Rahiem Johnson: Why representation in travel matters

Posted on 28 March 2024 By Lauren Dold

From ideas about money and accessibility to perceptions of Africa, travel has changed how Rahiem Johnson sees the world. Now the owner of a travel business, Tray Table Seat Back, Rahiem sees the difference travel makes to others’ lives and what a difference representation makes. We asked him about destinations, perceptions of travel and Africa. 

Rahiem says his favourite country on Earth is South Africa

Describe your experience of travel growing up

Growing up, we didn’t travel much, besides our bi-annual road trip to Virginia Beach which is about six hours away from Philadelphia. I grew up in a blended family of eight, my mom has four children and my stepfather has four children, so we couldn’t really afford to travel far and often.  

What gave you the impression you have to be rich to travel?  

My first impressions of travel came from the media. On television, it only appeared that rich people were travelling, and they were always non-Black families. Another thing that influenced my perception was my family. We didn’t travel much, and I knew it was due to money, which put me in the mind-set you have to be rich to travel. My sister and I grew up loving Home Alone, about a family who during the holidays, travels to places like Paris and New York. Those were places we could only dream of going to. I remember my sister and I always thought they must have a lot of money.  

​​Why did you want to see the world? 

There was so much out there I hadn’t seen, and I wanted to see the world. In around 2012, I made the conscious decision to find a good work-life balance, and it needed to involve travel. Once I went to my first country, the Dominican Republic, I was addicted. One country became two, two countries became 10, 10 became 20, and now I’ve visited more than 50 countries.  

Rahiem in Bali, 2021

The 50+ countries you’ve travelled to include some on the African continent. Describe your fondest memory from each of your top three.  

South Africa 

My number one favourite country in the world is South Africa. Just thinking about South Africa brings a smile to my face. There’s a vibrant energy that this country breathes that’s unmatched. The mountain views and beaches in Cape Town, the energy of Joburg. I love it. I also love that it goes against every stereotype people attribute to Africa. I love the richness, the vibrancy, the beauty. Cape Town is so different to Joburg, Joburg is so different to Pretoria, Pretoria’s different to Durban.


I’ve been on a few safaris, but the safari in Kenya was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I think what I love most about is that it felt traditional. Kenya’s what I imagined Africa to be. I’d been on safari in many other places, but there was just something about the energy, the beauty of it … it was a feeling that’s really hard for me to describe. But I remember feeling like, this is Africa, this is the place I’ve seen on TV for decades, and being here, enjoying this just feels like where I’m supposed to be.


It’s not traditionally how you’d imagine Africa. You get that Middle Eastern feel coupled with this African feel. Depending on what city you’re in, Marrakech, Chefchaouen or Casablanca, it’s so different to what we perceive Africa to be. It’s even different to the African places I’ve been to, and I love that because it shows how multifaceted Africa is as a continent. I think many Americans speak about Africa as if it’s a country, not a continent.

What misconceptions of the African continent did you have before you visited?  

As an American, I’m guilty of listening to what the media says. So I imagined Africa as a place with nothing but poverty and malnourished children because that was what American media pushes. I’ll say that I was ignorant because I had that perception of Africa until I visited. I realised it was nothing like I thought it’d be, nothing like the media had made it out to be.

I was nervous because I didn’t know what it’d be like. When I told people that I was going to spend a few months in South Africa, people said, oh, you’re going to be staying in huts. I was happy to be in a position to pull out my phone and show them pictures of where we were staying and what it looked like. To say: This is in Africa, yeah, this is in Africa.

Tray Table Seat back hires a videographer to capture each trip, and Rahiem takes photos for guests to share on social media. Greece, 2021

Your top-three bucket-list worldwide destinations, and why?  

1) The number one place on my list is Namibia. From photos and what I’ve read, it’s breathtaking, with deserts that rival some of the best in the world, not to mention the oldest desert in the world!

2) I’d also like to visit Nigeria, the African country with the largest population. I’ve heard great things about it from the many Nigerian people I’ve met.

3) I’m looking forward to visiting Switzerland. I hear it’s such a great and rich country. I’ve been to many European countries, and I typically don’t really care much for travelling in Europe, but, for some reason, I’m intrigued by Switzerland. 

Look out for Rahiem’s views on representation in travel in the May issue of Getaway, on shelves 14 April.


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