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The “Lived” Travel Experience

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take a journey with me

While there will be many different opinions on the topic, I believe that black travel is different. Historically travel brands have excluded black and brown-skinned people in their marketing photos and videos. In recent years, there has been a plethora of travel media posts that show black travelers. A black travel movement has evolved over the past decade, allowing travelers of color a sense of community and acceptance to explore the world. From that movement, blogs like mine have exploded, giving advice, inspiration, and sharing experiences to many eager travelers and encouraging people of color to travel more.  But, make no mistake, traveling while black is different.

While there will be many different opinions on the topic, I believe that black travel differs.  Historically travel brands have excluded black and brown-skinned people in their marketing photos and videos.  In recent years, there has been a plethora of travel media posts that show people of color enjoying their travel experiences.  A black travel movement has evolved over the past decade, allowing travelers of color a sense of community and acceptance to explore the world.  From that movement, blogs like mine have exploded, giving advice, inspiration, and sharing experiences to many eager travelers and encouraging people of color to travel more.  But, make no mistake, traveling while black is different.  Much advice has also been given to make black travelers aware that their travel experiences may differ simply because they are people of color.

My travel experiences started as a flight attendant in the late 80s.  The airlines were beginning to hire people of color, and I was part of that hiring scheme.  That scheme is a whole other topic I’ll leave for another time.  Flight attendants then were predominantly white, and I was often the only person of color on the flight crew.  Being on the flight crew did not mean I experienced the same treatment.  I was often not included in the dinner plans or activities while on layovers.  I would be overlooked when getting a briefing from pilots even though I was the lead flight attendant.  Even agents would bypass me and give paperwork to other white flight attendants instead of to me as required.  It was not until later in my career that I began to have better flight attendant experiences because I got to be around more flight attendants that looked like me.

Since then, I have had significantly more travel experiences as a black ex-pat.  Again, I have had to adapt to the expectations of dominant cultures who do not look like me.  As an ex-pat in Asia, it has meant adapting to the fact that ex-pats tend to be white.  In addition, I have found that locals see my color through the lenses of pop culture or local prejudices.  When I identify as an ex-pat, I’m often associated (by some locals) with a husband who plays sports or is a singing diva (can’t sing a lick).  I’ve even been mistaken for being Serena Williams (not a sports bone in my body).

Being a black ex-pat in Asia, notably SE Asia, has allowed me to travel extensively.  Many popular travel destinations are here, including Bali, Bangkok, Hanoi, Phuket, Chang Mai, and Cambodia, to name a few.  My travels here have primarily been with my husband, who happens to be white, and there have been plenty of incidences where I have noticed a difference in my treatment.  When my husband checks in, he is usually offered an upgrade to the room, and his room will have a spectacular view or new décor.  When boarding, he can be in a boarding queue without being asked for his boarding pass; I usually must provide one.  Once, while traveling, my children and I had to undergo a different security screening, even though we were traveling together and ticketed the same.

I can go on and on about the many tone-deaf comments I get from others that validate my opinion.  However, the fact remains that traveling while black is different for me and many others.  Let me know your opinion in the comment section below.