As a person of color, being seen as a “different” traveler is not a novel experience. Having “locs” (or dreadlocks as they are commonly referred to) and being able to occupy spaces where people of color are not normally seen makes me appear different to many and sparks curiosity. I’ve learned to embrace being different and to see it as a positive experience. Here are five ways you can make your presence as a different traveler a more pleasurable experience.
1.Smile. Even in the face of obvious displeasure, it throws off those who tend to see you differently. It takes less energy to smile than it takes to frown and often gives you a sense of power not expected. Most people can’t help but wonder why you are smiling when they think you should not be. Positivity wins every time.
2.Embrace being the object of attention. This is yet another way to remain positive in the face of being made to feel different. Enjoy reading or listening to a book, or watching a movie, if you prefer solitude. Sooner or later, your comfortability appearance will actually become real, and you won’t even notice the looks.
3.Be open to curiosity. I have found that being open to having conversations or answering queries that respect my boundaries to be more informative than invasive. I have had many conversations about my hair and have learned to embrace curiosity to teach my culture to people.
4.Embrace being different and love the skin you’re in. No two people are the same, and everywhere you go, whether the destination is local or international, you will be different from the people surrounding you, be it in features or culture.
5.Know that just as you seek to gain new experiences and knowledge by traveling, many others are doing the same. Traveling opens us up to new worlds, and to many, we as travelers are part of their experience. An open mind is the best luggage you can carry.
Have you experienced being a “different” traveler? Has it been a positive or negative experience? I’d like to know.