Life experience brings out different emotions and different perspectives on things. I just want to be constantly evolving.
1. People are going to stare at you:
It’s 2018 and social media exists and by now everybody should have seen at least one black person in their life, right? You would think. The truth of the matter is that in a lot of countries you travel to (shoot, this even happens in some of the less melanated states in the US), people are going to stare at you. Heads will turn and necks will break. Don’t get me wrong, this definitely varies based on the country. For example, in London the likeliness of this is pretty low, whereas some place like Poland or Hungary, expect people to look at you like an alien just descended onto earth. A lot of the time, the staring isn’t coming from a malicious space. It’s more so coming from a place of ignorance and curiosity. Sometimes it may be a racist stare, but those are also the people least likely to actually approach you or speak up. Most of the time, however, it’s because you are a magical unicorn and people are blown away by your effortless energy.
2. You should talk to strangers!
Contrary to what our mommas have told us since we were children, sometimes it actually is okay to talk to strangers. I’m not saying be super dumb and talk to a shady-looking character and end up taken, I’m just saying it’s okay (and in fact, encouraged) to meet new people while you are traveling. Don’t just look for the black people either. There are places to be seen and cultures to be explored. Traveling is a privilege and you owe it to the experience to live it to its fullest. This means stepping outside of your comfort zone and meeting people that don’t look like you. Some of my wildest, most memorable experiences have been a result of connecting with somebody from a different culture and letting the experience take me where it will.
3. Not all black people are the same.
Even before Black Panther had us doing the Wakanda greeting to every black person we came across, black people have always felt connected no matter where we went. In fact, we often unconsciously keep a tally of how many other black people are in a space and give a knowing nod when we see someone who looks like us. I am not arguing that this is not true. What I do encourage, however, is for you not to assume that just because you’re black you are the same. One of my closest friends is a black girl from Paris and we are alike in many ways, but also differ in SO. MANY. WAYS. It’s provided for some truly magical dialogue and discoveries about the power of geographical and cultural differences, even between black people with similar ancestry. Her experience as a black person growing up in Paris was extremely different than my experience as a black person growing up in the United States.
4. Food might be a struggle…
They don’t call black cuisine soul food for nothing. As black people, we tend to have a pretty high standard when it comes to seasoning and flavors. Be warned, this is not a shared sentiment across the world. The crazy part is, sometimes things will even LOOK seasoned, but turn out to be trash. I cannot tell you the number of times I was catfished by food in Hungary. They love Paprika, which makes everything look so good, but it’s actually pretty bland. One pro tip I have is to find out what the country is known for. Also, don’t sleep on the “street food.” Some of the best food I had in Budapest was the kebab street food. The same happened in Iceland! There was this mashed fish that was really the only tasty thing I ate during that trip and it happened to also be street food.
5. Educate. Educate. Educate,
We see this in the workplace all the time, nobody wants to be the sole representative for an entire race of people. Unfortunately, we can’t always get what we want. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself in remote settings and in beautiful moments of cultural exchange that you’ll need to step up to the plate and represent for your beautiful brown brothers and sisters. Not only do people want to know what it’s like to live in America, but we have the unique perspective of being Black Americans! For some, this will be one of the only opportunity they will have to learn or be educated on a misconception or prejudice they may or may not even know they have. So while it sucks to feel like you need to be the brand ambassador for black people, you should understand that this situation may not be avoidable and when looked at with an open mind, can actually turn into a mutually beneficial learning experience.
Be sure to follow my personal social media page @_2shay_ to stay up to date with my travel plans. Hit me up 🙂