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Ep: 171: Bonus: How to pivot your business and support your remote team during a crisis with Dr. Kiona

In this week’s bonus episode, I welcome back with Dr.Kiona and we talk about how to pivot your online business and support your remote team in times of crisis.

Listen to find out how to find new opportunities and adapt your business to new situations and opportunities.

Listen Below:

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Transcription:

Debbie:

Hey everyone! Thank you so much for being here for our special interview. I am super excited to talk to Dr. Kiona today. Hey Kiona.  How are you? 

Dr. Kiona:

Hey, I’m Good. It’s sunny outside. So I’m good. 

Debbie:

I’m so excited to talk to you today because you always have amazing and incredible tips for people and you have a really great awareness of what’s happening around the world. 

And, obviously, I want to talk to you about what’s happening with you right now ‘cause a lot of the things that you do are online and whatever tip you can give us right now is going to be super helpful for everybody. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. Well, not everything I do is online. The majority of the stuff I do is online but I do Cuba trips two weeks out of every single month. And that I cannot do online, I realized. I mean, I’ve seen so many, like, Condé Nast and all of these other places have digital travel experiences. I don’t know if I want to visit Cuba that way so I’m like, “I can’t do that.” 

And then, we had huge events with a Cuban government. We had huge brand partnerships set for May and all of that we had to move. So we moved back to December at the end of the year and, who knows if we can still do it. It’s a so play-by-ear, so unexpected which, as you know as a business owner, is anxiety-inducing.

But it’s kind of to the point where we’re like, “We just have to let it go.” So, basically we had to move all of our trips from April, May until later into the year. And so that’s, like, half of my income that just kind of left. 

So, with that, we had to make a decision, like, we gave our clients the option to: 

1.) Postpone. We can move you even into 2021 and, well, keep the same price. No cancellation fee, usually we do have a move fee, but, obviously, waived all of those things.

2.) You can cancel and we will refund you all of your money except for the deposit which is around $300 – $350. Because we had to explain that with the deposit money, we were going to pay all of our employees normally. 

We support 55 families in Cuba and our trucks are specifically geared toward private businesses. Because Cuba is a socialist economy or, some people call it, a communist economy, the government supports all of its employees – all of their people. 

There are very little credit businesses but our tours, specifically, cater to the private sector where we support only private businesses who don’t get government support. So, without our tours, without our business, they’re not getting money. 

And so, unlike the other agencies in Cuba, they’re, like, a part of my family, they are part of me. And so, I don’t even see them as employees, they have their own businesses and I just contact them. But still, we’re so close that I couldn’t imagine letting them flounder and then try to call them back up when I need them again. 

And so, we paid out all of our employees for the month of April and the month of May but we did tell them like, “We don’t know if we’re gonna have enough for June and July.” Because we actually didn’t have any cancellations. Thank God. 

So, we only had, like, a small pot of money. We didn’t take any for ourselves, we were like, “Disperse it to everybody evenly.” And they were super appreciative and we even top up their cell phone minutes so they can communicate or to buy bread or whatever.

It was a decision. As a small business owner, it was actually very easy to make because we’re such a close-knit business and community. But to see other companies just, like, leave their employees hanging and I’m like, “You are a huge company.” 

As a one-woman or, with my business partner, two-women business, if we could pay our employees with not what we usually pay them but enough for them to survive for the month, why are they not doing that? And it just seems so greedy, so selfish. 

I’ve definitely been looking at companies who aren’t looking out for their people and I guess as a business owner, I would just say People do care about that. People care if you care about your employees. And so, how you react in terms and times of crisis is telling and will definitely either gain your business or lose your business in the long run.

Debbie:

Yeah. It’s really interesting that, you’re right, there’s a lot of huge businesses out there that are letting go of companies and I’m, like, “Don’t you have some sort of money that you put in place just in case anything happens like this?” Because I do that myself. I haven’t let go of any of my assistants yet. 

And in order to do that, I stop paying myself because I’m, like, ”I know I have money laid away for, like, rainy days.” But some of my assistants like you, Kiona, one of them lives in the Philippines and he’s literally like, “Can I get my salary earlier because I literally have to feed my family?” Because all of his other income has just gone down. 

So, it’s really interesting because we are struggling too as business owners but I’m pretty sure that those big businesses have way more money to spare in the long run than we do. And that’s such a shame to see and it’s so much more money that they have than us so I don’t know. It’s crazy.

Dr. Kiona:

Like you said, as a smart businesswoman, we always stock away cash for an emergency. I don’t know about you but my mom will probably be like, “Just in case you got married and your husband leaves you.” And she made me watch away too many lifetime movies growing up.

But even that, I grew up and it was like, just in case, I’m left alone I have some sort of backup. And now that I have that backup, I’m grateful but also I know people who don’t have the privilege to even have that backup. They literally live month-to-month like in survival mode. 

And also I don’t have kids. These are families with children, pregnant women and I’m like, “There’s no way I would feel comfortable taking a salary when a pregnant lady can’t even get her food ration.” I just can’t.

Debbie:

It’s so scary but I’m just glad that we are fortunate enough to have something laid out and this is really the time. They are your community. They are people who have been helping you and making sure everything is possible. And even if you can’t pay them 100% you should pay them something because it’s a really hard time for everybody right now. 

And honestly, I feel super fortunate that we do have some backup money and I do have some clients sale that are able to pay us and have that recurring income. And right now, I’m giving all of that recurring income to my assistants ‘cause I’m like, “You guys are making everything well.” Because, otherwise, you would go crazy without them. 

So yeah, that’s super important.

So, what are some of the things that you have put in place in order to make sure that you can make it last? So that you can actually make sure that your clients are happy and also the people that are working with you and for you are also able to get some sort of income right now.

Because everyone is struggling, especially in our industry like the travel industry – there’s really nothing happening. So what have you been doing? And I know, Kiona, you are doing real estate too, so how is all of this happening? 

I know like, “Oh my God. This is crazy.”

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. So, with my real estate, basically, I have multiple Airbnbs in the United States, but I also manage International Airbnbs. As in, like, I’m not the owner ‘cause some of the people are like, “Airbnb is the devil.” Well, that’s only if you buy the property  and you’re not supporting the local community.

And so, the properties I manage internationally – I do not own. They have their own owners. I just take a fee for management and then they get customers, like, 100% of the time. So they are totally happy with that.

And actually I always offer my International clients, like, a teaching lesson. I’m like, ”Okay, I can turn this whole management thing over to you once I set it up – If you would like to.” That way you’re managing the business 100% and literally never did want to do themselves. They always want me to do it.

Debbie:

Of course, why should they? They’re like, “We don’t want more work.”

Dr. Kiona:

I know. They’re like, “We get paid way more money than we were before. You can do it. It’s fine.”

So, that’s what I do but our international properties there are 0% customers right now. And it kind of freaks me out for them. I mean, I just text them every week like, you’re not doing money. But it’s funny they’re worried more about me being in America. They’re like, “Your country is infested. You should save onto your own money – who knows? Please be safe. 

And so, it’s actually really, really sweet but it does freak me out ’cause one family that I manage, a family of eight. And they completely operate off of their International property business and I’m like, “If it has zero customers, what’s going to happen?” 

And the messed up thing was that Airbnb installed a 100% cancellation policy for all clients who canceled due to COVID-19, which was I believe the worst decision that could have possibly been made. Like I understand the time but also they have no idea what hosts are going through.

And so, at least even, like, a 50% worth like, “Okay, a client cancels, like, the host.” And, like, not even for me, like, I had thousands of dollars that got canceled. I can survive but they really can’t.

And so, I don’t mean that they stop. I didn’t read very, like, American-centric  thinking like, “Oh, Americans are fine.” But they didn’t realize that their International hosts cannot survive off of 100% cancellation policy. That’s so insane. 

You can’t override people’s business models. And so, I think that they learned their lesson. They started giving 25% of the cancellation money back  but it’s really not enough. Lucky for them, their government isn’t requiring rent. They’re not requiring things. They have their own sort of a concession, so they’re still surviving.

I don’t know what the future holds for that business. I have no idea if they’re going to get clients. Where here, in Austin, I kind of pivoted to short-term rentals to long-term rentals. So I have long-term renters and at least I’m not making as much but I’m making something.

I’m not even breaking even but I’m making enough to get by.

Debbie:

At least, it’s not full for you. So that’s a good thing.

Dr. Kiona:

Exactly. 

So, I think, pivoting is really important also, but yeah real estate is tough right now especially internationally.

Debbie:

That’s crazy. But I do have to say for real estate, in general, there are opportunities right now and in anything, right? In any type of business, if you look hard enough, there’s a lot of different opportunities. 

So what are you think are some great opportunities that you have come across right now, Kiona? And other things that maybe people can do in order to supplement their income because that’s what we all need to do. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. So, basically I’ve been trying to pivot. Just making everything digital. I do a lot of travel for education in real life in Cuba. Instead, I’m trying to create downloadable digital products that people can adopt for their homeschoolers or packets they can learn at home. Whether it be for adults or kids, about trips I’ve taken or lessons I’ve taught online.

In that way, it’s like easily accessible and affordable products. Like, a $9.99 product other than a $1,500 product to go travel somewhere. Instead, you could travel at home, there are PowerPoint, there are booklets, but it’s actually educational from an expert. And it’s really just re-adopting all of the materials I’ve already taken so I’m not doing anything new.

I’m just, like, really adopted one of my trips and lessons I’ve taught. That’s what I’m doing in my business. It’s just pivoting from, like, real-life education high-dollar products too. So, like, small, affordable, but can be bought in mass. 

Debbie:

Those are really good ideas too  because it’s still within your brand and what you’re doing. And it’s also affordable for people to buy right now especially if you’re really reaching for money. But you also want something that’s going to take you out of what’s happening right now. And I think that’s why most of us are, like, watching everything on Netflix, on Amazon Prime – everything.

Because you also need to think about something else. Otherwise, we’re all going to go nuts. And I love that, Kiona is also doing these awesome stories. One of them we were talking about before we did the interview. 

You have really allowed people to feel like it’s okay to go out some time especially if it’s a hike. You’re not around a lot of people, you get to be around nature. And that is really good for everyone’s mental health. So I’ve kudos to you for that, Kiona. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. I’ve been trying to get people outside at least once a week. But mostly, whether it be a hike or a walk outside, as long as you’re catching sun rays for, like, 5 to 15 minutes. Vitamin D is so important for our immunity and I think that that hasn’t been communicated by our government which a lot of things haven’t been communicated by our government.

But if we don’t have baseline vitamins for our hormones, ‘cause vitamin D is hormone-based, that causes depression. That causes a decrease in immunity, that causes a lot of things because, literally, you have a deficiency in a vitamin. And it’s really hard to get that from your food. 

So it’s on you definitely have to get from, like, being outside. Just go outside, it’s like a form of travel. Travel around your block or travel around your lake or whatever the case is and just get outside just to catch some rays and, like, boost your immunity-  just forget about things for like an hour. 

So I’ve been trying to do that and encourage people to do that, which actually has been really successful, like, people are sending in hikes. I’ll post my hike and be like, “Okay, wherever you are in the world, post your hike so we can travel to you. And people are sending in hikes from New Zealand, England, Uruguay, Uganda.

It’s amazing ‘cause I’m, like, “Hey, I don’t know Iowa was so pretty,” or Idaho or places that I’ve never been. And then, I realized, “Oh, I didn’t think about that place.” So it gives me, like, something to look forward to and also, like, a small escape while we’re at home.

Debbie:

So, one of my friends and I were talking about this because I’m Asian and non-white and I love to hike and she’s, like, “Why? Only white people hike.” I’m like, “I love to hike. No,” she’s like, “You don’t see brown people hike. I’m like, “Yeah, that’s why we need to do it more.”

I’m wanting to ask you: why is it that you see more white people more than anything hiking and brown people you barely see except, like, maybe Asian people?

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a really really convoluted question, but I think that, historically, outdoor spaces haven’t been safe spaces especially for generational Asian-Americans, Latinos, and black people. I mean lynching is a real issue, especially in places like Oregon where the KKK is based.

It was actually dangerous to do that, especially, like, sunset towns were a big thing in the United States. Where, like, if you were out at dusk, it was free game to, like, murder a person of color. And that wasn’t that long ago. 

And so, when you’re taught to stay home, don’t go outside, don’t go into the woods because somebody could murder you. And that’s passed down, like, times and laws have changed or maybe, who knows, it’s time for it to really change.

But, at least, laws have changed but that generational knowledge has been like, “Don’t go outside. Why are you outside? Why are you in the world? That’s dangerous. 

Debbie:

It’s passed down.

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, It’s passed down. It takes some time to unlearn that kind of stuff. But, I don’t know, I was born and raised in Hawaii so I was always outside. It’s not applicable to the mainland. I could just leave my house at, like, 9 a.m. and not return home and, like, playing in palm trees instead and my mom wouldn’t care. 

But that’s not okay here, like, she would never let me go. So I think it’s just location-based but, like, special people in cities were, like, parks aren’t a big thing, being outdoors isn’t a part of the lifestyle. I can see that being passed down and you have to, like, consciously undo it.

And also I feel, like, the words are so unaccessible like hiking or trail running, I’m like, “I’ve been doing that forever.”

Debbie:

Walking for a long time. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. Exactly.

I’m like, “Oh, we don’t call it that. I don’t call it that in my culture, in my home.” My mom would just be like, “Let’s go for a hike,” I will never butt specific hiking gear or specific hiking shoes.

Debbie:

I have a friend too who goes hiking. It was so funny. So, one of my friends and I were in Central America, we went for a hike and she was wearing flip-flops. And she’s like, “This is the most comfortable shoewear I have so I’m not going to wear sneakers ‘cause I  would rather, like, hike in flip-flops.”

Dr. Kiona:

You know what? Indigenous peoples in Peru and other places around the world hike with bare feet or just sandals. It’s not abnormal. 

And actually, I did a walk in Mexico recently and we are visiting these walls. They look like moonstones and it was because, like, the ring of fire is underneath the water so it changes the water color. I don’t know. They’re really kind of cool. 

But anyway, our guide was like, “Take off your shoes, you can not wear shoes on the hike,” and we were like, “We’re not going to the Jungle so…” And he was like, “We have forgotten to connect to the Earth. We never used to wear shoes all of the time. It’s really important that your skin touches the Earth so that you understand that you’re connected to it. And then, it also rejuvenates you as well,

In Hawaii, I actually didn’t own a pair of shoes until I was ten, like, most of the Mainland. If you’re Asian, you’re always barefoot at the house so you’re very comfortable with that. And maybe that’s why Asians feel more comfortable going outside.

But being barefoot, I think, reminds you what you’re connected to even if it’s not consciously

Debbie:

I think, also, when I was growing up in the Philippines, there was a lot of nature and then, you either swim in the ocean or you walk in the woods, and you climb trees, that’s just how it is. And yeah, we were barefoot a lot and it was actually weird to wear shoes and you didn’t get used to shoes until later on. It’s so strange. 

But, also, I think you’re right. I think people are hiking and, as you said, walking for a long time – super fancy. And, also, the fact that most of the time, with us, we use it as a way of life for a lot of people. It’s, like, either for them to go to school or to work, like, it’s not for leisure to just enjoy. So, yeah, it’s kind of crazy. 

But if you are able to hike and you’re not white – do it, because we need more of you out there just to prove that shit wrong.

Dr. Kiona:

Yes. For sure.  And, actually, it’s crazy during the quarantine. Like, I hike with my friends and we always count, like, how many POC to white ratio we have out there. I don’t know why I do that.

Debbie:

It’s a game.

Dr. Kiona:

It’s a guest. It’s not scientific. But, honestly, there’s been so many families out and I was like, “You know what? This is so good.” I usually don’t see that but I feel like they’re like, “Let me get these kids outside because they’re driving insane inside.” 

And it’s kind of encouraging them to, like, reclaim their park, reclaim nature, claim, like, being outside in a space. And so, I think, that’s really cool and helpful. Including myself, I’ve just had a picnic the other day.

We’ve been having picnics every Saturday where each person has their own blanket, but we never did picnics before this.

Debbie:

I feel like we’re so much more connected to the people we love. And I have to say honestly too, I am more connected with the people that I really care about now than I was before. 

And I also don’t, like, put any more time with people that are just wasting my time because I’m like, “I’m already in quarantine. It’s already a mess. It’s already a downer for everybody so why should I put that effort in somebody that I don’t really give a shit about.”

Dr. Kiona:

Exactly.

Debbie:

Like, prioritizing now – this is it. If this were our last days, where would I want to spend it with? With who? Like, people I actually care about. So, it’s kind of liberating in a way ‘cause I’m like, “I have an excuse to just ignore people I don’t give a shit about.”

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. You have now an excuse to say, “ No. It’s fine. I can.”

Do you know what else it has taught me? How people display their fear or handle their fear and, like, the exacerbation of mental health issues. I mean, we’re all having anxiety, we’re all scared for various other reasons.

like, for example, I’m not actually scared of the virus itself. I’m scared of giving it to somebody else and being responsible. I’m mostly scared of people. I was talking to one of my salsa instructors and I was like, “Okay. Well, Cuba is set to open in June but do you feel comfortable interacting with American tourists?” 

Because that’s important to me like, “How do you feel? I don’t want to, like, force you into a job that you don’t want to do or if you need to protect your health.” And he was like, ”You know what? It’s my passion. A huge part of me wants to do it just because I’m also craving connection. Another part is  I have a family at home, like,  am I going to bring the disease back to them?

And I totally understand that  train of thought and I think that that’s responsible and awesome like, “Are we going to turn into a society that’s, like, scared of the next person?” Never have I ever and still don’t look at the person next to me in the airplane and think like, “Oh, this person has a disease. I better get away from them.” Not ever.

I’d rather, like, give them antibacterial – things that we can share. And still, like, have a conversation with them than to be, like, disgusted by them or, live in fear of getting a disease from the next person. 

And so, it makes me sad that that’s kind of how, like, the mentality is changing and I don’t want it to go that way. So, that is my, I would say, biggest fear and that people are going to be more disgusted with each other. I mean, even with the whole Chinese virus, people in general, are disgusted with Asians 

And so. I’m like, “Is this going to be a huge race war? Is it going to cause a bigger problem than the virus itself?” And that is my fear. So I think we’re all feeling fear in different ways and we’re seeing how people are dealing with it.

Like, for me, I’m like, “Okay, I’m either just going to lie in bed or I’m going to work until I can’t think anymore.” And so, I’ll just start working but other people, like, I’ve seen so many people attack each other online, be so rude online.

I, myself, had to, like, file a police report for harassment and I’m like, “This is not normal behavior and I don’t want to blame it on the person rather the situation.” But ultimately, we are responsible for ourselves, our behavior, and our actions. 

And it’s becoming so toxic, like, unbearably toxic sometimes, especially for people like us who already have anxiety now, or already thinking about trying to take care of, like, a whole community of people. And then, you also have to deal with people’s mental issues being exacerbated through this entire thing. 

Debbie:

I think it’s becoming more acceptable too. It’s, like, you think it’s okay for you to just troll someone and verbally abuse someone because they’re doing something that you don’t feel, like, is right. And I think it’s becoming so much. Like, we judge people so much and then we start attacking them.

I mean you get this a lot, Kiona, even before coronavirus. But now, it’s gotten to a point where that’s crazy that you had to file a police report. I mean, nobody should ever have to do that. And I think we need to look at ourselves first before we start doing that to other people because I’m pretty sure you’re not perfect. 

Dr. Kiona:

Honestly, I’m like, “Mind your own business.” I’m pretty sure everybody has their own demons right now. And also I’ve had someone do this to me, like, they’re super stressed out and they start taking it out on other people. 

And I’m like, “You need to stop because this is not the other person’s fault. You need to calm down and really look at what’s happening right now. And you need to fix you not blame it on other people.”

So there’s been a lot of that happening. It’s really crazy.

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. I mean people have so much time to just think. I’m like, “Y’all need to find something else to do with your time. I’m sorry. If you are going to go down this negative spiral of attacking creators, attacking people doing their craft, whatever the case – it’s time that you explore your own creative interests and not attack those who are trying to be productive during this time.”

And it’s just so easy to write it online but those things are super hurtful. Like, I had lost a whole work week dealing with my situation. So, it’s just like I basically think that the verbal or online attacks are becoming so easily accessible, so rampant, and so accepted. And it’s making me scared. That’s really making me scared. 

Debbie:

So how do you deal with that, Kiona? Because you deal with this a lot, right? And I’ve said this before you’ve dealt with this before but what about now? How do you continuously deal with it and be mentally okay at least after a while?

I mean, I don’t know, you look like you’re fine but it’s probably not when you’re alone. But for other people who have gotten this, it’s new for them, and they don’t know how to deal with that,  what should they do in order to get past this and still create something and still be who they are without feeling, like, there’s somebody always out there telling them that what they’re doing is wrong and they can’t be who they are?

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. For me, my support groups have got me through everything. I’ve been part of, like, a couple of group chats where it’s a safe space. I can say things how I feel, work out my own thoughts, like, my own thoughts aren’t always formed correctly and, like, they helped me kind of figure it out. 

And if I did do something wrong, they would tell me. If I didn’t then they’re like, “No, this person is out of line.” And that, like, to have a peer… And it’s another thing: not everybody online is your peer, like, this is why I’m doing this and you’re doing that. Do you know what I mean? 

So, like, “You’re not my peer, you’re not a doctor, you haven’t gone through 12 years of school, you haven’t managed an online platform with 3 million views a week, you haven’t try to create content that is, like, literally intersectional and international.

So, if that’s not you then you’re not my peer and I don’t really need to listen to you because there’s a lot of learning that goes into doing content like that.”

And so, I’ve literally had to take myself out and be like, “Kiona is this person your peer or not? Are they coming into this conversation with as much education and not just formal education like world education? Do they have a good grasp of how the world operates not just in their one community? Are they aware of other people’s struggles and what they go through and things like that?”

And if we’re not coming in at the same level, like, these are not things that you need to take it to heart. And as somebody who’s an empath and he doesn’t really want to hurt people’s feelings. it hurts me ‘cause I’m like, “ I don’t want to make people be triggered by my content.” 

And then I’m like, “Okay, this person is going to be triggered regardless, whether it’s my content or another person’s content.”

So, I think, for other people, I would just say like, “Reflect. Is this person your peer? Are they coming in at the same level as you are? Are they trying to have a conversation or are they telling you what it is?”

And at that point, it’s like you make a decision to let it go, not let it occupy space in your mind or take it to your support group, Be like, “Okay, let’s talk about this. What’s going?” And, like, feeling compassion, love, and empathy from my support group has kept me going even though sometimes I’m like, “I’m just going to delete everything. I never want to see anybody again.”

Debbie:

Well, also, because you have this platform where you are talking about things that are a lot of it are taboo, right? And a lot of people don’t want to talk about it or they don’t know how to talk about it. 

And I feel, like, you have a lot of people that go into your platform especially, like, in social media they just do it so that they can get attention because they know they will. And I think they take that and they know what’s happening. 

So you’re always hitting up people who are going to be trolling and they’re just saying things just to get attention towards them. So you also, like Kiona was saying, you have to know if these people are even worth your time to be worried about ‘cause otherwise it’s just going to drive you nuts. 

And I know a lot of creators like you, Kiona,  care so much and that’s why you have this voice that people are really listening to. And if you have something similar to Kiona or you’re on the way to do that, it’s a huge responsibility. And you have, like, hundreds of thousands of people listening to you and have opinions of their own.

And most of the time maybe they’re not going to agree to it but it’s that respect. I think that’s the word – it’s respect. Because we all have our opinion but some people just don’t have that and they don’t have boundaries which are really shameful. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, it really is. And I think people don’t get that Instagram isn’t a pair of your journal. It is a completely opinion-based platform. So everybody’s gonna have their different perspective, everybody’s gonna have a different opinion.  

The Information I published last week might not be right today. Even with COVID-19, we’ve seen it played out, like, what I’ve published about it a month ago is not correct today. What I’ve published yesterday is not correct today and the beliefs I have yesterday are not the same today. 

So, to whole people, like, a time in your life that you believe in this one thing but you have since evolved and grown is so toxic and unfair. Because it’s, like, you need to let people grow and change and give flex to that. And I think people expect perfection from imperfect people and there’s no space to get them in.

And I try to always encourage that, like, space to grow. It doesn’t mean that you have to be the person to educate somebody but it does mean that you don’t need to harass them. You don’t need to cyberstalk them. You don’t need to attack them, create fake profiles, and write them all the time or send them death threats. All of these happened to me in the past week.

Debbie:

It’s crazy.

Dr. Kiona:

And you don’t need to email them, contact their boss.

It’s just people have been going insane during COVID-19 and, to me, is a very manic behavior and very obvious that it’s, like, a mental issue. But it’s hard to take that on and, like, think about if you have 3  million people listening in and a certain subpopulation of them have that and it’s, like, it’s a lot.

Debbie:

It’s a lot of responsibility and I think a lot of people don’t understand that you’re a human being yourself and you have feelings. And those words can really hurt even though you may not show it.

I think they put you in, like, a certain level like, “Oh my gosh, shes at this level so it’s probably not even going to faze her.” And meanwhile, you’re like, “Yes, it does,” like, all of these – they add up. And it’s really screwed up that you’re doing this and saying this.

Think about it this way: if we were talking face-to-face, would you say this in my face? And if you can’t say this in my face then you need to shut up.

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, basically. And that’s another thing. I looked around at my real-life community and we get along so well. The issues that we do have it’s, like, communicated. There’s tension but I’ve never just, like, yelled at somebody, harass them, going to their house, on to their job. And no one has done that to me in real life either.

Ummm… I take that back. It’s not as common but when I look online, I’m like “Oh my God. This never happens in real life. So I don’t know why you think it’s appropriate to do this now. And what’s going to happen when we do see each other in real life.” 

I ultimately don’t know the mental state of anybody online, like, everybody is a stranger. It does freak me out where it’s, like, when you get to this level of visibility. I’m, like, having to take a step back and be, like, “Is this sustainable  or do I need to hire a team?” 

Because this is a lot to take on and the more visible you are the more hate you’re going to have to ingest which sucks ‘cause it’s, like, also drowns on all the positive things that happened.

Debbie:

And you have to deal with all of it. So it’s instead of focusing on things that are actually helpful for your community, like you said, you lost a whole week when you could have done something super productive for yourself and for the following that you have.

I don’t know how you do it, Kiona, it’s crazy. But, you know what, they say once you get the haters that’s when you know you’ve made it.

Dr. Kiona:

I guess so. What about your platform? How does it perform?

Debbie:

The funny thing is it’s like everyone’s just pretty much, like, nice. And they’re like, “You’re giving us all of this information where to find jobs or how to start a podcast.” But the thing is: remember my platform and what I focus on is so different from yours because you take on social issues. 

I don’t know how you do that ‘cause, like, daily, you’re just like, “Oh my gosh…” I’m pretty sure you have all of this. But the other people I have are, thankfully, thank goodness, pretty good and, yeah, pretty decent human beings. So, I’m pretty thankful for that.

Dr. Kiona:

That’s really good.

Debbie:

I’ll be, like, crawled up in bed all day if I had to deal with what you have to deal with –  that’s insane. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, it’s really, really difficult. Luckily, I would say the cool people who end up coming on the trips that we do have, like, real-life education, have been so sweet. Like, so beyond sweet and I’m like, “Thank God.” My community also attracts this type of people and it makes me feel good.

An agency that I work through is just one woman and she was, like, literally our clients are, like, the least high maintenance, still open to learning, never complaining. Even cancellation she was like, “All my other clients cancel, all of your clients are super flexible, were like, “Yeah, just come in 2021,” or whatever.

And she was, like, that should say something about you and the community that you’ve cultivated. And so, that makes me feel better, like, I’m not doing too much damage because if I just listen to, like, the DMs that I get or the haters that I get, it is as if I’m, like, murdering people. 

So, I just have to, like, balance. Then, such great things happen, like, for example, I posted a thing about the Hmong farmers, I think it’s called Mien farmers, in Seattle. They were not getting business because of COVID-19. And I posted about how they’re delivering bouquets and they make $25,000.

Debbie:

That’s amazing.

So, you actually make an impact. So, all of this comes with some baggage but not enough. You’re making such a huge thing happened. I mean, Kiona, that’s an incredible feat to do and people listened to your voice. 

I think that the problem is that when people see that you actually make an impact, they think that they have to tear you down in order for them to be able to go further up in life and it should be the total opposite.

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah, for sure. And it also has checked my own envy or my own feelings. Like, for example, when I first got on Instagram, I thought it was so tacky of this one educator to ask for money and be like, “Okay, donate $5 if you like this thing.” And I was like, “This is so tacky,” but I had a job at that time and I don’t know what her situation was.

And then now, like, my full time is how not to travel and, like, I spend so many hours researching, educating. So much money traveling finding those experts, finding those educators, paying them. And now I’m, like, completely donation-based as well or gift-based where, like, if you liked it, send a girl some coffee money.

And now, I’m getting attacked for that and I was like, “Man. That used to be me,” right? Like, I never, ever, ever attacked anybody up for it, but I did think of my head like, ”That’s kind of tacky to ask your followers for money.” 

But also, like, that was so privileged of me to think and also I wasn’t in her shoes and now I am. And I’m like, “Yeah, it’s hard to get a corporate job if you talk about taboo subjects, or if you have your butt on Instagram or whatever.” 

So now, I am in that position I’m like, “You know what?  Why should I start worrying about what she’s doing? Why did I just worry about myself?” Like, that was a shame, shame on me. That’s an example of, like, me recalibrating and being, like, “Okay, I just need to worry about my own self, my own production, and what I am creating. What anybody else is doing – great for them. That’s not my business”

And so, if everybody else could take that on and be like, “You got to like what you’re doing. You don’t like what Kiona is doing. If you like, it sometimes, if you hate it sometimes – that’s okay.” But, like, It’s not your business if it’s going to take it to a level of hate. 

Like, if you feel that strongly, negatively toward another person, I think that’s, like, a self-respect time and like, “Okay. What am I missing in my life? What blind spots do I have that I feel in me that make me think so much about another person?” 

And so I think that self-awareness is really lacking right now especially with people having the time.

Debbie:

It’s crazy. But also most of the time, like, if you think something bad about someone, it usually lasts for, like, a few seconds, maybe a minute, or you’ll talk to somebody about it. But you don’t drag it out for, like, days and weeks and just started talking somebody there’s something wrong with that. 

I mean, we’re all guilty of, like, talking about somebody or not liking what they say, but it’s another thing when you go a step further and it’s nuts. But I’m just thankful for you, Kiona, and people like you who still keep going even though you have to go through all of this. 

Because you have a bigger goal, you are helping so many people out there and you’re actually educating the right way. And when you do make mistakes, I see it, Kiona comes back and she admits it. Not a lot of people are willing to do that. They’re afraid to do that. 

So that’s the thing about, Kiona, like, shell tell you what’s what and if it’s wrong then, shell tells you it was wrong. If she’s right, she’ll stick to her beliefs and that’s it.  I think that’s the reason why people really trust you because you are really honest and to the point that way. And you don’t hide what you’re doing and who you are and you do what you can.

I mean, that’s all we can ask for and hope for. 

Dr. Kiona:

I think, also, as Asian creators, were, like, one of the onlies or one of the people who have, at least, a face of representation in the industry that we are. And, like, all the times I’m like, “I’m going to quit this. I hate this. Whatever,” and I’m like, “There’s no other Asian doing it. I need people to see my face.”

And, like, what is crazy about me is people would be like, “I love your page.” And then, as soon as I start talking about being Asian, they’ll unfollow. They think it’s disgusting, I’m like, “Okay, just take your biases,” but they don’t connect, like, the amazing thing that they thought was so positive with me being Asian.

it’s something that makes me keep going ‘cause I’m like, “I need people to see me as an Asian person showing up in this world, fighting for others, educating people, creating content.” Because otherwise, I’m just going to be complaining about the content. I want to see instead of the content that I’m making.

I think it’s really easy to just give up but it’s very important for Asian creators to keep going because, like, no one else is doing it. No one but…

Debbie:

Not enough there.

Dr. Kiona:

Yes, not enough people at our Asian intersections are showing up. And I think it contributes to a lot of societal issues and misrepresentation of Asians and who we are, what we create, our intellect, and how we can span so many different things and being multiple things not just researchers in a lab or something.

We’re creatives, were designers, were podcasters, were educators, we can be on a beach in a bikini. I mean, it’s so weird to me what people think of Asian when I ask them, “What do you think of Asian people?” They’ll describe all of these strange things…

Debbie:

The stereotypes.

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. And I’m like, “You know I’m Asian, right? ” and they’re like, “Yeah, but…,” I’m like, “No but. This is what it is to be Asian.” And so it’s, like, trying to fill in the gap, like, misrepresentation. 

Debbie:

Also, I love when you do your butt shots on Instagram because, I think you mentioned this one time, it’s, like, I think people think you either have to be smart or beautiful, but you can’t be both or it has to be, like, a raunchy thing in order for that to be like, “Okay,” but it’s not. 

Like, you have a doctor’s degree, you’re a doctor and you also have a banging body So, why can’t you have both? 

Dr. Kiona:

I know and it’s crazy. Like, my Asian grandma will be like, “While you have it, show it off.” She was, like, a rebel in Korea and so, she’s like, “I don’t have a problem my granddaughter showing her butt. Why should anybody else?” And so I’m like, “If my Korean grandma says it’s fine. I don’t care about what they say,”

Debbie:

I understand that either. I don’t understand how that diminishes your intellect and how you are as a person. If you’re comfortable with your body.- it makes no sense. Like, people get body shamed for being heavy, people get body shamed because they’re smart and they’re showing you their body.

People get body shamed because they say they’re too skinny, it’s like, “Come on. This is ridiculous. This is too much.” But secretly they enjoy it and they want to see your butt shots. So whatever. 

Dr. Kiona:

Oh, yeah, totally. They get the most likes. And also, I know that. I understand, like, sex sells. I understand, like, that’s the only way I even have a male, well, I mean, the thing is only separated into two genders, but  most of them are female and I’m like, “The males are only here for the butt shots.”

But females are there for the butt shots too. They love it because it empowers them.

Debbie:

That’s true.

Dr. Kiona:

And I know that it gets more likes or more views or whatever because sex does sell. And so, therefore, always embed, like, a really important message in the caption knowing that it’s going to get the most attention.

And so, its also, like, a strategic move and I don’t understand why we aren’t allowed to use that.

Debbie:

Well, a lot of the times people will be like, “I can’t take you seriously.” And, I think, I’ve seen those and some of your posts, “I can’t take you seriously.” And I’m like, “Really? You can’t? Then, stop. So, why are you here?”

Dr. Kiona:

Exactly. And, like,  that says something about you, not about me. I don’t care.

Debbie:

Exactly.

Dr. Kiona:

Or also, even expressing it. I’m like, “What was the point of that? You could just unfollow.”

Debbie:

Exactly. Just shut up and go. Bye! 

Dr. Kiona:

Exactly. Like, the following is not a form of currency.

Debbie:

It’s interesting what people will say behind closed doors or behind their laptops or phones or whatever.

Dr. Kiona:

But I will say that, I think, for Asian creators right now is really difficult for us. Like, I think, I don’t know about you, but I definitely getting attacked at way higher rates. And I think people are using it as an excuse to be anti-Asian during this time that wasn’t there before.

It was there before but it wasn’t so forceful.

Debbie:

Yeah. Now, they think it’s okay. I feel, like, people who aren’t like that would never be like that even during this situation, but I feel, like, people who thought that way now they feel like it’s okay for them to verbalize because people are like, “Yeah!”

So, it’s disgusting. But, I have to say, I am glad that they’re showing their true colors because now we know who the people are. There are no more curtains. It’s all drawn out. We know who you freaking are and that’s a good thing. 

Dr. Kiona:

Yes. I like having postings, like, Asian pride post and I’ll lose, like, 200 followers in one day. I’m like, “You know what? I need to post more of these because if they’re gonna be anti-Asian, there’s no point of them being here.”

Debbie:

Exactly. It’s true. I’m like, “I’m glad. Now we know who you are and goodbye See ya.”

Dr. Kiona:

Yeah. Exactly.

Debbie:

Thank you so much, Kiona, for being here today. If our listeners want to follow along your journey, where can I find you? 

Dr. Kiona:

On Instagram: @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch, on Facebook: /hownottotravellikeabasicb, on Twitter: @donttravelbasic, and my website is www.hownottotravellikeabasicbitch.com.

Debbie:

Awesome. So you’ll find her everywhere and all of her content is incredible. Thank you so much, Kiona, for being here with us. I really appreciate this and it was so nice to talk to you. Hopefully one day we can actually meet each other in person after all of this.

Dr. Kiona:

I know I would love that.

Debbie:

I’m gonna give you, like, a big hug. I’m telling everybody. I’m like, “I’m going to give everyone a hug after this is all done.”

Dr. Kiona:

Me too. 

Debbie:

I’m like, “Yes, touch me.” Thank you, Kiona, I’ll talk to you soon.


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Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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