Welcome to my site!
And to my ever-evolving world, where "home" is often the Caribbean, other times the US, while Ethiopia––my birthplace––remains lodged in my heart. In between, home is all the adventures that have shaped me from living and working abroad.
I am a writer, photographer, and guidebook author. A former Washington DC lawyer who ditched the office and a closet full of designer stilettos to follow her lifelong passion for travel and culture.
During the last six years–while traveling long term in the Caribbean region (living in Jamaica, Grenada and Belize, among other places)–I have had the privilege of doing work that I love through words and images, and inspiring others to travel and immerse.
An adventurous journey
Born in Ethiopia and raised in Côte d’Ivoire, I had my first passport by age six. By 14, I had lived on three continents, survived three school systems (French, British, American), and spoke four languages, including French and Spanish.
In hindsight, it's no surprise that my career as a corporate lawyer couldn't quench my thirst for exploration. In 2008, while sitting at my senior associate’s desk in Washington DC and staring out the window of my spacious office, it hit me. Life was too short to be miserable with work. With planning, I took a leap of faith and left my legal career behind to travel long term–six weeks was the initial plan (turned five months)–and figure out my passion. All I knew was my diverse background, multiple language skills and ability to live in cross cultural settings had a greater purpose. One that I was meant to use to benefit others.
“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”– Kurt Vonnegut
Travel photography: The beginning
My blog Sunshine and Stilettos launched in 2009. My initial aim was to share photographs and stories with friends on my life as a solo female traveler. It soon became popular and a year after being on the road and landing assignments as a self-taught photographer, my images were published online and in print travel outlets. In 2010, I took a travel photography course to enhance my knowledge on the business of photography, from social networking to publication. While I had a couple of articles published, I hadn't yet focused fully on writing for print.
From images to words: Forging a new path
In the summer of 2011, I landed my biggest opportunity yet: I was selected as an in-house writer, blogger, and photographer for the Belize Tourism Board, in collaboration with Matador Travel magazine, for period of three months. After exploring the country in depth (it was my second time there), and producing over 60 blog posts, articles and sharing photographs, I realized that I wanted to tell stories through words and not just images.
Becoming a published author and travel writer
All of these experiences, hard work and leaps of faith–including working with the Belize Tourism Board–led me to a bigger road: becoming a travel guidebook author. My first edition of Moon Belize (Avalon Travel/Hachette Books) published in November 2013, printed in full color.
In 2013, on the heels of my first guidebook, I was offered the opportunity to write a second title for Moon Guides: Moon Belize Cayes, focusing on Belize's offshore islands. A couple of years later, yet another door opened–and I submitted a successful proposal for a first edition of Moon Dominican Republic. It was released in November 2016, printed in full color.
Aside from my guidebooks, my freelance articles and photography focus on culture and adventure, and have been published in AFAR, CNN Travel, Every Day With Rachael Ray, Delta Sky, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, MorningCalm (Korea Air) Magazine, New York Magazine, The Travel Channel, BBC Travel, American Way Magazine, New York Times Magazine and Lonely Planet Travel Magazine, among others.
Along the way, I've also worked with editorial clients, publishers and travel companies looking for branded content on specific Caribbean destinations, or updates to their travel literature–from digital travel agent guides to lists of best Caribbean hotels.
Last but not least, I've had the honor of appearing as a Caribbean expert in various media outlets, including radio, podcast and cable television, in multiple languages. In 2016, I was thrilled to receive the Caribbean Tourism Organization's annual Marcia Vickery Wallace Memorial Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism in my coverage of the Caribbean over the years.
A few other details about me
- I have two native languages–Amharic and French; I learned them simultaneously as a kid.
- My first name Lebawit means “a female with heart.”
- I’ve lived in eight countries and visited 23 (including New Zealand and Taiwan).
- I love to dance, and I'm convinced I was Latina in my past life.
Get in touch
I'd love to hear from you! For writing or photography assignments, speaking engagements, interviews and other work collaborations, please get in touch through the Contact page.
If you have a favorite place in Belize or the Dominican Republic that you'd like me to consider for future editions, I'm always open to suggestions.
Last but not least, if your inquiry is career-related–how to become a travel writer or photographer–please review my blog and media spotlights where I share multiple tips and stories. Because I have to prioritize paying work, it's difficult to respond to individual career queries.
Feel free to join me on the social networks.