July 3, 2022
The World is Yours
By Jemi Lassiter
Photo courtesy of Shartoyea Scott Dixon
Shartoyea Scott Dixon has built a career, a family, and just this year, a lifestyle brand and loyal Instagram following through Pretty Legendary Family.
Shartoyea Scott Dixon is an accomplished woman. She is a credentialed vice president of a non-profit organization that provides support to underrepresented people throughout their career continuum. She has an amazing relationship with her younger sister. (How many of you know that’s not a guarantee?) And, she married a man who influenced her to literally step outside of her comfort zone. Her marriage, while lovely, is not the accomplishment. It’s the stepping outside of her comfort zone for me.
Dixon is the well-travelled creator of the ever more popular Pretty Legendary Family (@PrettyLegendaryFamily), a lifestyle brand and Instagram account that covers the trips, travels and life of her close knit family of four.
“Travel and this brand [are] like an outlet”, said Dixon. “During the day, I’m an executive. At home. I’m Mom and I needed something I would be able to pour my creativity into.”
In January, Dixon launched @PrettyLegendaryFamily. Today, she has upwards of 1,800 organic followers.
“Honestly, my love of travel - or actually being able to travel - didn’t start until probably after I met [my husband]”, said Dixon.
The two met at an event in Philadelphia and the rest is history. Married now for 15 years, the couple discovered their shared love of travel after Dixon went on her first international trip with him.
“My first out of the country trip was with my husband and it was to the Bahamas for my birthday. That started the wheels turning about travel”, she said.
While the cruise was nothing out of the ordinary for her then-boyfriend, it opened Dixon’s eyes to a world of calm and relaxation she had never experienced.
Growing up, she remembered less than a handful of family vacations. She traveled to Wildwood in New Jersey and gone on a few bus trips with her church before college.
After college, she took a girls’ trip to Virginia Beach to celebrate her graduation. That was the extent of her travels.
The trip to the Bahamas changed all of that. Dixon and her then-boyfriend got married and spent five years building their lives together and collecting stamps in their passport.
“[My husband] came into our relationship having been well-traveled. His parents are Jamaican immigrants and so he’s the first generation born here. They’ve been to London and Paris. He did all [these things] as a child. Coming into our marriage he [wanted us] to travel at least once a year”, explained Dixon.
The idea seemed nice to her but it required a shift of perspective. For her, travel was a luxury not a necessity.
In the first wo years of their marriage, they disagreed on where travel fell on their list of priorities even though they both enjoyed it. For her husband, travel was non-negotiable. For Dixon, it could wait.
“Those first two years were the most difficult because travel wasn’t something I’d grown up doing and, when you’re saving for something, travel was the first thing cut.
Then, something clicked for her. They both worked extremely hard to build lives that would afford them some breaks, some level of comfort but they could not wait until they found comfort. They had to create the moments.
“Once you get on the same page, it gets easier [to travel]”, she said.
Five years into their marriage, the couple welcomed their first child, a son they named Joshua. They made no plans to stem their travel.
“I think we made a decision early on that our kids were going to fit into the lifestyle that we’d already created”, said Dixon. “I know that’s hard. I agree with the [intention] to focus on your kids but your life doesn’t have to stop.”
Joshua was less than a year old when the family went to Germany.
“People [asked] ‘What are you going to do with the baby?”, laughed Dixon.
Her response was: “He’s portable”
Her brother-in-law lived in Germany at the time and the couple had never been to the country. It was the perfect time to go! Their son slept the whole flight in the airline’s baby basket.
Three years later when the couple welcomed their daughter, Lauren, they flew to Martha’s Vineyard when she was two months old. Her first international trip started with a visit to Disney followed by a cruise through the Bahamas.
Now 11 and 8 years old respectively, Joshua and Lauren do not understand their mother’s limited travels as a child. They have always travelled… and that was Dixon’s plan.
“The hope is that we plant the seed for generational changes that happen through my kids”, she said.
That has already started. The children’s palates are mature, preferring yellowtail sushi or lobster over anything on a children’s menu. To their parents’ surprise, they weigh in on world events with their own perspectives. And, they have their father’s sense of belonging — much like him, the believe that wherever they are, they are supposed to be there.
Black and Abroad
Photos courtesy of Shartoyea Scott Dixon
Dixon and her family went to Egypt this year to take in the sights, sounds and culture of the country.
“There’s always an awareness” said Dixon.
Although she was born and Philadelphia, her family is from the South. They brought with them the hard lessons of African-Americans who endured unfettered discrimination, segregation and slavery. Dixon inherited those lessons in her upbringing and has been sifting through the pieces that are still relevant and those that are relics.
“Our kids are fully aware that they’re Black. I never wanted to raise my kids to not be aware of their culture”, she said. “It’s really important for us to ground them. When we go to places that don’t have a lot of Black people. I’m not sure if they view it in that way. The other thing to note is, because of my husband’s culture and background, his immigrant background, his perspective is different than mine. His perspective is ‘I’m equal to everybody. People are equal. There is no hierarchy except the one people create in their minds. There is a benefit to that for children.”
Global Eduation Specialist Dr. Robin Hancock agrees with Dixon. In a 2020 interview with “Travel + Leisure” she said, “Travel has the potential to create a new narrative that teaches children about the similarities with others [and] lays a strong foundation, especially in the early years.”
As important as it is to establish a holistic and informed narrative, Dixon has been mindful to ground her children in their culture. For their awareness. For empathy towards others. For their own protection in the U.S. and abroad.
“I feel like our kids have that kind of grounding. They don’t have that sense of fear that I had initially travelling outside of the US. They don’t have that sense of inferiority if you will. They kind of view people as people”, said Dixon. “For me, carrying how I was raised to the broader world, if I’m the ‘only’ in a space, I feel kind of uncomfortable. In the beginning, it was more prevalent. My kids don’t have the feeling at all.”
Dixon believes her children are able to see how life plays out for African-Americans in the U.S. and see how that may be perpetuated in other parts of the wolrd without race being a factor. She attributes the family’s broad array of trips to Joshua and Lauren being able to see the broader constructs in other cultures to help them put life into context.
“They’re getting views and perspectives early and that’s kind of shaping who they are as people. I didn’t even know what salmon was until I was in college. I feel extremely blessed to be able to provide this for them.”
Pretty Legendary Family
Phot courtesy of Shartoyea Scott Dixon
With every trip the family takes, a new red push pin is added to their travel map.
“The way my body is set up and the way I’m starting to feel my age, I’m so glad we did a lot of the things with them early on and sooner”, laughed Dixon. “As a family unit, we have become closer because of the travel that we’ve done.”
With close to a dozen international trips, countless road trips, and a few cruises under her family’s belt, Dixon appreciates the impact their travel has had on the family of four.
They are busy with careers, schools and extracurricular activities. Travel breaks the routine and allows them to connect on a different level.
“I think the relationship that I have with [my children] at this point is very open. I think they feel comfortable with coming to me when they have questions or are uncertain. When we go on these trips there so much space for these conversations”, said Dixon.
They enjoy a level of openness that may not have been possible without disconnecting from their busy routines in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
“I feel like this is my most important job. I can have any title and move up the corporate ladder but, the job that matters ths most is Mom.”