Remember when we could all travel?
Before a global pandemic interrupted spring and summer travel – or basically travel for the foreseeable future – Jessica Fender and Kerry Maloney took their love of exploration and turned it into a colorful, vibrant and entertaining look at the world and the Big Easy in the form of Traveler Broads. Their mission throughout their four-year existence has changed, but a big part of who they are as Instagram influencers is to highlight and promote local travel in the city they love the most.
Like many, the Traveler Broads had to pivot their message and lifestyle due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, armed with a closet full of costumes and a recent dive into New Orleans history, their pivot turned into the social video series we didn’t know we needed.
We caught up with Fender and Maloney to chat about travel, “Quarantine History” and what’s next for the creative duo.
Q. How did Traveler Broads get started? On the back of a cocktail napkin at a bar in Las Vegas’ Cosmopolitan Hotel, technically. At least, that’s where we came up with the name and started the Instagram account in 2016. We hadn’t even finished our gin and tonics – and we certainly didn’t have a business plan – and yet, there we were: The Traveler Broads. But we’d known each other for more than a decade. Kerry was a photographer and Jessica was a reporter. Both of us wanted to travel more and were looking for an excuse to see the world.
Q. What’s the main mission behind Traveler Broads? From the jump, we were a counterpoint to the chic and dewy 20-somethings that dominated Instagram travel feeds at the time. We had rolls and wrinkles, and we wanted to make room for different types of travelers. We became advocates for hyper-local travel – getting dollars into the hands of locals by finding the boutique hotels, restaurants, makers and experiences in every place we visited. The natural next step was doing that same thing for our favorite city in the world, New Orleans. Since the murder of George Floyd, most of this has taken a backseat. We’ve been involved in marches against police brutality, are trying to promote Black-owned businesses and have been looking for ways we can amplify Black and other marginalized voices with the platform we’ve built.
Q. What do you love most about being the Traveler Broads? It’s never boring. Stressful? Sometimes. But we’re both pretty nimble and willing to jump on the next good idea. So, we’re basically in nonstop brainstorming mode. And, we never take ourselves very seriously. Our goals are important. Some of the subjects we address are important. But our dignity? Never. Anything for a laugh.
Q. Where did the concept for Quarantine History come from? Quarantine History came out of a perfect storm of too much time on our hands and way too little inhibition. Lockdown happened while we were traveling for work, and by the time we landed, we knew we wanted to do something with video. Both of us are crafty and have a million costumes in our closet. And, clearly, we love making fun of ourselves.
Q. Why a historical video series? Our heads were swimming in New Orleans history. We’d just wrapped research on our upcoming French Quarter guide. And I think we always knew New Orleans was a crazy city, but now we had the receipts. Accuracy is important to us, so we wanted to work with an history expert. Luckily, Christine Miller of Two Chicks Walking Tours agreed to come on board and do the more in-depth research. We love to say the acting is very, very bad, but the facts are good.
Q. Will there be a Season 2? We hope so! But the story of New Orleans is a lot more diverse than two white ladies dressing up as generals and banana gangsters. There’s Civil Rights leader Oretha Castle Haley, who defied gender and racial roles when it wasn’t safe to do either. There’s the legendary Dixie Fasnacht, who managed to run a see-and-be-seen gay bar in the Quarter and used to use money from the till to bail out gay and trans patrons after the inevitable raids. Those are stories we can’t tell alone. We’re in the process of looking for experts in those communities – or just people who want to look silly with us for an episode – to tell as much of New Orleans’ full history as we can.
Favorite travel destination: New Orleans will always be top of our list. It’s the best city in the world to come home to.
Favorite binge-watch or reading: Maloney: I could try to give an answer that makes me seem smart or clever, but the last series I binged was “Last Man on Earth;” I loved “Mrs. America;” and the last show I actually watched was “Warrior Nuns;” Fender: The list of shows I’m not binging would be shorter. But I’m reading a really trippy book called “The Order of Time,” by quantum physicist Carlo Rovelli.
Favorite sno-ball flavor: Will we get kicked out of New Orleans if we confess we’re not that into them?
True confession: One of our first big trips as Traveler Broads was to Greece and Turkey, a trip Maloney won by winning the Showcase Showdown on the “Price is Right.”