Founder & Trip Designer
Originally from Ethiopia, Lebawit Lily Girma is an award-winning travel writer, photographer, and author of several Caribbean guidebooks for Moon Travel Guides (Hachette Books), including on the Dominican Republic and Belize.
Her articles and photography have been published in numerous travel outlets, print and online, including AFAR, CNN Travel, BBC, Delta Sky, The Guardian, and Every Day With Rachael Ray, among others. In Summer 2016, Lily was honored with the 2016 Marcia Vickery Wallace Award for Excellence in Travel Journalism for her Caribbean coverage, from the Caribbean Tourism Organization and the Jamaica Tourist Board.
She calls herself a “culture-holic”–with four languages under her belt, she’s lived in Cote d’Ivoire, England, Jamaica, Belize, Grenada, the Dominican Republic, and traveled to some 30+ countries around the world.
Last but not least, she is a former practicing corporate attorney who ditched the office for the road in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a storyteller and inspiring others to travel and embrace other cultures. She hasn’t looked back.
On Creating Sun & Stilettos Trips
Seven years ago on a hot summer day, I was on Skype from Jamaica for an hourlong session with an artist and career coach. She was an inspiring entrepreneur whom I had hired to help me brainstorm and figure out my life purpose and passion, a year after I had left my full-time job as an associate at top law firm. At the end of our work together, she sent me a list of three types of businesses she thought I should launch, with one at the very top of the page. She already had the vision of what I should do with all my travel experience, my talents and my deep-seated passion for supporting cultural travel: to lead my own trips. My writing and photography career got traction, but I kept her precious notes and advice all these years–and kept the thought of creating niche Caribbean trips in the back of my mind.
After leaping and becoming a published travel writer and photographer, I went on to author several guidebooks–including Moon Belize, Moon Belize Cayes, and Moon Dominican Republic. And now, the time is finally right. I feel ready to show you the Caribbean I know and love.
A Caribbean that goes well beyond the beach and rum cocktails.
A Caribbean filled with fascinating cultures, villages, and rituals.
A Caribbean where we get close to Mother Nature.
A Caribbean I’ve had the privilege of exploring for work and for myself, over the last 11.5 years and counting.
I decided to pick the Dominican Republic as the first journey, precisely because it is one of the most misunderstood yet most visited country in the Caribbean. It’s also the best connected in terms of infrastructure, which makes for a smoother journey the first time around. The DR receives 5 million visitors a year, more than any other Caribbean destination. Yet the bulk of those visitors end up in Punta Cana, staying in concrete resorts or out experiencing large group tours that leave little time for true immersion. They leave without seeing the magnetic landscape of mountains, hills, and seas, or the hospitable people who live here. For those who venture beyond, the reward is incredible–from the topography variety to the mixed cultural heritage of African, Taino, and Spanish.
But beyond cultural travel, it’s also about responsible travel. Visiting a place and through your presence, leaving it better than you found it. That means that the majority of hotels and activities I pick are, as much as is possible and feasible in comfort and safety, partially or fully locally-owned and operated.
My goal is to create an experience so memorable and diversity-rich, you’ll wonder why you never saw this side of the Caribbean. And while doing so, you’ll be contributing to the local economy and ensuring the trickle down effect from travel to locals.
And of course, we’ll have tons of fun along the way.
All you have to do is register for a trip, and join the mission to support an authentic Caribbean.