When Soumoya Mattis made her first trip abroad, she knew she would be making another one in no time.
“I have not always seen myself traveling. Before my first trip, I didn’t even think what I’m doing now was possible. But the moment I booked my first flight in 2010, I knew I was going to keep traveling. And when I came back to Jamaica, I needed to see everywhere else,” she said. Saturday life of how she became a global traveler, travel planner and blogger.
Mattis hails from small town Hanover, and his first travel experience included heading to the second city, Montego Bay. Seeing no immediate family members or people around her fly, she would be the first to break the cycle, break out of her comfort zone and cross international borders.
Visiting over 20 countries to date, she has rated Paris, the capital of France, as one of the most amazing places she has ever seen. “Not only was it an ‘awesome experience’, but it was also a spiritual experience for me. The day I came out of the station and looked at the Eiffel Tower, my eyes filled with tears. Me, [a] likkle country girl from dung ah Hannover duh this by myself. My heart was full,” she said.
It was a far cry from growing up in a place where the girls got pregnant before graduating from high school and being raised in a four-cornered house with a bed on one side and a stove on the other – it was the pure definition of “achieving” in his eyes. Breaking with the stereotypes of her surroundings hit her harder than she could have imagined.
Her second trip, which took her to the Turks and Caicos Islands, really defined her travel scope. It was only from there. After hearing her college friend consider going to college in the Netherlands, Mattis was so intrigued that she tapped into a unique aspect of jet-setting: behind-the-scenes planning. “I went home and started researching Europe, and went down a rabbit hole about Africa and Asia. By doing research, I showed that I wanted to travel. I needed to create a job for myself that would allow me to travel,” she said. At that time, she started working to become a travel planner.
Between 2013 and 2014, she joined the travel team of the Jamaican team for the World Performing Arts Championships. There, she made visa applications for the whole team, organized flights, transport and hotel accommodation. “I was helping with all the logistics of getting people to and from Hollywood,” she added. In 2019, riding the wave of her success and her own discoveries, she decided to create her own brand: Happistart.
Its social media content includes videos on how to apply for visas, travel experiences, guides and tips. She is building her brand with high hopes of seeing and experiencing as many countries and cultures as possible. “My goal is to help as many Jamaicans as possible travel in my business,” says the entrepreneur, adding on a more personal note: “Part of it is trying to ‘find me’. I want [that] when I decide to settle down, I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
Outside of the travel-focused business, Mattis owns a digital production company called Soneik Entertainment, which provides video and photography services and studio rentals. When punished, she spends her days running her production company, assisting with visa applications, blogging, editing content and planning trips. As visa access and finances continue to make life difficult for the world traveler, she is forging ahead and already well on her way to exploring the beauty of East Africa, namely the Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. And she will fly to Asia, Europe and Australia later this year.
Those wishing to start traveling are advised to do some research. The information is there; there’s Google, and it helps to connect with consulates and ambassadors here in Jamaica who are ready to answer all your questions. “The problem with travel is that you have to be flexible. To grab the bargains, you have to be packed and ready to hop on a plane; but with a mobility-impaired passport, I can’t just hop on I have to plan ahead so I can apply for the correct visas and make sure my travel itinerary is suitable, I also have to make sure I don’t get stuck because one thing these countries don’t don’t play, these are their borders.
Soumoya Mattis is on Instagram as @soumoya_soneik and @happistarttravel and TikTok, @crzysamoye and @happistarttravel.