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Traveling Abroad: It’s Not Just Some Ol’ White People Shit

Ever since I went live with my travel blog this year, I felt led to revisit the 2010 Julia Robert’s movie, Eat, Pray, Love.

If you’re not familiar with the film, it was about a recently divorced, 40-ish cis-gendered female travel writer that makes the decision to fulfill her dreams of living in the countries of Italy, India and Bali during the course of one year.

Throughout the journey, her phases of rediscovery are showcased and end with the main character learning to navigate and prioritize both self and romantic love.

When I first saw the movie, I was completely fascinated by the concept of extended travel because I had never personally known anyone that had the time or money to venture out of the country in that capacity.

Coming from a single-parent home in Baltimore, the idea of traveling one year abroad was literally foreign to me. What about your job? Your bills? Your benefits?

I didn’t even give my questions a second thought at the time, choosing instead to leave my musings on the cutting room floor as I left the theater.

Eight years later, travel blog now online, my gut feeling sparked a conversation with my nephew about adding the movie to our Plex account.  

Reluctantly, he said, “Why do you want to see that? It’s so white!”

I looked at him and said, “Yeah, but I want to do that. I want to be the black version of that!  Why does it have to be some ol’ white people shit?

I went on to say, “There are black people out here doing the same thing, but they just aren’t making movies about them.  That’s why I need to see that movie.”

After a robust conversation about the lack of African American representation in films with similar themes, he added the movie to the account.

Since then, I’ve watched the film twice to really understand what message the universe wanted to reveal to me.  

I sincerely believe that the reason my soul was drawn to seeing Eat, Pray, Love was to fortify my belief in the power of my own choices.

I’ve now reached a point and time in my life where the only thing that limits me from doing something like traveling for a year is my own mind.

You see, the term "that's some ol’ white people shit" has a long history in many cultures, including the African American diaspora.  

When a person of color has dialects, mannerisms and aspirations outside the cultural norms of their family and community, it has the potential to be considered “white.”

Labeling someone or something in this way carries with it an intent to shame because accusing someone of being untrue to their cultural roots and identity is meant to expose them as being inauthentic.

“That’s some ol’ white people shit” mentality reflects a limiting, self-defeating attitude, and it is a mindset that people of color have had to overcome for centuries.

This outlook comes from a perspective of lack, oppression and poverty that has been physically, mentally and spiritually beaten into impoverished and suppressed people, based on tactics that were meant to be utilized to keep certain populations “in their place.”

At one point and time, it was considered “white” to want an education, to be a free man or woman, to vote or to have the same rights as a white man.

For example, I was accused of "talking white" in high school by some friends and acquaintances because I lacked the typical, urban Baltimore accent.  

I remember how much hearing that from people in my own community would hurt my feelings. The pitch and resonance of my voice and choice of words were intrinsically part of my personal identity.  It wasn’t “put on” or contrived. It was just... me.

The concept of African Americans traveling abroad extensively is a topic that has more of an audience than ever before, but still is inconceivable for many in our community.

That type of travel is frequently thought of as a luxury that only rich, white people can afford, when in actuality it can be considered a way of life, even for people that don’t make the big bucks.

You don’t have to be rich to travel extensively, but you do have to make it a personal priority, if that’s the type of lifestyle you desire.

You have to believe it, before you can achieve it.

People who live in urban communities can travel abroad and for reasonable prices. There are men and women from all different types of socioeconomic backgrounds doing it.

The internet is a boundless resource to learn about travel hacking and cheap travel deals around the world.

More and more people are working and volunteering remotely.  Organizations like Peace Corps, Work Away and Remote Year are specifically designed to assist with creating pathways towards making that happen.

Here are some reasons why traveling abroad for an extended period of time is not just some ol’ white people shit:

Your ancestors fought for your right to travel on your own terms.

Just like the ancestors fought for equal rights, they also navigated ways for you to travel safely.

Originally published in 1936, Victor Hugo Green authored the 1st Edition of  The Negro Motorist’s Greenbook - a survival guide for African Americans traveling by car within the United States.

The book shared travel tips on which vendors were colored-people friendly, local attractions in each city and highlighted high risk areas of racism to assist with possible prevention of harassment, injury or even death.

Later editions of the guide expanded to locations in Bermuda, Mexico and Canada.  It allowed people to increase their chances of positive travel experiences within the confines of the segregated time.

It was Mr. Green’s wish that guides such as these would no longer be needed in our day and age.

For some, it may seem trivial to associate travel with what our ancestors fought for, but it’s just a metaphor for navigating the obstacles of life.  Even decades later, it still resounds with the current fears of driving while Black in America.

People of color are already out here doing the damn thing!

If you're searching for travel inspiration that looks like you, seek and ye shall find! There are people of color out here successfully achieving their travel dreams.  

I was able to personally meet several profitable travel bloggers of color when I recently attended a 3 day conference about the industry - TravelCon.

The Blog Abroad, Minority Nomad, From Annette with Love and Oneika the Traveller - these are all people that have inspired me to follow my dreams beyond the constrictions of cultural expectations.

Taking that leap of faith to attend TravelCon not only gave me tools I needed to venture into this new journey, but also allowed me to connect with travelers that have surpassed opposing perceptions of what success looks like.

I was also able to meet other bloggers that have thrivingly incorporated extended travel into their everyday lives.  

They too were people that had saved their pennies, dealt with their families’ opinions about what the hell they were doing and made other sacrifices to do what they love to do.

Some were retired, some were traveling the world with their kids, some had chronic illnesses, but they all had this wonderful wanderlust in common.

I will never be able to put into words how much it touched my spirit to meet people that got me and didn’t give me the side-eye when I expressed my desire to be a travel blogger.

It’s doable, if you want it.

According to the Nielsen report, “Black Impact: Consumer Categories Where African Americans Move Markets,” we are spending $1.2 trillion on consumer products annually, while being 14% of the US population.

Of that figure, African Americans are the source of 50 billion dollars spent in the travel industry per year. Those numbers are increasing with Black millennial travel on the rise.

While you can’t tell by the majority of travel marketing ads out here, we definitely represent.  

These are solid numbers showing that African Americans exercise power of choice in what we prioritize in our personal lives.  

Now, listen. By no means am I saying that people should choose between travel and paying their bills, but more people have access than they realize, if they do the research, create a travel budget and assess their spending habits.

It’s your choice.

Yes, there many other things of importance that are going on in the world, many causes to fight, but everyone deserves opportunities to just be and experience life on their terms.

Living up to someone else’s expectations should not define your personal goals for your life.  

You have to follow your own path, even when the people around you don’t believe that your path has merit.

So if I decide that I want to travel abroad for a year, that’s my choice.  It’s not some Julia Robert’s ideology or white people shit.  

It’s about having the audacity to pursue my own dreams and just one of the colors in my rainbow.