Laventille stars in visit by UK TikTok influencer

Zoë Reeve, poses for a photo on Sandy Trace in Laventille during a visit with a TikTok follower. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve
Zoë Reeve, poses for a photo on Sandy Trace in Laventille during a visit with a TikTok follower. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

Social media is abuzz after British solo traveller and TikTok travel-content creator Zoë Reeve spent an afternoon in the hills of Laventille.

Although it was unimaginable to some, Reeve is not unfamiliar with spur-of-the-moment adventures like that.

She visited Trinidad in 2015 and spent time with a family in Moruga.

Reeve grew up in Surrey, a county in southeast England, and her parents travelled almost annually. In an interview with Newsday, she recalled a trip when she was around 14 and her family stayed at a resort in Turkey.

“I remember always being really curious. We went to Turkey this one time, and it was a resort, and I was like, ‘Please, please can we leave the resort? Can we please? I just want to see what’s outside.’

Zoë Reeve sits on a fence in Stephensville, Morvant. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

“Even from a young age I was always really curious about what was going on in those countries, so I always pictured that when I got older, I would travel without my parents and well…that’s what happened,” she laughed.

Her first solo trip was at 19, while she was studying at Queen Mary University of London for a degree in Spanish and French. She also worked during the summer break at the Wimbledon tennis tournaments, where she earned £1,000. With her university expenses covered by student loans, she was initially unsure what she would do, having that amount of money for the first time. She eventually decided to take her first trip to Jamaica, for two weeks.

“I wanted to go to Jamaica because I was at university in London and there were dancehall parties and Caribbean culture, so I wanted to experience where dancehall music comes from.

“So I bought a flight to Jamaica. I didn’t really tell anyone before doing it, I just did it and it took up most of the £1,000. So I was like, ‘What am I actually going to do when I get there?' Because I used most of the money for the flight.”

Thinking of the budget constraints, she took to the internet to seek out options to reduce costs.

“I read about this website called Couchsurfing where you can sleep on people's couches for free because there’s a cultural exchange.”

Using the site, she found a family who lived in the hills of Jamaica who were willing to host her. After connecting through the website, she had an introductory video chat with them ahead of her trip.

While her parents were supportive, other people warned her, telling her it would be dangerous to travel alone in a foreign country.

But Reeve said, “That trip to Jamaica really kick-started everything.

Zoë Reeve, solo traveller and content creator takes a photo after a hike to Bukit Bangkong in Perak, Malaysia. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

“I went and had the most amazing time. I made friends with this girl who worked in a rumshop and I served the drinks with her for fun and she had these boys who drove down from Kingston and they drove us to the river. I was shopping in the market, learned about ital food, spent time with Rastas.

“I just knew that that was how I wanted to travel. I wanted to stay in local communities, I wanted to experience more of the Caribbean, I wanted to see more of Jamaica.”

This was the beginning of her travel-content creation.

“The contrast between what everyone told me and what actually happened was just like so big that I was like, ‘People need to know that they were wrong.’ That’s when I started writing blog posts.”

From 19-28, Reeve balanced work with travel by working for two or three months at a time, then taking short trips. Meanwhile, she saved as much as possible to travel for longer periods.

“Everything changed two years ago, when I quit my jobs.

"I would work for two months and then travel for two weeks, come back (to England) and repeat that process.

“Since I saved money and quit my jobs and started TikTok, I’ve been away for three-quarters of the year since then.”

Initially, her goals were to reduce the stereotypes of the people and the countries she visited, show it was possible to travel on a budget and to become popular enough to travel full-time as a content creator.

Zoë Reeve poses with her friend Nyron "Bobby" Cummings who she fondly calls Orange Boy as he sells fruit on Park Street in Port of Spain. - Photo by Sydney Joseph

As her following on social media has grown, it has given her the title of "influencer." While not completely comfortable with the classification, she understands her content has helped others.

“I just still feel a bit of impostor syndrome to call myself an influencer, which is stupid because I 100 per cent know that I influence people, because they literally DM (direct message) me every day to say, ‘I bought my first-ever flight because of you.’”

“I want to use it (TikTok) to create social change, make a positive impact, reduce stereotypes – but I also want to be able to use it to travel full-time,” she added.

On her latest visit to Trinidad, she met up with a TikTok follower and spent the day with him in the hills of Laventille. While most locals would not visit the area because of safety concerns, Reeve was up for the adventure.

She does not ignore potential safety risks.

“I do research the crime rate before I go to a country, and I read newspaper articles too, because it helps you to understand what the statistics really mean.”

Zoë Reeve, rides a motorcycle on her visit to Guyana. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

While she takes precautions like ensuring she can make local calls, or keeping in touch with friends, family or her hosts, she does not allow potential danger to prevent her from making new memories.

Her trip to Laventille began with a maxi-taxi to the Morvant junction, where she waited for a TikTok follower, Sheldon “Prodigal Son” Richards, to pick her up. They stopped for ital food along the way and then took a drive to Fort Picton on Picton Road to see the views, before stopping at the Laventille basketball courts for a quiet place to eat. Their next stop was at Sandy Trace, to view some murals in the community.

Her video documenting the day has drawn a variety of reactions. Some commended her bravery, saying they had never been into the area despite having lived in Trinidad for their entire lives, with one person saying, “I didn’t even know there was a fort in Laventille.”

She also interviewed residents about their favourite parts of their home town and, in a separate video, asked if they would ever leave Laventille.

These videos struck a chord, with many viewers complimenting them for showcasing a fresh perspective.

Reeve has a travel habit some people might think strange: she gets a new tattoo to commemorate the places she’s visited and fallen in love with, including Trinidad. In Laventille she stopped at a tattoo artist's home in Mapp Lands, accompanied by local content creator Brad “BradGotMotion” Lucas.

Her first trip to Trinidad was in December 2015.

“I wanted to come for Carnival, because I was into soca music at this point. I was maybe 22. I had saved money to travel for a year from doing Workaways. I graduated, worked for a year and then quit to travel for a year.”

Workaway is a website Reeve discovered when initially researching ways to lower her travel costs that allows people to trade volunteer work for food and accommodation. It was here she found a listing for a three-generation family in La Lune, Moruga.

“I wanted to stay for three months and do Carnival in the middle (of the stay). I had to find somewhere to stay…

Zoë Reeve is all smiles with Noriga Granger, her "Trini Dad" who hosted her in Moruga on her first visit to Trinidad in 2015. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

"Sometimes you just know. I saw this profile on Workaway and I just knew this is the one for me. It had this photo of this smiling old Rasta man, with his daughter and his grandson and it said things like, ‘You’ll often find yourself dancing to reggae with us in the kitchen.’”

Reeve recalls Giselle Granger, her host family’s daughter, picked her up from the airport – and she found the Trinidadian accent almost too thick to understand.

“I had no idea the accent would be this strong. I knew nothing.

But it went well. "I will always remember when I met her dad for the first time, because he just gave me the biggest hug and said, ‘You’ll always be welcome here, thanks for coming.’”

The family put her to work almost immediately in the kitchen, learning to seal bottles of preserves and chilibibi (asham), which she had never heard of before.

“Over the course of the next three months that I stayed there, I learned how to play all fours, I helped with some catering at a wedding, and I became obsessed with selling in Princes Town market. I helped the kids with their homework…

"I could walk from one end of the village to the other and I would know so many people by the end of it. People would invite me in for a beer or ask if I want to go to the beach, and I had just never experienced anything like that in my life.

“I could just talk about them all day, because I just feel like that community is how the world is supposed to be. You should be able to come into someone’s front yard and play with their kids, and you can do all of those things in La Lune in Moruga.”

Zoë Reeve waters crops in Moruga with her "Trini sister", Giselle Granger, on her first trip to Trinidad in 2015. - Photo courtesy Zoë Reeve

That sense of family bonding, and community, as well as seeing aspects of local culture up close, made Reeve fall in love with Moruga. She said being able to come back to La Lune, set foot in the village and feel she’s at home makes her very grateful for the experience.

That memory is now permanent. She showed off the fresh tattoo on her upper arm which features three Moruga scorpion peppers and the co-ordinates of La Lune, adding, “If it steals a piece of my heart, then it can take a piece of my skin.”

Zoë shows off her souvenir tattoo from Trinidad. - Photo by Angelo Marcelle

This is now one of five souvenir tattoos she’s collected so far.

Leaving a piece of her heart here, she headed for Guyana on February 19, planning to come back to Trinidad in March or April. She hopes to complete some previously planned collaborations, visit Manzanilla and Toco and take her third trip to Tobago.

To follow Zoë Reeve’s adventures, you can find her on TikTok @travelwithzoe.


"Laventille stars in visit by UK TikTok influencer"

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