TWB: Traveling While Black

BlogHer Original Post

When I first started hefting a carry on into the overhead compartment, it seemed like everyone looked like me. Traveling was for Jewish kids sent off to work on the kibbutz or pale colored language students favored by their teachers enough to get the foreign exchange program recommendation. The browner travelers I saw were primarily visitors to family members divided by circumstances. I did meet travelers from all over the planet, but if they had any color to them, it's because they'd spent the last month on a Greek island or hanging out in the Sinai. Wandering was, it seemed, for the white.

I have no business speculating the why of this - there are so many possibilities and I'm sure to get it wrong. But I'm an observer. In a tiny town in Montana, outside a mini-mart, I whacked my husband on the arm. "HEY! That guy is BLACK!" I said, too loud. Oops. It was because at that moment I realized it had been weeks since I'd seen anyone browner than myself. You get what I'm saying. Europe, North America, the campgrounds and museums and public spaces occupied by cultural vagabonds? Oh, man, it's been really white. And the travelsphere has reflected that. Let me be perfectly clear: I see that as a bad thing.

But recently. I started to find myself reading a bunch of blogs by travelers calling themselves "divas." A couple of girlfriends doing some exploring. A network for travelers. Individual (argh, I hate this politically correct terminology) travelers of color. Something shifted. And I'm psyched about that. Traveling is about seeking out differences. And to have this new perspective in the mix makes for some great storytelling.

Earlier this year we met Lola, a Nigerian born blogger and traveler, for coffee and wandering in Seattle. She told us about visiting far north Sweden. I had to ask, "Did they stare at you? They probably never see anyone your color up there!" She said that the kids stared, but not in an unfriendly way. The thing that stuck with me more was her description of what it was like to be there. "I walked outside on to the snow, and the wind was blowing cold and everything was white and there was this sound from the wind and I thought, wow, I am a long way from Africa!" I think about that sometimes because for me one or the wonders of travel is that feeling of displacement. I was actually a little jealous. [Lola blogs at GeoTraveler's Niche - she's a terrific photographer, too.]

Two Jet Set Divas is the blog by two travel bug afflicted friends. I love browsing this blog because these women look unbelievably delighted in all of their photos, like they could not be happier. Their joy at traveling is totally apparent. And they do a Diva of the Month where there are photos and an interview with a like minded traveler. They've also got a community, JetSet Globetrottin' - it's lively and friendly.

There's The Traveling Diva - Tracy blogs about travels in India and Brazil, among other things - and there's Far Sighted Fly Girl. Ugogurl is a website that offers advice tailored for African American women travelers. and, oh, I'm sure there's more, but the Internet doesn't always let you see what color the blogger is - and that can be a good thing. But in this case, I'd love to find more of you. I can't speak for you and I want to know if it really is different to travel while black, brown, or whatever your minority is.

If you've got links and stories, please share.

Pam blogs about travel and other adventures at Nerd's Eye View. She's been mistaken for Native American more than once, including by two German girls on a train who did not realize she could understand Every Word They Said.

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