5 Questions With… Starlight Williams, Research Editor

Even though the global pandemic has halted most travel, Starlight Williams, a research editor for National Geographic, has found that she continues to learn about destinations both near and far through her work.

“Despite not being able to go much farther than my front door most days, I get to see glimpses of the world every time I log in for work,” Starlight says. “And wow, am I learning.”

Starlight joined National Geographic in June 2018 and works for the travel desk by collecting narratives, editing stories, and tracking trends to provide engaging perspectives to readers. Previously, Starlight worked at Community Impact Newspapers in Texas and before that, covered music and cultural festivals for The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com in New Orleans.

1. As a travel editor in the midst of a pandemic, how are you continuing to connect with the world and far-off destinations? 

Arctic Europe, Singapore, Nepal? None of these locations are on my top five places to visit in the next five years, but I now know inaccurate representations of Arctic Europe’s Indigenous communities have been marketed to visitors for decades; Singapore street food has UNESCO status, but it is endangered; and Nepal’s famed Himalayan trekking region is modernizing (for better or worse depending on who you ask).

Even with destinations close to home, each story I work on gives an added depth to a place that I didn’t realize when I visited myself. I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, and of the hundreds of times I have visited Stone Mountain Park, I never knew of the area’s Confederate history, or that there was a massive sculpture dedicated to the Confederacy on one side of the mountain.

2. Once we’re able to travel safely again, what is one place you’d like to visit first?

As much as I would love to travel to a place I have not been, the place calling my name right now is Jamaica. My family and I were supposed to travel back to the island over the holidays to visit family and just reconnect with the land and its people, but the pandemic canceled our plans. I would give anything to be eating some freshly caught jerked snapper with a side of festival (a popular street food) at Alligator Pond with my grandmother right now. 

3. Despite calling yourself an “inflexible yogini,” you teach yoga classes! How did you first get into yoga?

I fell into yoga by accident. At first, it started as something physical to do and a way to meet friends when I first moved to DC. However, the more I flowed and the more I connected to the spiritual aspect of yoga, the more I realized I never felt more alive or free than when I started my yoga journey.

I wanted one of my purposes in life to be helping others nurture their soul garden and cultivating a safe space on the mat where self-love and inner peace flourished wildly. I call myself an inflexible yogini because I want it to be a reminder that yoga is for everyone and yoga can look like anything. 

4. Your email signature includes a Maya Angelou quote: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” What does this quote mean to you? 

This quote is my life mantra. I look forward to the day I can look back on my life and can say I truly lived, loved, and became the best version of myself I could be. It is also a reminder to myself to stop comparing my journey to others. How I may define thriving may not match the description in the textbooks, but as long I’m growing, I’m glowing.  

5. After working from home for the past 10 months due to the pandemic, what has been the silver lining for you? 

I have been forced to live in the moment. I’m so used to being a busy bee that I never really stopped to smell the roses or connect with people beyond a superficial level. Due to the pandemic putting a hold on many of my adventures, I now have more time to deepen bonds with loved ones, have active listening ears during conversations, and more energy to stay present than constantly thinking what is next.