Gloria Malone is a writer, public speaker and teen pregnancy advocate. She’s also a soon-to-be world traveler. This September, she’ll embark on a year-long adventure around the globe with her 11-year-old daughter Leilani. Starting in Beijing, they plan to make their way through Asia, India, South Africa, Latin America and beyond.
Gloria has always been passionate about travel. After she graduated from university in 2014, she and her daughter packed their bags for an extended road trip around the U.S. “We lived out of our carry-on luggage for six to seven months, and we survived, and it was awesome. We got to drive up the coast of California and check out Chicago, and explore other parts of Florida.”
With an exhaustive list of places they’ll visit on their world trip, including locales as far-flung as China, Brazil, Egypt, and Colombia, their schedule is, as expected, flexible. One target of Gloria’s, however, is to start with cultures they’re less familiar with, such as Asia, and then move into more familiar terrain like Spain and Latin America (Gloria is fluent in Spanish.)
A self-described “type-A personality,” Gloria can’t travel just for travel’s sake. “I know that I can’t go to all these places and just sit still…. I want to look at what single motherhood looks like in different countries, and write about that.” Leilani will also interview different women in the STEAM fields (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) as part of her homeschool studies.
Gloria runs Teen Mom NYC, a blog dedicated to sharing her own story of teen pregnancy as well as interviewing teen parents and providing helpful information to moms in need. She was only 15 when she became pregnant, and she and her daughter have both encountered their fair share of social stigma and obstacles
“I [have] wanted to do this trip for about eight years. I just kept telling myself that it was not responsible,” she says. “As someone who is a single mother, is young, black, Latina, and an immigrant… it was really difficult to divorce myself from what I should be doing… All of that and I was still able to tell myself that I’m worthy of doing this, and that I should do this, and that I’m capable of doing this.”
Gloria also hopes the trip will make her daughter Leilani more confident and self-affirming. “Teens of teen parents get a lot of [garbage] thrown at them, that they’re supposed to be in jail, or pregnant or in gangs…, and countless studies have said that’s all [nonsense].”
Travel, Gloria firmly believes, opens minds to the reality that the world doesn’t exist solely inside the United States—it’s so much bigger.
“I hope she’ll realize that she can do things. You can pack up and leave the country and decide to travel. You can land in China and make it to the Great Wall, even if you don’t speak Chinese or understand the street signs. I hope that this year this journey will help her affirm her identity as someone who was born to a 15-year-old and that she sees herself as more than what society says she is.”
Follow Gloria and Leilani’s world adventures on twitter @GloriaMalone.
PHOTOS BY JULIE KOCH
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was first published in Almost Fearless’ print magazine, a quarterly magazine for adventurous parents.