Traveling While … Black Part I

A year later I realized the importance of having traveled as a young, Black woman. I began to think about the few of us who do get the opportunity and how it's typically for alternate reasons than leisure. I understood that my particular experience was 180 to the ones of those who have a week long school trip or a short lived military tour. To be Black and travel for travel sake is a luxury most never get to have. I cannot help but wonder what the issue is. Does the desire to travel stop at the mystique of getting a passport? Do we feel we do not deserve it? Do we consider those who do get an opportunity to travel, even if short lived, to be lucky? Do we have hang ups about being the one person who gets to do it? Do we attempt and never get to go? At what point in life do we give up going at all? Is it ever too late to travel?

We've already discussed the passport here and I don't believe that is all about race. I wholeheartedly feel that is an American issue. There isn't much emphasis on international tourism. We tend to pitch domestic, patriotic trips to places like Washington D.C. and lure vacationers to so-called exotic places like the Virgin Islands and Mexico. We enjoy the concept of "package" vacations, road trips and cruises to close destinations. No one promotes the need to actually leave the continent. If it weren't for travel magazines, cultural documentaries and the occasional ad about visiting Ireland - I don't think any of us, black or white, would leave. So it is a rarity for anyone to even obtain a passport or have a desire to go elsewhere. The ones that get to travel at a younger age - they typically have a reason that doesn't fall into privilege or exposure. Normally, it's the effort of a parent who is stationed abroad or transferred within the job sector. Those who can afford to travel save for the trip and it too falls around some life event like college graduation or a honeymoon. Dare I say it but "over there" - travel comes early and often and for no particular reason at all. Here we are the richest, most engaged country and we don't take advantage. We should be everywhere!?

So yes, when you decide to travel you will be alone. What you will find in a sea of varied travelers is the occasional one or two Black, American faces. I say American because Black people are everywhere but they won't align with us. You will only lock eyes with Black Americans and you will share a euphoria over being one of those that could go to just go. What I personally found is more young Black men traveling alone for leisure. I saw men being embraced by other cultures, having people take their solo pictures and sort of meandering through the crowds. I'm not going to lie, I loved seeing this but I wished they would have been accompanied. It would have been nice to see groups of Black guys traveling together or co-ed groups traveling with a chapter or maybe a Black family, even a reunion. I never saw that and it boggled me. Surely, I myself was mostly alone while out in the streets of Nantes or Rome. However, I felt as though I was still traveling with a person of color that shared a similar background. I tried to see it as an American thing - we work all the time, life doesn't permit travel etc. But aren't we, Black youth, the up and coming educated and more worldly than ever population? Don't we have all the medical, tech careers on lock and have the ability to travel - more so than our parents and our parents' parents?

So yes it's baffling to me why I'm not seeing more "groups" of young, Black people traveling. It is alarming to see there aren't many websites and blogs dedicated to us going abroad just to go. Surely, there are outlets for schools and social groups. There are plenty of tour and excursion sites based solely on tripping for romantic purposes. However, where are the extreme groups for those looking to go and see something!? Where are the Black female backpackers? When are the brothers keepers going to Europe for the summer? Travel is no longer some impenetrable dream. A passport and a little money is all one really needs. Does it have to be sectioned off for those who pursue multiple degrees, marry and or retire? Why aren't we entitled to an exceptional "holiday" or a vacation not revolving around a theme park or resort? Why don't we even discuss it? I was shamed for bringing up my "vacation". I was made to think me even discussing it would embarrass others that never had an opportunity to go. I thought talking about would inspire people and create a dialogue but I got more push back than ever. I guess it's expected considering travel beyond I-95 was never a topic of discussion in our household. How does one begin to want to travel when we are typically raised to put it out of mind? It is true - we put up a barrier to the unknown - even if we are equipped in other areas to fully embrace it. I won't delve deeper into why that is because this is not that type of blog. I'm just coming to the conclusion that the reasons "we" don't go are much deeper than we think.

So if and when we decide to do it, what is next? Of course, it's facilitating the trip - emotionally, financially - doing the research, things coming to fruition and finally getting on the plane. The real question is what happens when you are finally there? What happens when you face your fears and/or become the example? How do you manage culture shock? How to you manage being the minority in a new majority? How do you explain your experiences in a way to encourage more people to take the same journey? How do you stay true to yourself and embrace new things? How do you represent your country and identity while abroad? How do you face the fact that you eventually have to come home and the world is much bigger to you now? 

That is all next in Traveling While Black Part II. 

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