This family is “so fly” – they’ve flown to 12 different countries, six of which on the continent of Africa. And they’ve documented their travels on their YouTube channel – “The Jacksons Visit.”
The Jacksons left Philadelphia in 2015, when Michelle, 43, accepted a teaching position in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “We always thought about going abroad. We took that leap of faith and we love it,” said the certificated middle schoolteacher.
The family of three, including husband Aaron, 38, a 3D animation and motion graphics specialist, and 13-year-old daughter, Ala, have crafted a life around their travels which airs on their growing YouTube channel, titled “The Jacksons Visit.”
Ninety percent of the population in the UAE is made of expats like the Jacksons. The country even houses a small African-American community who are living and working in the country. Immigrants such as African-Americans are welcome there as long as they’re gainfully employed in the country, many of which are employed in various industries such as education, banking, and technology.
And with United Arab Emirates as their home, on holidays, as well as summer and winter breaks, the family uses the time to fly off to other countries especially parts of the mother continent of Africa, which is in close proximity to the UAE. In total, the Jacksons have trekked to six African countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Rwanda with the later two ranking high on their list of favorite destinations. And when it’s all said and done, the family would like to eventually call Rwanda their home.
“We always wanted to visit Africa. That’s the first place we visited,” said Michelle. The first African country the family toured was Zanzibar Island, located in Tanzania. “That was amazing. It felt like it was another world. I didn’t know what to expect. I just cried. Everything was green, and the people were so warm.”
As a place they would one day like to call home – Rwanda, the couple speaks highly of the once war-torn country. Their praise speaks highly of the degree to which the central African country has worked to turn itself around. It seems only a short time ago (20 years) when the country suffered a catrostrophic genocide between the groups Hutu and Tutsi, where about 1 million people were killed, and the story was depicted in the movie, “Hotel Rwanda.”
“Most people are stuck right there (Hotel Rwanda),” said Michelle, but nothing could be further from the truth. “The country is filled with solidarity. Its people ooze with pride, and it’s so clean. You can’t find a piece of paper on the ground,” she added. The couple also touts the country as business friendly and remarked about how impressed they were with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. “No one’s living in huts (as some may think). It’s amazing.”
The couple touched on familiar perceptions held about Africa, particularly negative thoughts espoused by African-Americans. They stated that much of these misguided beliefs and information are derived from western media. “After that experience (visiting Rwanda), I learned that you can’t depend on the media a lot of times. These are people who have never gone there,” added Michelle. The media far too often casts a cloud over predominately black countries. “U.S. media keeps people in the dark. Any country with dark people is considered bad”, added Aaron. “Americans are treated with a lot of respect. When you’re not in the U.S., none of that color stuff matters. When we go to Africa, we’re superstars over there,” he added.
But before making their jump to living in Africa, the couple fully understands the need to be financially self-sufficient. They’re currently working on a business plan in an effort to make themselves financially independent. “We want to see the best field of business to enter, and go in when we’re ready,” said Aaron, who used his animation skills to craft the intro to the family’s “Jacksons Visit” YouTube channel, and who is also working on the 5th edition of the acclaimed documentary, “Hidden Colors,” by Tariq Nasheed. Aaron met the filmmaker when he had the opportunity to escort Nasheed around the UAE when the director visited the country.
While the parents are busy, one might wonder how the youngest Jackson is adjusting. Her parents say that their daughter loves the family’s traveling lifestyle, which is obvious in their YouTube videos. Ala has friends “all over,” and her parents are content that she’s thriving in a safe environment in the UAE. Situations they had to be concerned with while living in the U.S., such as safety, is no longer a problem. “Safety is the number one thing for people here (in the UAE),” added Michelle. Residents can leave items in the open without fear of theft. The couple recalled a time when their daughter left an iPod in a public restroom. When they returned looking for the device, the item was returned to them without incident. “It’s very, very, safe here.”
Would the Jacksons ever move back to America, the answer was a resounding, “no.” Instead, they hope to build their YouTube channel into a viable business, so that they can continue to travel and show people the world. “Travel is a love of ours. We want to show people that as a family, it can be done. The world is vast, and a lot of countries will accept us.”
Visit the Jacksons on their YouTube channel, “The Jacksons Visit”.