most excited about?
We’re ringing in 2019 on a chartered yacht cruising down the Nile River in Egypt with close to 100 people so that will be amazing BUT with Haiti’s Jazz festival, Jacmel Carnival, Morocco, St Tropez, Cuba, Thailand etc on the 2019 agenda, I must admit that Morocco is probably the one I’m super excited about as I’ve always wanted to plan something there and I love the Riads of Morocco’s stylish mansions and the surprises I have for this trip.
What is one fact you wish everyone knew about traveling?
So many people think travel is SO expensive, I wish they could all participate in my workshops and realize how cheap traveling the world can be. From tickets to Europe and even Africa sometimes for less than $300. The amount of free money/miles/points they are wasting away every day by not using the right credit card for their everyday purchases which could take them around the world is ridiculous!
What are your 2019 goals – personal and business?
Personal: I’m looking forward to an around-the-world honeymoon with my future wife.
Business: Growing the Haitian Nomad brand to include sponsors, product branding, helping more people experience the same things around the world that made me so passionate about traveling.
How can anyone interested join one of our hosted trips around the world? Or contact you for private trips/sponsorships or to work together?
The best thing to do is visit and subscribe to our newsletter at www.haitiannomad.net That way they’ll get the first alerts as the trips release—keep in mind that we usually sell out within a couple hours so it’s also good to follow us on social media platforms.