Meet Dr. Tyson-Lord Gray, the New York based attorney, professor, minister, activist, and frequent traveller who as travelled to over 78 countries and in his free time he enjoys wine tasting and photography.
Dr. Gray has presented environmental research at Harvard, Yale, Wake Forest, and Vermont Law School as well as at academic conferences in Asia, Africa, South America, and Europe. His publications include: “Consider This,” in Holy Ground: A Gathering of Voices on Caring for Creation, “Beauty or Bane: Advancing an Aesthetic Appreciation of Wind Farms,” and Sounds of Resistance.
Check out my exclusive interview with him below:
Hey Tyson! Would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
Yo, yo, yo!!!! I’m a simple guy who loves to travel with a penchant for adventure and an appreciation for a diversity of cultural experiences.
Talk me through an average day in the life of you?
Well I’m a professor and an attorney, which means my schedule changes from semester to semester and from day to day. There‘s really nothing average about my days other than waking up…and I love it!
What institution(s) did you attend and what did you study?
Well I have 6 degrees from 5 different universities so that would be a really long answer but I received my final two degrees (JD and PhD) from Pace Law School in NYC and Vanderbilt University (respectively) in Environmental Law and Environmental Ethics.
When and What made you develop such passion for Travelling?
My love for travel is really an extension of my love for learning. Each trip opens my eyes to a new cultures, customs, perspectives, and ways of being in the world. I often tell people that I’ve learned more traveling than I ever have in a classroom.
Why did you name your brand “kingofharlem”?
I’ve always had an affinity for Harlem’s history and culture as the citadel for black art and culture. My favorite poem in high school was ‘Theme from English B’ by Langston Hughes and I always wanted to make the same journey from Columbia “down into Harlem, through the park, cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y”. On my first visit in 2002 I fell in love and in 2010 I officially moved and became a Harlem resident. My brand KingofHarlem is just my way of paying homage to the beauty and resilience of black culture and black people embodied in this community.
Tell us more about “Green Community Vision Inc.” and what’s the main focus?
Green Community Vision is a not for profit organization I launched in 2014 aimed at encouraging low-income minority communities to become more ecological conscious and environmentally active in issues surrounding environmental justice.
What made you decide to become a Travel Blogger and what medium do you use to share your experiences?
That’s funny! I’ve never actually considered myself a travel blogger even though I do intentionally curate my IG as a travel page. Initially I used to post my travels along with everything else in my life but I noticed that people were more curious about my experiences abroad especially as an African American male. I haven’t started a YouTube channel yet because life is busy but, I try to include relevant information on my IG posts such as history, culture, links, tags, etc. Basically anything that would serve as information for someone planning a trip to the same location.
What camera/gears do you always use in the production of your videos?
I think the cameras on these $1,000 iPhones are probably equivalent to most high end cameras so I typically use my iPhone. It’s simple but effective and less stuff in my luggage.
How long does it take you to edit your videos and what editing software do you use?
Well IG is still a hobby for me so I don’t put a lot of effort into editing. I use an app called VivaVideo for my video editing and most of my pics I just pick the best one and post it.
Tell me more about your love for Vlogging/storytelling and how you use it to communicate through your travels and fitness?
I like to think of my page as telling a counter-narrative to the myth that African Americans don’t travel. Although it is true that only about 40% of Americans even own a passport and historically freedom of movement is something that has been prohibited from African Americans, specifically in the US, more and more social media is highlighting the reality that we travel too. I see my page to be a part of that movement and helping to chronicle that reality for those in the States as well as those abroad.
What travel mile credit cards do you use and how do you recommend to my readers on ways to amass points for flight booking?
I use Amex (American Express) when I travel for the points and I typically fly with Delta or another SkyTeam carriers. I also use Lyft as my ride-sharing app and Avis for car rentals since they both have partnerships with Delta that gives me additional points. I think the most important thing is to be intentional and consistent. Companies love loyalty and once you establish that you become eligible for upgrades and perks.
Which of the AMEX card do you use, $150, $250 or $550 a year card?
I have the platinum, which is $550 a year but they all come with perks that offset the annual fee so it averages out.
Will you say people appreciate the hard work we travel bloggers put in showcasing and telling our adventures?
I think so. I get a lot of positive feedback from people who are inspired by my content and who literally decide to visit places from a picture or video I posted.
As a Professor/Activist/Attorney and lover of travels, What will you say motivates/inspires you to stay dedicated to what you do?
I think life goes through three phases: in the first phase you do what you have to do, in the second phase you do what you need to do, and in the third phase you do what you want to do. The biggest motivation for me at this point in my life is that I’ve put in the time and effort to create the life I want and I actually enjoy everything I do.
When do you plan to start up your law firm “Gray Law & Policy, PLLC”?
Gray Law and Policy will actually be a continuing legal education and policy consulting institute that I am launching this year.
What’s your 5 Dos and Don’t when it comes to travelling?
- Do eat the cultural food..that’s an essential part of the experience!!
- Do talk to the locals, they know more about their country than the tour guides and most of them love interacting with tourists.
- Do buy some traditional attire. And don’t just wear it in that country, bring that shit back home and wear it to work!! It’s clothing not a souvenir.
- Do be prepared to bargain! Especially in African, Asian, and South American countries where most transactions are negotiations.
- Do embrace solo travel. It’s cool to travel with friends but don’t let people dragging their feet keep you from checking off your bucket list.
- Don’t be scared to venture out and explore the country. Contrary to what the news often suggests, most people in other countries are NOT trying to kill you.
- Don’t expect an American experience, you will get that when you get back home.
- Don’t follow a strict schedule, some of the best moments are found in being spontaneous.
- Don’t book with organized travel organizations only to get curried around to tourist traps.
- Don’t listen to random blogs warning you about certain countries. Of course you should be safe but I’ve read blogs about the 10 most dangerous cities where I’d been to ever city and felt 100% safe.
What do you do to stay in shape while on your travels, do you go to the gym?
I’m actually horrible at working out on vacation. For now I’m able to maintain off of good genetics. LOL!!! Fingers crossed that it stays that way.
How do you balance your personal and work life?
Fortunately I’m single so I don’t have to explain my sporadic trips out the country every other wknd. I’m assuming that will change one day but for now I’m just focused on living life to the fullest and racking up these stamps!
What do you consider the most common stereotype about the being a Travel Blogger?
I think a lot of people assume that we don’t have a regular life with real work and real bills. Just because I’m out of the country doesn’t mean I’m not working and just because I’m not home doesn’t mean the rent doesn’t still come due on the 1st of every month.
What aspect surprised you the most once you started your travels?
I’m actually still surprised that random people want to take pics with me. I always wonder what exactly they do with a random pic with a black guy they don’t know in their photo album.
Looking back to when you started travelling, is there anything you would like to change?
Well if I had to do it all over again and knew that I would end up visiting over 75 countries I would probably do something cool like take a picture in each country with a shirt that had that country’s flag and what number it was on it.
Which brands, clients, YouTubers, bloggers, photographers, etc, have you worked with?
I’m not on that level yet. I haven’t done any collaborations but I’m definitely open to opportunities.
What do you consider your biggest professional success so far?
My biggest professional success was completing my PhD. After I completed my exams I taught abroad in South Korea for a year, which was great but then I fell behind on my dissertation proposal. When I returned to the States I had a matter of months to get everything turned in. Once I completed that deadline I pretty much wrote 10 hours a day for about 4 months straight to complete my dissertation. I am an only child so there has always been the pressure to succeed but being the 1st in my family to become a Dr. was by far the proudest moment in my life.
Who do you want to work with that you haven’t yet?
No one specific but I think it would be cool to do a group trip with other travel-bloggers.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge was completing law school. Unlike most, I went to law school after my PhD as opposed to after undergrad. Although I felt I needed the additional perspective that law school provided to my research I had been in school full-time every semester for the previous 9 years at that point. No one knew but I honestly didn’t think I was going to finish the program. Turns out that the desire to be done motivated me to become a Pro-Bono Scholar so that I could finish early. By the time the rest of my class was graduating I had already completed the degree and passed the NY State Bar.
Tell us two things people don’t know about you?
- I’m an ordained minister.
- In 2017 I ran for city council.
You are very active on social media. Do you think its important to be online and if so why?
If you are not online in 2020 you are literally operating at an information deficit. Not only is it the primary medium for instant access to news but it is also the best place to carve out your own brand and promote your content.
You are currently based in Harlem, New York City, How is that working out for you?
I love Harlem!!! No matter how many places in the world I travel I am always excited to return home!!!
You travel alot and have travelled to over 78 countries, what will you say are your must visit travel destinations?
- Nigeria for the food, the culture, the music, and the people.
- South Africa and New Zealand are a tie in my opinion for some of the most beautiful scenery.
- Jerusalem for the history. As a Christian being able to visit the historical places from the Bible was life changing!!!
Name 5 things we should take seriously about our travel choices?
- Make sure you check the weather! My first visit to Brazil was in July, I was young and just assumed that July was summer everywhere in the world. To my chagrin it was cold and rainy the whole trip. I went back a couple years later in December and had the time of my life on the beach in sunny 90 degree weather.
- Who are you traveling with? The right people can make a trip and the wrong people can break a trip.
- The amount of time you spend in a country. Personally, I can see everything I want to see in most counties in 5 days but some countries like Slovakia are super small and don’t require as much time and others like Sri Lanka just have so much variety and things to do that you want to stay 2 weeks.
- What type of adventure do you want? Some places are great for relaxation whereas others are great for adventure. I have friends who LOVE Brazil because they like to party but I’m not really a party person. I prefer scenery and nature. It’s important to know what you want and what to expect before visiting a country that way you don’t end up in Benin looking to turn up lol.
- Where you are spending your money. I think a lot of times people travel for convenience, which means they book through American websites, stay in resorts, paying companies for excursions, etc. all without realizing that they as visiting countries but spending all of their money somewhere else. I think it’s important to be intentional about staying local, booking excursions locally, tipping the locals, eating at local restaurants, and basically supporting the local economy.
How would you describe your travel style?
I would say I tend to focus on 2 things, adventure and culture. By that I mean I love extreme sports so I love to elevate my trips by adding something like bungee jumping or hang-gliding. By cultural I mean I never want an American experience in another country so I avoid chain hotels and like to venture away from touristy areas so that I can get a genuine idea of how the locals live.
What style genre appeals to you the most?
I love old school R&B.
Name your 5 must have travel accessories/essentials?
- A universal converter
- My iPhone
- A portable charger
- A shamagh
- Hand sanitizer
What are your favourite fashion trends?
My style is more eclectic so I rarely follow trends but I’ve been feeling the whole destroyed denim jean look lately.
What is your favourite dish?
What songs are currently on your playlist?
- Life is Good – Future
- Toast – Koffee
- Baby Sitter – DaBaby
Apart from travelling and activism, what other projects are you currently working on?
I currently working on my first book project chronicling African American environmental activism throughout US history and presenting a theory of African American environmental ethics.
Seeing you’re doing your dreams, what advice can you give others to pursue their dreams?
I would say do one thing everyday that gets you closer to your dream until it becomes your reality.
Any specific plans for the future?
I have a group trip planned next month for my 40th birthday with 10 of my closest friends. The destination hasn’t been revealed yet but it’s going to be EPIC!
Any final words?
Live on purpose.
Where can we follow you online and on social media?
I post most of my content on my IG: @kingofharlem22