If you’ve spent time on black publications’ websites, such as Ebony or Essence, or have browsed Instagram from time to time, chances are that you’ve heard of the so-called “Black Travel Movement.” From TravelNoire to Up in the Air Life to Nomadness, everyone is getting in on the trend of African-Americans becoming globetrotters.
I’m a member of several minority based travel groups – prior to joining the groups, I considered myself a fairly well-traveled person. I’ve traveled on 5 continents in the last 3 years, I’ve traveled solo and my “country count” is nearly the same as my age. After joining these groups, I realized that there were people whose travels greatly exceeded mine – so much so that I felt like I hadn’t really been anywhere! With travel group memberships exceeding 10,000 and Instagram accounts posting new pictures everyday of travelers that look like me, in different exotic locales, you tend to forget that this is not the norm.
I went to Paris, Amsterdam and Iceland in May, with part of the trip being over Memorial Day weekend. Despite these being popular locations during a popular time of year to travel, my friend and I were often the only black people around. With the exception of locals, most of the travelers in our immediate surroundings were not of color. When we visited popular tourist attractions such as Versailles and the Heineken Experience in Amsterdam, there were no other people of color and surprisingly, we stood out.
In Iceland, there were more travelers of color, which was surprising. While in Iceland, I met a Tunisian man who lives in Iceland. When he saw me, he immediately came over to make his acquaintance. Why? “I don’t see a lot of people like you here!” (paraphrasing) After chatting for most of the night, he was surprised by how many countries I’d traveled to – because from his line of sight, Americans don’t really travel and ESPECIALLY not Black Americans!
One of the best things about traveling is the cultural exchange. Considering the depictions of Americans, particularly Black Americans in various media formats, it’s a good feeling when you travel and show people our REAL truth.
It’s easy to forget that even though Black Americans are traveling in record numbers, we still make up a small number of consumers in the travel industry. Our absence in international tourism is compounded even more when you consider that people tend to travel only to certain destinations, repeatedly.
The point of this post isn’t to be a travel snob. I abhor the attitude that has come along with the “movement” – people claiming they won’t date anyone without a passport or “Oh you’ve only been to the Bahamas? I was in Dubai two weeks ago.” Trust me, no one really cares. Travel isn’t important to everyone, nor should it be. We all have different priorities and that doesn’t make anyone better than someone else.
The point is that if you’ve thought about traveling and are hesitant to take that leap – DO IT! If you’re new to a travel group and you feel like you’re headlining amateur hour because of your lack of stamps – WHO CARES? Traveling isn’t a competition, and despite someone flying someplace new every week (on a buddy pass more than likely, let’s keep it real), your presence out there is still needed.
While you’re off jet-setting, don’t forget to give back. If you think travel is the best thing someone can do for themselves, then why not help them along that path? Here are a few organizations that you can volunteer time or donate money to that help give the gift of travel.
How You Can Help
Started by 2013 National Geographic Traveler of the Year, Tracey Friley, the Passport Party Project gives passports to underrepresented American girls, ages 11-15. In July 2017, they are gifting 265 passports to young girls and are expanding to gift 100 passports to young boys as well! You can get involved by donating a minimum of $120 to gift a child with a passport, but there are other ways to lend support as well. Friley runs group trips with the children to places such as Toronto and Belize, for their first international experience. I hope to get involved with this organization, as I think it’s a great stepping stone to a life filled with travel!
Girls Going Global’s mission statement is “empowering girls to be global citizens.” This is a statement I can truly get behind – someone had to empower me! Like the Passport Party Project, Girls Going Global offers passport scholarships, but also has two other programs – Passport to the World and Summer Travel Camp. Passport to the World includes leadership training, service projects, workshops and more – teaching young women to become engaged global citizens. Summer Travel Camp is an international trip combining education and adventure. Previous attendees traveled to Canada, Costa Rica and Belize. World traveler Martice Sutton started Girls Going Global in 2012 and has been recognized by the White House for her efforts. If you’d like to get involved, the organization accepts both donations and volunteers.
Many people get the bug for travel by studying abroad – but it’s a serious expense that many high school or college students cannot afford. This is where FLYTE comes in. Travel blogger Matt Kepnes (Nomadic Matt) started FLYTE to provide funding for underserved high school students and their educators to take study trips abroad. FLYTE has already taken a group of students to Mexico and recently completed donations to send more students to Cuba. They accept donations as well as volunteers for advisory board positions, internships and more.
Do you know of any other organizations to help people travel? Please let me know in the comments!
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