An interview with founder Clifford Williams
Photos taken at Île-à-Vache, Haiti, March 2018
By Schaina Jean-Charles + Photos by Cendino Temé @cendioteme_
HAITI OPEN had the pleasure of speaking with the founder of Gravel World, a business working towards expanding the “false narrative [of Haiti] being shown in American media.” Clifford started Gravel World because he believed in the power of groups. He told HAITI OPEN that “when you [Gravel: Group + Travel] you build connections with people and potentially make lifelong friends. For me, friendship is essential to the soul. It is a necessary aspect of life.”
What was the inspiration for Gravel World?
Clifford grew up in Haiti and was “inspired to show people that Haiti was more than meets the eye.” Clifford wants others to see Haiti as more than [just] a mission country. Clifford chose Haiti as the top destination for what it represented to him.
He felt that we “should take [pilgrimage] to Haiti because it is the heart of Black freedom worldwide.”
What has been the response to Gravel World?
“Haiti is our marquee destination.” Clifford has received an overwhelming response to what his business has done for those of Haitian descent and non-Haitians alike. Clifford mentions that the people he encounters feel that Haiti offers an eye-opening experience, contrary to what is exposed on U.S. television. His attendees are moved by the “genuine nature of the Haitian people.”
Although coordinating group trips can often become overwhelming, Clifford remarks, “I went into it knowing that I would be dealing with many different personalities and attitudes, and I was ready.” However, despite the uneasiness and tension that sometimes afficts group trips, his attendees leave the trip as “a big happy family.” That is the experience he wants to provide for his attendees. Gravel World is about becoming family and experiencing the different facets Haiti offers.
What do you wish you knew before starting a group travel company?
“I spent 2 years planning the first trip,” says Clifford. He made sure to become very informed before diving into such a grand venture. “I was fortunate to learn what not to do from other people. All my trips have been smooth!” However, he never expected the lasting impression the connections he made with his attendees would have on him.
Clifford wholeheartedly expressed that if there are individuals out there aspiring to do what he does, they should just “Do it! I would advise them to do as much research as possible, go on a solo trip and run through the trip they want to organize on their own first. Doing that will make your trip smoother, and the experience will be 10 times better.”
What has been your biggest joy since starting this company for Haiti?
“My biggest joy is watching people, especially non-Haitians, fall in love with our culture and especially our food. From time to time, some of my American attendees will send pictures of them eating in a Haitian restaurant stateside or send me a picture of them drinking Barbancourt Rum. It bridges the gap amongst us, a black people in America, and that’s powerful.”
What can we expect from Gravel World in 3 – 5 years?
“In 3 – 5 years expect Gravel World to take over resorts. We’ve done that at Abaka Bay in Ile a Vaches, which is paradise on earth. Moving forward, we’re looking to book the bigger resorts completely. That’s the plan! People are also getting excited about our other destinations (Indonesia, Zambia) coming up in 2019.”