Interview by Lauren Ash. Creative and Art Direction of Photography by Lee Litumbe. Photography by House of Evbuomwan.
Lee Litumbe's mission is seemingly simple: she is in spirited pursuit of travel, adventure, and new cultural experiences. Sounds amazing, right? Easy? Not so much. Worth it? Absolutely. A little over a year ago, Lee founded Spirited Pursuit without knowing what was waiting around the corner. Since then, she has provided space for those who live their lives according to this bold mantra to share their stories and, in doing so, she and others have inspired many more people to begin to live in spirited pursuit, as well. I found myself recently drawn to photographs taken from Spirited Pursuit's one-year anniversary gathering, curated by Lee for a small group of family and friends. What a way to celebrate, reflect, and honor a beautiful labor of love! While reading this, I hope that you are encouraged to put together your own celebration, whether to honor a milestone in your personal or professional growth, or the blossoming of a creative project you've been working on. I gained some ideas for Black Girl In Om's one year anniversary! Follow Lee's adventures on Instagram @spiritedpursuit and on her website www.spiritedpursuit.com.
Lauren Ash: Who are you in this moment?
Lee Litumbe: Defining who I am is always a challenge, mainly because I’m constantly being shaped by my experiences. Before launching my labor of love, Spirited Pursuit, I was extremely introverted (borderline reclusive) and found it quite difficult to open up to people I was not already comfortable with. Thankfully, I have since grown from that and given myself permission to fully become the person I want to be; a decision I believe has made all the difference.
In this moment, I’d consider myself a free spirited individual with a strong lust for life, unyielding curiosity for all the world has to offer, and intense passion for expressing myself creatively. I’m still very much an introvert, but one that no longer operates from a place of fear. At the core, I’m just a young woman taking risks and making every attempt I can to forge my own path in life.
LA: Spirited Pursuit just turned one. At its heart, Spirited Pursuit tells stories. Beautiful, wild, authentic stories of travelers in pursuit of adventure. What has been the greatest story that you have experienced in the past year?
LL: Within the past year, I feel very blessed to have traveled to some amazing destinations like Namibia, Costa Rica and the Canadian Rockies. However, I believe it is the people I’ve connected with that have made the journey a fulfilling one. The evolution and growth of Spirited Pursuit has been both my greatest achievement and the greatest story I’ve experienced thus far. It’s a magical feeling to be in the company of so many dynamic storytellers that also strive to inspire, inform and enrich the lives of others by sharing their own unique experiences.
LA: You recently curated a celebratory gathering to commemorate SP's one year anniversary. Who celebrated with you? Tell us about this experience.
LL: The gathering was an intimate one I wanted to share with close friends and family. Childhood friends who have watched me struggle and fail over the years, family that has uplifted and encouraged me during trying times, and loved ones that I can call at 2 a.m. in the morning for anything. Pretty much all the people in my life that I can always count on. I’ve noticed that strangers can sometimes be more supportive of your work than the people already in your life, so it was extremely reassuring to be surrounded by people I love that also genuinely wish me well.
To celebrate, I knew I wanted to create an effervescent experience for my guests and infuse components of some of my favorite things like Cameroonian food, great wine and lots of cheese! While I planned and selected everything from the rose gold flatware to the deep oak furniture myself, I had a lot of help from my friends and family in bringing it all together. It is because of them that the gathering felt so much like love. After months of planning, I was elated to finally see my vision come to life.
LA: Spirited Pursuit celebrates and creates space for other spirited world travelers. What is one of your favorite featured stories on Spirited Pursuit and why is it your favorite?
LL: This is a tough question because I hate playing favorites! Every story I publish is one that I myself find interesting and informative. That said, the contributors that are able to paint vivid pictures with their words and choose to explore regions that are typically under or inaccurately represented in Western media tend to move me more. One such contributor was Jon Collins, a photographer and particularly gifted writer that spent several months backpacking through a few African nations. I thoroughly appreciated his ability to dignify each of his subjects and avoid reducing them to “exotic others” — something not commonly done by photographers that travel within Africa. I’m also always looking to feature individuals with a genuine curiosity and desire to explore people, places and cultures from a perspective of cultural relativism. Jon’s story was one of that embodied that philosophy perfectly.
LA: How do you cultivate self-care and holistic wellness while traveling so much? What provides balance in your life?
LL: To be completely honest, I’m actually struggling to find balance in my life right now. The stresses and pressures that come with working a full time job, managing all things Spirited Pursuit (I’m a one-woman-show right now) and trying to be a good friend/sister/daughter can be overwhelming at times. However, I’ve been making a conscious effort to make daily deposits into my mental health bank. I noticed I was allowing others (and even myself) to make too many withdrawals, which is not emotionally sustainable.
Strengthening my relationship with God (though I’m much more spiritual than I am religious) through prayer is a large part of how I seek balance in my life. In addition to that, I also try to only eat foods with good nutritional value, practice a bit of yoga and make a daily gratitude list.
LA: What's on the horizon for Spirited Pursuit? Where do you hope you will go, literally and metaphorically, in the next year?
LL: The goal is more travel, more stories and more inspiration. I’ll be in Haiti for a few weeks next month, which is a trip I’m really excited about. Beyond that, I’d much rather show you than tell you. So please stay tuned for what’s next for Spirited Pursuit and I.