Black Female Travelers: Enriching the Global Travel Narrative

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Woohoo, this is officially my 500th post at Duffelbagspouse Travels. It’s an appropriate milestone for this particular post about traveling as a black woman. As a black female traveler, navigating the world can be daunting. From dealing with race and gender biases to expecting, but not always receiving respectful behavior. There are many factors to consider when traveling as a black woman. In this blog post, I will share some of my personal experiences and insights and offer life tips and advice on how to make the most out of your travels as a black woman.

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How I Navigate Race and Biases While Traveling

Research the Country’s History and Current Racial Climate

Before you travel to a new country, research its history of racial discrimination and current social climate towards Black people. It won’t tell you everything. But this will give you a better understanding of what to expect and how to navigate any potential challenges. Don’t make the mistake of prejudgment, however. Just approach your travels with your eyes (and heart) wide open.

In addition to traditional sources of travel information such as guidebooks, immigration pages, and travel websites, there are numerous Facebook groups that can provide valuable insights for travelers. These groups can cover a wide range of topics including destination-specific advice, budget travel tips, and solo travel safety.

By joining these groups, travelers can connect with like-minded individuals who can offer firsthand knowledge and experiences. It’s also a great way to stay up-to-date on any changes or developments in your travel plans, such as visa changes or border closures.

However, it’s important to exercise caution and be mindful of the information you share in these groups. And I can’t stress enough, the importance of verifying the accuracy of any information before acting on anything.

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There are Going to be Cultural Challenges

Cultural norms and customs can vary widely from country to country, and it’s important to be aware of these differences to avoid inadvertently offending someone or putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation. As you jet-set off to explore different parts of the world, it’s essential to remember that cultural norms and customs also vary wildly from country to country in the same region. You definitely don’t want to be caught in an embarrassing situation or accidentally offend someone, right?

For instance, did you know that in Japan, it’s considered rude to eat or drink while walking in public? Or that in many Middle Eastern countries, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home?

Read about Peoria’s beauty, where the sky and the river converge to create an unforgettable journey.

Some things will feel natural, others may seem very strange. But, by familiarizing yourself with these nuances, you can show respect for the local culture and avoid any unintentional faux pas. Plus, it’s a great way to learn more about the rich history and traditions of the places you visit.

Customs & Language are Real Barriers to Friendship

I have a good friend in South Korea. We’ve known each other for 7-8 years, but became closer in the last 3 years. But her English is okay and my Hangul is terrible, so we resort to translation apps a lot. It is difficult to develop real bonds when you can’t communicate simple concepts. So I have to admit the possibility for miscommunication.

And although some of that is in play. I think more of it is a reluctance to change. This is how we do it and no foreigner is going to change it.

She is married with two kids, that I’ve never met. And when I recently brought that to her attention, she said Koreans don’t “do that.” Whatever that is. We can’t talk about politics, religion, race, or current events without her being visibly uncomfortable. So I avoid topics I really enjoy out of respect. Which is curious, because she can and does talk about intimate details about her marriage openly and with nonchalance.

I pushed for a while, but I finally understood that we wouldn’t have more than a surface level friendship and stopped imposing my cultural expectations over hers. Regrettably, this also implies that she will likely always be my Korean friend and not just a friend. And our friendship may not survive the inevitable distance.

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Connect with Local Black Communities

Seek out and connect with local Black communities, either online or in person, to learn about their experiences and get tips on how to navigate the country as a Black woman.

Delta Sigma Theta, Inc.

I failed at this one. As a Black woman traveling the world, I know firsthand how important it is to connect with local Black communities. Whether it’s through an organization like Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., social media groups, or in-person meetups, building these connections can provide valuable insights and support.

I wish I had made more meaningful connections, unfortunately, I have to chalk this one up to a missed opportunity, and pledge to do better next time.

However, I may receive some backlash for this, but it’s my truth. Making friends with other black women is extremely difficult. I’ve had this conversation with my mother. And she confirmed my observation that we’ve both inevitably had more girlfriends from other ethnicities. I don’t know if we are more suspicious of other black women, build our bonds when we are younger, or just don’t have the girlfriends we see on popular TV series.

However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. By seeking out and engaging with local Black communities, we can learn about the unique experiences and perspectives faced by people who look like us. They can offer tips on how to navigate cultural norms and provide recommendations for safe and welcoming places to visit. Not to mention, it’s a great way to make new travel friends and build a sense of community far from our own.

It’s also essential to approach these connections with respect and an open mind. We are not, and never will be, a monolith. Acknowledge and honor the diversity within the Black community, and be willing to listen and learn from others’ experiences. By doing so, we can create meaningful connections and promote more cohesiveness. Hopefully that will counteract the images mass media pumps into the air– letting us rewrite our own narratives.

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Wanderful

Another awesome community is the Wanderful Community. A group of fabulous ladies, not exclusively black female travelers, that love travel just as much as I do. We have weekly zoom events that I participate in that offer insights into traveling solo, specific destinations, blog and business knowledge, as well as friendships.

I have grown quite fond of a few ladies, although we have never met in person–yet. Wanderful also has live events in many cities across the United States and abroad. If you are interested and want to know more, check out this link.

** UPDATE** I recently met my first Wanderful friend in St. Louis for dinner. And guess what? It was amazing to see someone I had been interacting with for more than 3 years. I am looking forward to the next meetup. #meetmeinStLouis

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African vs Black American Female Travelers

A few years ago, I took my kids to the south of France for spring break. I had received numerous travel tips for exploring Provence, but one particular piece of advice from a friend still lingers in my memory. She told me, “Make sure the French locals are aware that you are African American.” It didn’t take long for me to grasp the implication of her statement as soon as I arrived.

In the southern regions of France, especially around Marseille, there was a significant African population, and unfortunately, some members of this community were dependent on the social welfare system. This strain on resources was contributing to a growing tension between the two cultures, eventually resulting in new immigration laws.

Misconceptions about Africans across the world are rampant. Many falsely believe that this population is universally uneducated, unemployable, and unethical. While there may be individuals who fit this description, they do not represent the vast majority. Despite my friend’s well-intentioned advice, I found myself becoming overly conscious of how people were treating me.

Be Confident and Assertive

As a Black woman traveling abroad, I firmly believe in the importance of confidence and assertiveness. It’s essential to stand up for myself and establish boundaries while also respecting local customs and cultures. Unfortunately, black female travelers often face negative stereotypes that unfairly label us as aggressive, overly emotional, and hypersexual. To counteract these harmful narratives, I make it a point to advocate for myself with grace and respect, striving to reshape the perception of Black women.

Nevertheless, if I encounter unjust treatment or discrimination while traveling, I approach the situation with compassion. I assess whether it’s safe and appropriate to address the issue directly. By speaking up, I aim to shed light on the problem and encourage positive change in the country I’m visiting. It’s crucial to remember that even a single voice can have a significant impact, and my voice carries weight in making a difference.

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In Conclusion

We as black female travelers, I understand that there are many obstacles that I might encounter on my journeys. It can be daunting to navigate unfamiliar territories, but with a positive attitude and the proper resources, we, as a collective, can make the most out of our experiences and even serve as an inspiration to others. It’s important to prioritize our safety, show respect to the cultures and people we encounter, and always be proud of our identities as black women.

By sharing my adventures and insights, I hope to empower fellow black female travelers and encourage them to embark on their own journeys, knowing that they, too, have a unique story to tell and a valuable perspective to offer that isn’t always told. Together, we can redefine what it means to be a traveler, break down barriers, and make the world a more inclusive and welcoming place for everyone to explore and enjoy. Amplification, rather than attenuation, enriches the global travel narrative, emphasizing the beauty of diverse experiences and igniting positive change within the travel industry.

So please take a moment and share your story below in comments. Let me know if I’m getting through to any of you guys, and if you’ve found the 499 blog post before this one helpful or entertaining.

Comments

  1. Gina Lee

    Great Post!! I sincerely like your thoughts. You are one of the innovative bloggers. I am looking ahead to your upcoming post please post soon.

  2. geo94003

    You’re right it can be hard to make new friends especially when you don’t speak the language. This is one of the reasons I’ve been hesitant to travel abroad. You are lucky that you have found a way and hopefully you’ll be able to keep up your friendship. Have you been able to stay in touch after you moved?

    1. Stacey A. Peters

      So true, I do feel fortunate that I made some Korean friends. I suggest you humble yourself if you are looking for Korean friends because they are initially timid and may not approach you first. And that’s even if they really want foreign friends.

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