There's a certain unexplainable feeling of pride that I feel when I'm scrolling through Instagram, and I see pictures of my people traveling to exotic islands and the historic wonders of the world. I see pages like Travel Noire, Blacks Men Travel Too, Black Travel Go, Melanin Overseas, or any of the many accounts dedicated to celebrating black travel and I can't help but smile.
I smile and feel inspired when I see my people in the desert sands of Dubai, in the biblical remains of Jordan, trekking across The Great Wall or in the hot springs of Iceland because when I see them I know that it takes more than money to buy a plane when you're from a particular background. In 2016, I was looking to take my first solo-international trip to Morocco. It was a trip that I had imagined for years. I made a promise to myself that I would travel to Africa after I finished graduate school. So there I am, all done with grad school, the money is in my account I have the screen open on my laptop and my debit card in my hand but I couldn't bring myself to purchase the ticket.
I started doubting myself. Who do I think I am, traveling to Africa by myself? I began putting all of these negative thoughts in my head. What if something happens while I'm out there? I don't speak the language, how and I going to communicate? Maybe, I should hold on to this money and save it in case of an emergency instead of buying this ticket.
That's when I realized that before I can actually bring myself to travel anywhere, I had to address the years of conditioning that led me to question myself like this in the first place. You see, I grew up in Flatbush, Brooklyn, single mother, 4 of us in a 2-bedroom apartment. My mother never left the country. In fact, I don't know anyone in my family whoever left the country. Most people I knew in my neighborhood, other than some of my friends who's families' were from the Caribbean islands, never left the country. In school, from K-12 my friends (all black of course) and I never had lunch-table conversations about traveling the world one day, as much as we talked about clothes, sports, and music. It was because based on our surroundings and experiences, traveling the world wasn't a possibility or a dream that any of us could conceive, let alone prioritize it to be a part of our conversations.
Growing up, if you were to do a financial analysis of my household's economics, it would show that we were broke AF. Food stamps, scraping change for a Metrocard, overdue bills, and late rent payments, you name it, my family went through it. The places that teachers talked about in World History class might as well have been Atlantis, El Dorado, and Wonderland because once the bell rang Africa, Thailand, France, couldn't be further from reality.
One of the most lethal things about growing up black and poor in America is that racism and oppression both work on a subconscious level. They can alter how you perceive yourself and your abilities. Nothing in my environment ever suggested that I'd be able to travel so even when I had the resources I still had to climb over the conditioning before I could actualize it for myself.
All of the black travel pages on social media are a reminder to the beautifully melanated people in this country who've been conditioned not to see themselves getting a passport, buying a ticket and flying abroad, that you can travel and you should. Not only is traveling the right move if you want to catch dope flicks for your Instagram, but there are real scientific studies that show traveling has mental and emotional benefits such as making you more humble, happier, sharper, and more.
Black travel is imperative to progress because there are so many forces at work in this country that are designed to keep us confined, physically, and mentally; so much so that the act of getting your passport is an act of rebellion. Traveling after a point in your life that you never thought you'd be able to, is revolutionizing the ideas you have of what's possible in your life and the lives of those around you.
To anyone of my brothas or sistahs who at one point didn't have the resources but you do now, and you just haven't made the leap to buy that ticket yet, I'm telling you, GO FOR IT! You deserve it. Every minute you spend doubting yourself or having negative thoughts about traveling is a minute you could be learning about a new culture, a new language, a new part of the world and detaching yourself from a limited and self-stifling mindset.
If you're concerned about the money, don't let that stop you either. Here are some sites and apps that track low-cost flights year-round. If you don't have your passport yet, here are the steps you can take to get your passport and begin expanding your reality, strengthening your brain, and going to see the world!
Be sure to share stories and pictures with your friends back home; maybe you'll be opening their eyes to a reality that they never thought was possible.
Oh yeah, I ended up buying my ticket to Morocco after grad school here are some pictures from that trip:
I've also been to Alaska, Mexico, France, and Thailand. :)
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