Mona Molayem, also known by her Instagram handle Mona Corona stormed onto the luxury blogging scene in 2017 with the goal of inspiring millennial women to obtain their dream vacations on a gig economy budget. Her travel blog and Instagram posts are packed with various resourceful travel “hacks” on how to secure business class upgrades to screen saver worthy destinations all over the world while gaming loyalty programs and cutting costs that might befall the less savvy (and wealthier) boomers. As a luxury travel and lifestyle influencer, she has collaborated with mega brands such as Nike and Hilton just in the last year, and her following has doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in the three years since her blog’s conception. However, what sets Mona apart from her peers on Instagram and the rest of the blogosphere the most is her devotion to ethical and responsible ecotourism. Going into the near year, her platform continues to be not only making luxury travel affordable, but environmentally sustainable too.
For instance, while a many Instagram travel influencers are perfectly happy showing off their figure in a bathing suit and Gucci flip flops for “likes”, Mona would rather call her followers’ attention to her reef safe sunscreen. She says, “Sunscreen and bug sprays are the two products that tourists use which cause the greatest damage to our ecosystems. Reef-safe sunscreen while swimming in the ocean is a must to protect the natural environment from dying off. Certain sunscreens contain harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate which cause damage to coral reefs” and her posts and stories are filled similarly eco-friendly advice. Thinking about taking a cute pic of yourself posing with a tiger in Thailand for The ‘Gram? (Or maybe your Hinge profile?) Her blog points out that these animals are often drugged and sedated to their health detriment, and while she never scolds or preaches to her audience, she raises awareness to issues many Western tourists might take for granted. She is a longtime advocate of Elephant Nature Park, one of the few ethical elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, which she ranks as one of her top ten travel experiences of the decade.
As a millennial in the Influencer Age, Mona understands that the true value in luxury travel is not merely in the over-water bungalows of Maldives or the lux “glamping” sites of the Sahara, but in the experiences themselves, whether it’s a starry desert sky or the sight of a silver Moroccan moon that could make a Carl Jung profess faith in the goddess Astarte, or more importantly, getting to interact with the local people of these distant places and appreciate their cultures. She says, “If an area is known for a certain crop such as coffee or chocolate, consider going on a locally-run plantation tour. Anything you can do to interact with locals and learn about their heritage and/or daily life is a great way to culturally immerse yourself and connect to the people and surroundings.”
With the rise of environmental awareness, green movements, and the millennial generation seeing (and reeling from) errors of our predecessors, 2020 marks a shift in collective consciousness and Mona Molayem has her finger on the pulse. To quote Chief Seattle, “Earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. Man did not weave the web of life; he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Juxtapose this wisdom with one of my favorite Mona Corona Instagram posts, which is a picture of a sign on a beach in Maui that simply reads, “Protect the Earth; it is the only one we have.” The image is a perfect summation of her mission: to make trips to these destinations not only enjoyable, but to protect them so that our future generations can enjoy them too.
Author credit: Barrett Lyle
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