If you're familiar with products I used to make and sell at art shows and mall kiosks in years past, you'll recall that I worked extensively with African textiles. I LOVE mud cloth, indigo, kente cloth, wax cloth, kuba cloth and other fabrics that are representative of the Motherland. I also created mixed media artworks using cowrie shells, African trade beads and a variety of African trinkets. I couldn't get enough, so when I had the opportunities (2x) to visit the African continent, I jumped at the chance. My visits there definitely inspired me to create The Africa Collection.
I had the pleasure of taking these trips, and others, with ZTEC (Z's Travel and Entertainment Company, LLC), owned by Zandra Jenkins. Zandra has hosted numerous trips through ZTEC, all well organized and fun, so I was excited to interview her for my series, Small Business Spotlight:
How long ago did you establish ZTEC, and what inspired you to do so?
Z’s Travel and Entertainment Company, L.L.C., dba ZTEC, was established in 2003, evolving from an occasional hobby that began in the late-’90s to satisfy my desire to see more live performances. I would purchase 20 tickets to local plays at the group discount rate and then phone friends and family to purchase them at a very low mark-up. As a youth, my family did not have the wherewithal to attend professional plays, but we had show-tune albums that I sang along with as they were played repeatedly. Listening to them, as well as hymns/spirituals and R&B, was my inspiration to one day attend endless live entertainment events of various genres. It only took one person to ask when I was going to take them to New York (Broadway) that ‘travel’ was launched, by offering either Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk, or Smokey Joe’s Café on my inaugural trip. Multiple trips to see The Lion King, Aida, and The Color Purple soon followed and became my anchor for a few years until multi-day domestic and Canada trips were added. A request from a professional federal government organization for a trip to South Africa resulted in a 2008 trip with 77 travelers from 10 states and Washington, D.C. It was the impetus for international travel that to date has taken travelers to many countries and every continent except for Antarctica.
What countries have been your favorite to visit, and why?
South Africa tops the list hands down which explains why I have escorted five different groups there. Although the vestiges of Apartheid still loom, they do not prevent one from having a culturally enriching and fun-filled visit. What’s not to love about the warmth of the people; beautiful accommodations; the diverse landscapes; the multitude of awesome venues and entertainment; delicious food; great wine, and oh, so, many exotic animals seen on the safaris
and elsewhere?!! This was true whether in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban, and all the villages in between.
New Zealand is a favorite simply because it is so incredibly beautiful. As we rode along from Christchurch to Queenstown, the awe-inspiring beauty was on full display, especially upon reaching the Remarkables (mountains) region. The majestic scenery had me humming the Ohio Players song title, “Heaven Must Be Like This”.
Bustling and colorful Senegal and The Gambia offered a whole other experience. The poignant tour of Maison des Enclaves (house of slaves) and its “Door of No Return” on Goree Island in Dakar, and Kunta Kinteh Island, a historical site in the West African slave trade in the Gambia, literally made me feel as if I was making emotional connections with my ancestral roots.
What states and attractions are among your favorites in the U.S.?
African American heritage and the African diaspora is a key focus on many of my trips. The 2018 trip through the deep south (Atlanta, GA; Tuskegee, Selma, Birmingham, and Montgomery, AL; Memphis, TN, and Little Rock, AR) stands out as a favorite because of the many attractions visited while retracing the steps of the Civil Rights Movement. These cities were the bedrock of the Movement and to have been able to relive some of the most influential times and places in U.S. history was memorable.
As a veteran in organizing trips all over the world, how do you think the pandemic has most affected travel going forward?
The disruptive effects of the pandemic have been very profound for the travel industry; for ZTEC, no trips for two years. As I type this, the recent emergence of the Omicron variant offers a glimpse into the challenges going forward, as we will be living with new variants of Covid-19 for some time. However, I am predicting better times in 2022 albeit with concerns over travelers’ lingering pandemic-related apprehension.
Do you have any trips or events planned for 2022?
Yes, I do! Every trip currently planned is one that was canceled in 2020, except for Costa Rica.
How can those who are interested in learning about upcoming trips, etc., connect with you?
My website - www.TravelWithZTEC.com - lists upcoming trips. I can be reached either by email at TravelWithZTEC@gmail.com or by phone, 301-908-1909.
Be sure to check out Zandra's website to see what she has to offer, and sign up for her trips!
I created the Small Business Spotlight series to highlight some of the inspiring small business owners and amazing artists I've met along my journey. I will be sharing these interviews periodically through my newsletter, and you can also check them out on the Blog page of my website at skcreations.com.
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