Traveling solo for many like me is daunting, and coupled with being a black woman, it becomes even more complicated. From dealing with racism to sexism, concerns about safety to being taken advantage of. It can be a lot. How does one juggle all these factors and still have a pleasant trip?
Kemi Adewumi from Go Galavant, an online travel platform that connects travelers with multi-day group operators around the world and provides a forum for travelers to share their travel experiences, acknowledges that traveling solo as a black woman raises a lot of eyebrows. She says, the majority of people are curious.
“People are curious when they see a black woman traveling solo. That curiosity can lead to friendly conversations, awkward staring, or rude reactions. I’ve encountered people who are genuinely curious about where I’m from and what brought me to that particular place by myself; at the end of these conversations, there’s always a hint of amazement and even pride in their eyes. I’ve been in situations where people tried to take a sly picture of me, or jump in to take a picture with me as if I was a figurine at Madame Tussauds, or even touch my hair without asking.”
These are some of the experiences black women have to deal with whilst traveling and most especially while traveling solo. Nonetheless, it is important to note the role the media plays with the over-sexualization of black women and as a result, it becomes the perceived notion that people have towards black women. Kemi recalls “there have been instances where I’ve dined solo or went to a bar solo and I’ve been approached as if I was a prostitute.”
So, although we have people who are genuinely amazed seeing black female tourists, there are others who fetishize black women or adopt these negative stereotypes. So as the traveler, it can be uncomfortable, annoying but it is important that when we do encounter these scenarios, we try and educate and inform the people who approach us about these stereotypes i.e, not all black women traveling solo are sex workers, and when they do see black female solo travelers, they should approach them with respect and take their feelings into consideration.
Another common worry with traveling solo is the fear of meeting strangers or not getting along with your travel group, but Adewumi of Go Galavant says, “The beauty of group trips is that you can join them with or without friends or family. If you have a friend or two and no one wants to do the planning- join a group trip so all you have to do is show up and have fun. You’ll be less concerned with not getting along with strangers but still have the option to make new friends. Also, many trip companies work hard to make sure they get the ‘right’ types of people on their trip; they’re clear, in their trip descriptions, on who their trips are for and NOT for. They tailor their trips to specific interests and travel styles in hopes that like-minded individuals will join and have a higher chance of getting along. They have activities to break the ice and make the initial meeting part less awkward. Some even have pre-trip meetups, so folks can get to know each other before the trip and maybe pick out a roommate.”
So these are things one has to be aware of while traveling solo. However, it is not always as daunting as it seems. One advantage of traveling solo as a woman is that you are usually met with a lot of help. Adewumi attests to this: “People are more helpful than they normally would be if I was with others. They see a lady by herself and (rightfully or not) think I need more protection or help. Some folks go the extra mile when I ask for directions, offer advice when they see me struggling with a menu in a foreign language, and help me with bags on trains and buses.”
So it is important that when we do travel solo as black women, we are not afraid to ask for help. Believe it or not, there are still good people in this world. There are people willing to help you out when traveling abroad and are willing to do so with the right motives. But if you are so uptight and super reserved, then you will end up struggling alone. Keep your guards up by all means but also be open, be friendly, and carry yourself the way you want to be addressed. At the end of the day, people know who they can and can’t mess with.
I’m sure you are reading this wondering about some of the best places to travel as a solo black woman. Gloria Atanmo of @glographics compiled a list of some black-friendly countries. These include Montenegro, Thailand, Japan, Slovenia, Ireland, Norway, so feel free to start booking your tickets ladies, and don’t forget to check out the COVID restrictions.
The takeaway from today’s post is that there is nothing really to fear about solo travel. Just like every new adventure in life, there will be challenges and surprises but in the end, it is extremely rewarding with lots to learn and experience. And that’s what Go Galavant’s Founder wants to encourage black female solo travelers with.
“Don’t walk in fear. Fear will prevent us from experiencing amazing things. Read what you need and listen to advice from others, but if you want to go someplace and you feel prepared and safe about it, DO IT! The world is full of scary things, but it’s also filled with people with good hearts and amazing sites to marvel at.”
So brace up, get your seatbelts fastened, keep your guards on and ENJOY!
To find out more about Go Galavant travel, check out their website: https://go-galavant.com and follow them @gogalavanttravel on Instagram and Facebook.