Traveling is my thang. You may see me in last year’s fashion line – scratch that — you will most likely see me in something that I bought last decade because I would always prefer to spend my money going somewhere or doing something over buying something. I was blessed enough to start traveling abroad as a child so I realized early that traveling was incredibly enjoyable, educational, fun, and even life changing. But as I sit here in Aruba, at an outside bar, sipping on a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and half-listening to Marc Anthony’s latest hit it struck me that traveling for everyone is incredible; but traveling abroad while Black is extra lit for several reasons.
- If you have had the opportunity to visit any country in Africa, you realize that we come from a beautiful continent. America, in its ongoing campaign to make us hate ourselves has portrayed Africa as an impoverished, ugly country filled with ignorant, out-of-touch savages who have large bellies and serve as a feasting-ground for flies. In reality it is a continent with 54 extremely different countries, rich with resplendent beauty and proud people. I have oftentimes said that being in Africa is the closest that I’ve ever felt to God; it is His best work.
- In many countries, white privilege is null and void
It may be mean to say; but I have frequently enjoyed many of the confused and indignant looks on White Americans faces when they are treated like every other tourist. White Americans typically live ignorant or at least ambivalent to their privilege until they get to an island full of brown people who treat them with zero deference. I’m truly tickled when a brown-hued Sista or Brotha shows a little extra love to me, my family or friends when abroad.
- Brown folks love to see Brown folks
Black folks who wouldn’t typically associate or speak to each other in the states become friendly when traveling. I have yet to be on a trip where I haven’t at least had a conversation with another Black traveler. I have friends today whom I met abroad. We, I think, are so happy to see someone who looks like us and has also been bitten by the travel bug.
- Culturally, we get it
Thanks to Mommas who forced us to eat “whatever it was they cooked”, southern roots where we were given the scraps of food during slavery, potluck church picnics and a lack of entitlement — Black folks can oftentimes roll with eating whatever is served (within reason). Hotel and restaurant staffs have told me that our folks ain’t the ones coming in insisting upon chicken fingers and pizza every night. When you’ve eaten pig feet, chitterlings, ox tails and the like — you ain’t trippin off no curry goat. Bring it on!
- Folks in other countries think we are either kinfolk, beautiful, or at least interesting
Most of us look like we could be from wherever we are visiting. Without a doubt, I have been welcomed into places, received warm treatment, and invited into non-touristy situations because the country’s people have welcome me into their fold (just because I look and feel familiar).
- We are used to being different
Most of us either has, or still does, work and live in a situation where we are in the minority. We are comfortable with or at least accustomed to being “different,” so when we travel, we don’t experience the same level of cultural shock as others.
- We can dance and party to anything.
The best way to get to know a country and its people is to celebrate and party with them. Give us 10 minutes and a cocktail and suddenly we are in the middle of a dance floor getting our meringue, salsa or clogging on like we were born doing it.
There is just something beyond relaxing and learning that I think Black folks get when we travel. We get to be free from the history of race in America and just be us. We get to just be.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more