Whenever I mention my next country or city I want to visit, my family and maybe a few friends seem confused and ask why in the world would I want to travel to a particular place?
This was especially common when I visited Iceland and Thailand. Some people find it odd that with all the terrorism going around that I want to travel.
One family member said to me, “I wouldn’t want to be a target in another country.”
My response, “I am already a target in my own country.”
Their response? Silence.
It’s true as a black woman, I have to worry about discrimination on the job, being pulled over by the cops, making sure I don’t do anything that can be seen as a threat. Will someone want to cause harm simply because they don’t like my skin color or religion? It’s a lot.
I can still remember my trip to Thailand in June of 2015. I woke up one morning and since I was 11 hrs ahead of my home I caught up on all of the social media and I just remember seeing tons of tweets about the horrific murders of the Charleston 9.
After reading more, I learned about the disgusting shooter who claimed the lives of churchgoers. My stomach was in knots the whole day. As we toured the city of Phuket and beyond, Asians followed us around to take photos. After a while, it was frustrating when we started saying no to taking pics and they would force themselves. Then I thought wow back in the U.S I could be followed around a store while shopping or receive less than adequate service. Here in Thailand, I’m a “celebrity.”
Before and after the Charleston 9, there continue to be injustices against Black people in America. We continue to be murdered and discriminated against. The murderer of the Charleston 9 was arrested without a scratch and was taken to get something to eat. While when Black people are stopped by the police for something minor and it could lead to death. If it’s not the police killing us, it can be a white person feeling entitled to chase down a runner and confront them and expect them not to fight back and shooting him, Ahmaud Aubrey. It can be a white person asking a black person if they live in a building, calling the police on selling a boy selling water or a family having a cookout. Jordan Davis was murdered in Florida after an argument over loud music. Countless stories take a toll on me. I think about things such is someone going to have a problem with me playing loud music in my car? Are my family members and loved ones safe?
Sometimes as a Black American, we can see the injustices and want to leave America. Is it really better when we travel abroad? Here are some of the traveling while black experiences I’ve had.
I was in Dubai a full day and didn’t notice anything unusual. I visited during Ramadan so there was no eating or drinking during the day. I had to eat in a separate area in the mall. I received a few odd stares but for the most part, I felt safe in Dubai.
Visiting the Caribbean I fit right in. There are traces of black culture throughout the Caribbean. A lot of times, I’m mistaken for a local in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos maybe a little Dominican depending on my hairstyle until I open my mouth. 🙂
However, while visiting a restaurant in a hotel, after I ate, I went to the beach to sit down and take pictures. I was approached by a White American who stated I must be a hotel guest to sit there. I moved to another area of the beach which was also reserved and one of the workers allowed me to sit there and even offered beverages. The same American lady walked by and stared as if she wanted to say something but kept walking. I did not let that ruin my trip but this interaction is similar to what we deal within the U.S.
When I visited London, I had a couple of instances of rude hotel staff. One hotel desk staff did not want to assist me and addressed someone who was in line after me. When she checked me in she interrogated me about why I was only staying at the hotel one night. There would go on to be other issues with check out to the point I asked for the manager.
I can also recall going to a restaurant/bar and a guy stopping us from entering. I thought he was the bouncer but once he said ” I don’t work here but we needed to wait for someone that does. I became upset and pushed past him to go in. A worker came and apologized and took us to a table. We were never waited on and I felt as if there was a reason for that. I left and no one noticed or cared. London was just ok. I should have spent more time in Brixton, which is more of a diverse area.
There were not many black locals or tourists during our visit. However, when we visited a local restaurant that turned into a club called Prikid the locals were friendly. The common thread was our love for Hip Hop. The most current music played and local Icelandic artists performed. It’s amazing to travel and see that music is the uniting factor. I was however uncomfortable when we visited the Blue Lagoon and security asked to search my items when I got to the pool and she also followed us around the entire visit.
I read mixed reviews on racism in Italy against black people. I only noticed a lot of local men were rude during our visit. I was more taken aback by the military force on every corner even in subway tunnels with machine guns.
Since this initial post, I’ve traveled to more countries in Europe. In some places like Barcelona, I experienced rude people, possibly due to the color of my skin. The other part due to people in Spain are tired of tourists. There are several places that are tired of overtourism, that you can read about here.
I discussed my experiences of traveling while black to note that traveling abroad is not as bad as people think. However, just because you leave the states does not mean you won’t experience racism and injustice. As someone who has an insatiable desire to travel the world, I can’t let fear dictate my plans.
What can we do when we are not able to travel? It is important that Black Americans take care of ourselves during this time.
- You can do this by finding someone to talk to. There are black therapists that offer online or phone therapy appointments. You can search on TherapyforBlackGirls.com or search by ethnicity and telehealth on Psychology Today. The continuous injustices and watching us being murdered will take a toll on us. Talk to someone.
- Take time away from social media. Social media is a place where people can say whatever and some troll just for likes and reposts. Mute certain words, log off, don’t engage all the time.
- Take a listen to this video where I discuss self-care:
If you’re looking for ways you can support Black Americans check out ways you can donate or participate at:
As a Black American, I worry more about living and surviving as a Black person in America than about the places I visit. It’s exhausting! I really have considered looking into becoming an expat. For now, I will continue to choose faith over fear and believe that God will allow me to have a safe trip. Please stop asking me why do I want to go out of the country when I feel like an “alien” in my own!
What have you experienced traveling while black? Comment below!