Travelling has always been second nature to Kendra Valentine. Growing up with a family who lived “all over the place” meant that she became familiar with moving to new places and embracing a new way of living from a young age.
“I always had an international mindset. I don’t know if travel necessarily appealed to me at my young age but it was definitely innate because I moved around a lot.”
Kendra was born in California, as the oldest of four children. During her early teens, she made her first big move to Boston with her family – which provided an even bigger culture shock than some of the moves she’d make later on in life.
“Moving from California to Boston was a big culture shock for me because they are both very different and of course, I was young at the time.
“In California, we didn’t have underground trains so even things like that made that move to Boston really shocking,” she says.
While Boston isn’t particularly known for its vast diversity, Kendra did attend an international school which opened her up to various cultures and fuelled her interest in travel.
“I grew up around a lot of different types of people and cultures. I think that experience along with my first time outside of the US, really opened up my eyes to new things.”
Kendra’s first time leaving America was at 16-years-old when she went on a four-week school exchange trip to Russia in the early 2000s. “It was my first time leaving home and it really changed my perspective,” she admits.
During her time in Russia, Kendra did have a couple of experiences where she was confronted with racist attitudes. “I remember someone yelling “go back to Africa” but the meaning behind that comment didn’t really register and affect me at the time. There were a couple of times that were scary but generally I had a really good experience in Russia.”
Returning back to Boston, Kendra continued to blossom, graduating from Boston College and working within the film industry in the States.
At the age of 25, Kendra found herself at a crossroads as she debated whether to moving back to Los Angeles for work or pursue further education in a whole new country.
“I decided to apply to a cinema studies program at Stockholm University and I moved to Stockholm.”
As someone who was very familiar with moving around, Kendra found this transition from Boston to Stockholm surprisingly easier than her previous move and flourished during her time there.
“While studying in Stockholm, I took part in international boot camps and all sorts of things. I stayed for a while before moving again.”
As her studies in Stockholm came to a close, a new chapter was on the horizon that led her to a new European city.
“In the summer of 2015, I broke up with my partner at the time but changing apartments in Stockholm can be tricky so we lived together amicably for a couple of months,” she reveals.
“Eventually, I wanted to change apartments but I decided to do a staycation and work remotely in Berlin – I knew people who lived there.”
During Kendra’s first week in Berlin, she met someone who would change everything.
“I was super happy, doing my thing and a week in, I met my partner. When we started dating, I was still in Stockholm and I was going back and forth from Stockholm to Berlin and I eventually decided to move to Berlin.”
While her partner played a role in her move, the collaborative nature of the people within Berlin appealed to Kendra.
“People in Berlin are more open to collaborating on project-based things. It’s helpful to be within a culture where people are open in that way. Also, it’s nice to have my apartment and rent in Berlin and still be able to travel because the cost of living is a lot lower here.”
Kendra currently resides in Kreuzberg, East Berlin. With its blend of hipster cafes and a plethora of galleries, parks, and bars, this multicultural neighbourhood is definitely one of the most dynamic areas in Berlin and fits perfectly for the creative.
“One of my favorite things about Berlin is that it’s easy,” she says. “It is a city but it’s spread out. It’s not overcrowded, there’s a lot going on but it’s quite laid back. You can go outside in your pyjamas and no one will look at you twice – no one cares in Berlin.”
While the relaxed nature of the city is appealing, there are some things that Kendra had to adjust too.
“Germans have an office for every one thing and they really like paper here – you can still fax things here when you’re doing business,” she laughs. “In Sweden everything is electronic. I can even approve my taxes by text with an app. Also in Berlin cash is only taken in some places – although coronavirus is changing that.”
Like many other countries, Germany has been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been reported that there are 198,399 cases of coronavirus with over 9,000 deaths and over 182,000 recoveries in the country. Along with many other creatives, work has been somewhat affected for Kendra.
“I work as a story strategist, and I help people to articulate the value they provide whether they’re a business, they have a new product, run an institution, or even just an individual artist,” she says.
“I was actually planning on taking a break from work to focus on writing my book about a process I have called ‘strategic story design,’ which is my methodology for how I work. I’ve been working on that and helping to coach others.
“That’s what I was meant to be concentrating on but with coronavirus and Black Lives Matter, it has impacted things – a couple of my clients are in weird shape – but it’s okay. The government has actually been really supportive and they gave us aid at the start of the pandemic.”
Being away from the US as the Black Lives Matter movement spreads and police brutality and unrest continues to plague the country, has brought up many emotions for Kendra.
“It’s overwhelming to be honest. With everything happening and everyone talking about it, it gets to a point where I can’t keep pushing down this feeling, I have to let it come up because it gets to my heart,” she says.
“Being away from home compounds that especially because the media is so sensationalised, so I gotta check up with my people back home to make sure I know what’s really going on and it’s overwhelming and very emotional.
“Every day, we know we’re Black. As soon as we get out the house, we know – heck, as soon as we gotta put on lotion we know.”
“It can be a lot. Sometimes I wish I could be Kendra but now I have to be Kendra who is a Black woman in this space. I can’t just be an individual and that’s what people who aren’t Black don’t understand. They can be individuals but we just can’t in that same way. We are aware of how people see us.
“At the end of the day being a Black woman today is complex – but it’s also everything. It’s the epitome of history to the marker of pop culture. Being a Black woman is everything.”
Find out more about Kendra by visiting her website: https://www.kendravalentine.com/