Well of course we do – it’s just that simple. But why ask the question? In my experience, the perception held by many travel agencies, advertisers, travel providers and most unfortunately – many African Americans – is that as a segment we don’t. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone ask “Why do you want to go there??” or been told “Black people don’t do that” or realized while on vacation “Hey, I’m in a group of 30 people – and not a single person looks like me” – I’d have at least 60 dollars! There’s even a site called “WTF – Black People do That???” – an obvious note of the writer having had similar experiences.
Why is it Important to Travel?
To me, there are two excellent reasons to travel outside of your familiar settings, even if it’s just to the neighboring state. The first of which is gaining a better understanding of the world and how it affects your life locally. Consider the following:
- If you haven’t seen 6 and 9 year olds working in a Cairo rug factory, how could you think differently about purchasing these wonderful “hand-made” rugs sold in many malls and carpet stores across the world? Many – if not most of the legitimately hand-crafted rugs are produced by Middle-Eastern/African children in a position which can only be described as slavery.
- If you’ve never been to a real Socialist country (like many in Europe), how will you know whether the current US political banter regarding the use of the word equates to real Socialism – and whether it is a good or bad thing?
- If you only listened to American news outlets – you’d get the impression Cuba is a poverty stricken country ruled by an evil empire where everyone is waiting for the next cardboard box to float across the ocean to Florida’s paradise. If you had actually been there, would you find out the truth is Cuba has the second highest literacy rate in the world, near zero homelessness and an unemployment rate under 2%?
My point isn’t to advocate for awful child labor laws, Socialism or Fidel Castro; my point is that in order to make an informed decision (e.g. vote) on the issues (Trade Agreements, Health Care and Immigration Reforms respectively) that are currently affecting our country – it may be helpful to know a little about these subjects. One excellent way of acquiring this knowledge is to travel and formulate your own opinions. The reality is – if you rely on others to tell you what to think on these matters – you can’t blame anyone else for your ignorance (or the likelihood you will be manipulated into voting against your own interests).
The second reason and perhaps the more important reason is the world is a beautiful, ugly, exciting, relaxing, sensual, dangerous and wonderful place! By experiencing other environments, cultures and customs – you will likely enhance your own life in some way; whether that be the memories of visiting an amazing location, learning a new language, becoming a better conversationalist – the list is endless. The more you travel, the more you realize issues between nations are rarely the will of the “people”. You learn that all over the world, people’s value systems are essentially the same – even if their economic/social conditions differ. Finally, travel eliminates fear; fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate and hate leads to suffering (okay, I stole that from Yoda – but you get my point).
The Black Travel Experience
As a demographic, African Americans have lagged behind others in the US due to decades of restrictions on free travel. These restrictions have become ingrained into the minds of many Black folk – to the point that I know people who are “proud” they haven’t been anywhere beyond the city in which they were born. The fact of the matter is, African Americans ARE traveling in greater numbers and it is important that we understand and embrace this fact – for ourselves and for the benefits we can receive from businesses catering to our demographic.
There is already somewhat of a change on this front – American Airlines has launched Black Atlas – a travel blog specifically geared towards African Americans. American Airlines sponsors the site and the travel experiences are tailored to and provided by African American travelers.
In that vein, here are 5 excellent sites (in alphabetical order) I like that excel at describing their travel experiences using high-quality site designs and excellent content.
Excellent writing style that goes beyond the usual “visit this tourist trap” or “eat at this restaurant” travel review – this is pure and unadulterated immersion into the community. After reading a few posts, you will come away feeling you know the folks at a given destination. Art, music, culture – even a brand new podcast are all part of the mix. As he states, “I don’t experience the world via a culturally “neutral,” “color-blind,” “American” matrix. I live life in full color, just like I travel”. Pretty Fly!
Go There – http://www.fly-brother.com
I’m Black and I Travel
Informative articles that don’t shy away from taking a stand on issues that affect the Black community and the travel cred to score an exclusive interview with Pauline Frommer – now that’s heavy! Having visited 15 countries across 4 continents – there’s a wealth of experience and information available. As the author Greg states, “I hope you’ll find something here that inspires you to join those of us already “out there” because….the world is bigger than your block.” Couldn’t have said it better myself!
Go There – http://imblacknitravel.com
The force behind the popular “Black Girl in Paris” blog (the source of her upcoming book “Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Black Paris”) is back in the US and better that ever. Her new blog focuses on her travels across the globe – including her most recent excursion covering the Vancouver Winter Olympics. “50% Travel & Culture – 30% International Sport – 15% Black – 15% Chicago = 110% KIRATIANA”.
Go There – http://kiratianatravels.com
What do you get when you pair the great outdoors and African-Americans who enjoy outdoor activities together with a passionate leader – why Outdoor Afro of course! Outdoor Afro uses social media to create interest in communities, events and to partner with regional and national organizations that support diverse participation in the Great Outdoors. As Rue states in the site’s tagline “Where Black People and Nature Meet”, Outdoor Afro is one of the most active communities on the web.
Go There – http://outdoorafro.com
Two Jet Set Divas
As the name implies, you put together two Divas and a map and excellent adventures ensue. ‘MzTravelDiva’ and ‘MzETravel’ won’t let geography or “grown-up stuff” get in the way of a good time; they travel like Rock Stars but pay like Peasants! This wonderful site covers topics ranging from travel advice, trip reviews and the innovative “Jet Setter of the Month” (an excellent idea I conveniently borrowed myself). Two Jet Set Divas…and a Map!
Go There – http://www.twojetsetdivas.com
There are many more blogs and travel sites dedicated to sharing the Black Travel Experience; these are just a few I like and follow. Each is well written and provides ‘universal’ travel information – the authors just happen to be African American.
If you know of any other excellent blogs or travel sites – whether here in the US or abroad, let us know. Also, I’d like to hear your feedback on the sites I’ve profiled above.