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What Being Black And Abroad Means To Me


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Bettye Weldon



Traveling has always been a transformative experience, offering the opportunity to step outside of our comfort zones, embrace new cultures, and broaden our perspectives. However, for individuals who identify as Black, the experience of traveling can take on a unique significance and bring about a mix of emotions.


Being Black and abroad means navigating a world where racial dynamics can vary drastically from one country to another. It means being aware of the possibility of encountering racism and discrimination, while also embracing moments of cultural connection and growth.


In this article, I will share my personal experiences as a Black traveler and delve into what being Black and abroad means to me. From moments of empowerment and advocacy to the challenges of identity navigation, I will explore the multifaceted aspects of traveling while Black and how they have shaped my journey.


It is important to note that the experiences shared in this article are based on my own perspective and may vary for individuals within the Black community. Nevertheless, the aim is to shed light on the unique challenges and triumphs that come with being a Black traveler in a world that is still grappling with racial inequality.


My Personal Background and Identity

Before delving into the specifics of my experiences as a Black traveler, it is essential to provide some context regarding my personal background and identity. I was born and raised in a multicultural city, where diversity was celebrated and embraced. My parents, both of African descent, instilled in me a deep sense of pride in my heritage and taught me to appreciate the richness of different cultures.


As a Black individual, my identity encompasses more than just my skin color. It encompasses a rich history, a vibrant culture, and a resilient spirit. It is a part of who I am and shapes how I perceive the world around me.


When I first embarked on my travel adventures, I must admit that I was somewhat naive about the complexities of being Black in a foreign country. I was optimistic, eager to explore new landscapes and engage with diverse communities. However, I soon realized that my experiences as a Black traveler would be shaped not only by the beauty of the destinations but also by the racial dynamics that exist within them.


Throughout my journeys, I have encountered a range of reactions to my Blackness. From warm welcomes and genuine curiosity to subtle acts of prejudice and blatant discrimination, the responses have varied greatly depending on the location and the people I interacted with. It has been an eye-opening experience, one that has challenged my assumptions and forced me to confront the intersectionality of my identity.


While race alone does not define a person, it is an integral part of who I am. Being Black and abroad means carrying my heritage and culture with me wherever I go. It means embracing my roots and proudly sharing them with others, while also being mindful of the diverse perspectives and experiences of those I encounter.


In the following sections, I will delve deeper into the specific encounters and insights that have shaped my understanding of what it means to be Black and abroad. From moments of adversity to those of empowerment, my journey has been a testament to the resilience and strength of the Black travel community.


Experiences of Racism and Discrimination

Unfortunately, the reality of being Black and abroad often includes encounters with racism and discrimination. These experiences can range from subtle microaggressions to blatant acts of prejudice, and they can have a significant impact on one’s travel experience.


During my travels, there have been instances where I have faced racism firsthand. I have been subjected to stares, whispers, and assumptions based solely on the color of my skin. These encounters have been hurtful and disheartening, reminding me that the struggle against racial inequality is far from over.


One particular incident stands out in my memory. While exploring a popular tourist destination, I noticed a group of people giving me disapproving looks and making derogatory comments under their breath. It was a stark reminder that even in places where diversity is celebrated, biases and prejudices can still persist.


However, alongside these negative experiences, there have also been moments of resilience and empowerment. I have met fellow Black travelers who have faced similar challenges and found strength in building community and supporting one another.


It is important to acknowledge that racism and discrimination are not confined to a particular country or region. They exist everywhere, to varying degrees. While some places may be more overt in their prejudices, others may operate through subtle systemic biases. As Black travelers, we must remain vigilant and prepared to navigate these challenges while maintaining our sense of self-worth and dignity.


Despite the difficulties, it is worth noting that not all encounters while traveling as a Black individual are negative. Many people have shown kindness, curiosity, and genuine interest in learning about different cultures and backgrounds. These interactions can be both heartwarming and enlightening, reminding us of the power of human connection and the potential for positive change.


While it is disheartening to encounter racism and discrimination while traveling, it is essential to remember that these experiences do not define us. We must continue to advocate for inclusivity, challenge stereotypes, and promote understanding in the hope that future generations of Black travelers will have a more equitable and welcoming world to explore.


Cultural Connection and Sharing

While being Black and abroad can come with its share of challenges, it also opens the door to incredible opportunities for cultural connection and sharing. As a traveler, I have had the privilege of immersing myself in diverse communities, learning about their traditions, and forging meaningful connections.


One of the most rewarding aspects of travel has been the ability to experience firsthand the rich and vibrant cultures of different countries. From participating in traditional festivals and tasting local cuisine to engaging in cultural activities and learning about historical landmarks, these experiences have expanded my understanding and appreciation of the world.


In many instances, being Black has served as a bridge for me to connect with local communities. It has opened doors to conversations, friendships, and moments of genuine cultural exchange. People have been eager to share their traditions, stories, and experiences with me, and I, in return, have shared my own background and heritage.


Through these interactions, stereotypes and misconceptions can be challenged and dismantled. It is during these moments of connection that we realize the power of travel in breaking down barriers and fostering understanding between different cultures.


Furthermore, being Black and abroad allows me to serve as a representative of my culture and community. I carry with me the responsibility to present a positive image and counter negative stereotypes. By showcasing the diversity, resilience, and creativity of the Black community, I hope to contribute to a more inclusive narrative of what it means to be Black in the world today.


Moreover, cultural exchange is not limited to my interactions with the local community. As a Black traveler, I have also had the privilege of engaging with other Black individuals who come from different parts of the world. These encounters have provided me with a sense of camaraderie and a deeper understanding of the shared experiences and struggles that unite us. We connect through our shared history, music, art, and cultural references, forging bonds that transcend geographical boundaries.


Ultimately, cultural connection and sharing serve as a reminder that travel has the power to foster empathy, dismantle stereotypes, and promote a more inclusive and interconnected world.


Shifting Perspectives and Growth

Traveling as a Black individual has brought about profound shifts in my perspectives and personal growth. It has challenged my preconceived notions, enlightened me about the global impact of racial inequality, and deepened my understanding of social justice.


One of the most significant ways in which travel has impacted me is by exposing me to diverse narratives and realities. Through conversations and interactions with people from different backgrounds, I have gained a broader perspective on the complexities of race and the various forms of discrimination that exist around the world.


These experiences have ignited a passion within me to advocate for racial equality and social justice. I have become more invested in learning about the history of racial injustices and the ongoing fight for equality. Traveling has made me acutely aware of the interconnectedness of these struggles and has fueled my desire to contribute to positive change in my own community and beyond.


Another aspect of personal growth that has resulted from being Black and abroad is the development of resilience and self-assurance. The challenges and adversity faced while traveling as a minority have required me to confront and overcome discomfort, uncertainty, and even moments of discrimination.


These experiences have strengthened my character and built my confidence in navigating unfamiliar environments. They have taught me the importance of self-advocacy, assertiveness, and the power of finding support systems within the travel community.


Moreover, being Black and abroad has allowed me to embrace and celebrate my own identity more fully. It has given me the freedom to explore my heritage, connect with my roots, and share my culture with others. Through travel, I have discovered a renewed sense of pride in my Blackness and the profound contributions that Black individuals have made to the global tapestry of humanity.


At the same time, travel has exposed me to the diversity within the Black community itself. From the different languages and traditions to the varied experiences and histories, I have come to appreciate the richness and complexities that exist within our community.


In essence, being Black and abroad has been a transformative journey. It has broadened my understanding of the world, deepened my commitment to social justice, and empowered me to embrace my identity with pride and resilience.


Identity Navigation in a Foreign Country

When traveling as a Black individual, navigating one’s identity becomes an integral part of the experience. In a foreign country, where cultural norms and societal expectations may differ from one’s own, it can be a balancing act to embrace one’s authentic self while also respecting local customs.


One aspect of identity navigation involves finding a sense of belonging and familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings. As a Black traveler, I have sought out spaces and communities where I feel welcomed and understood. This can include connecting with local Black communities or seeking out venues that celebrate diverse cultures.


At the same time, it is important to be aware of the potential for cultural misunderstandings or stereotypes that may arise. As a representative of my own culture, I strive to challenge misconceptions and educate others about the diversity of the Black experience. This can be achieved through respectful conversations and sharing personal stories and experiences.


Additionally, identity navigation extends to the ways in which I present myself to others. While it is essential to stay true to my own values and style, I also consider the cultural norms and expectations of the places I visit. This can involve adapting my clothing choices, mannerisms, and even language to ensure respect and compatibility with the local culture.


However, it is crucial to strike a balance between cultural adaptation and maintaining a sense of authenticity. It is essential to honor and preserve one’s own cultural heritage while also embracing the experiences and influences of the new environment.


Identity navigation also involves confronting and challenging stereotypes and biases that may be projected onto me as a Black traveler. This can range from assumptions about my behavior, interests, or socioeconomic background. By defying stereotypes and presenting a positive image, I aim to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the diverse experiences within the Black community.


Ultimately, navigating one’s identity in a foreign country as a Black traveler requires a delicate dance of embracing cultural differences, challenging stereotypes, and staying true to one’s authentic self. It is a process of self-discovery, growth, and bridging the gap between cultures through respectful engagement and understanding.


Building Community and Support Systems

As a Black traveler navigating the complexities of exploring foreign lands, building a sense of community and establishing support systems is crucial. Connecting with like-minded individuals who share similar experiences can provide a sense of belonging, support, and empowerment.


One avenue for building community while abroad is through online platforms and social media. Online travel groups, forums, or social media communities specific to Black travelers offer a space for sharing tips, advice, and personal stories. These platforms provide an opportunity to connect with others who understand the unique challenges and triumphs of being Black and abroad.


Furthermore, attending local events, meetups, or cultural gatherings can foster connections with individuals from diverse backgrounds. Seeking out events that celebrate Black art, music, or cuisine can be a way to forge connections and find a sense of community within the local area.


Additionally, being open-minded and engaging in conversations with both locals and fellow travelers can lead to meaningful connections. Sharing experiences and discussing the challenges and joys of travel can create a sense of camaraderie and support.


Support systems can also extend beyond interpersonal connections. Travel organizations and advocacy groups focused on diversity, inclusivity, and racial equality can provide valuable resources and support. Getting involved with such organizations allows Black travelers to contribute to positive change within the travel industry and inspire others to explore the world without limitations.


Furthermore, building community and support systems can extend beyond travel experiences. It involves recognizing the importance of representation and equity within the travel industry. Supporting Black-owned businesses, promoting diverse voices through sharing personal stories or writing reviews, and advocating for inclusivity in tourism are ways to actively contribute to the growth and empowerment of the Black travel community.


By building community and support systems, Black travelers not only find strength and encouragement in the face of challenges but also create spaces for dialogue, shared experiences, and mutual support. Together, we can amplify our voices, celebrate our achievements, and inspire future generations to explore the world with confidence and pride.


Empowerment and Advocacy

Being a Black traveler in unfamiliar territories presents an invaluable opportunity for empowerment and advocacy. Through our experiences, challenges, and triumphs, we have the power to create positive change and shape the narrative of what it means to be a Black traveler in the world today.


One aspect of empowerment lies in embracing our own stories and sharing them with others. Through personal narratives, we can challenge stereotypes, dismantle misconceptions, and showcase the richness and diversity of the Black experience. By sharing our experiences authentically and unapologetically, we empower ourselves and inspire others to embark on their own travel journeys without hesitation.


Advocacy plays a pivotal role in amplifying the voices of Black travelers and promoting inclusivity within the travel industry. It involves actively seeking out opportunities to collaborate with organizations and individuals who prioritize diversity and racial equality. By working together, we can create spaces for representation, address systemic barriers, and advocate for fair and equitable treatment for all travelers, regardless of race or ethnicity.


Furthermore, empowerment and advocacy extend beyond our immediate travel experiences. They encompass a commitment to social justice, both within and outside the realm of travel. As empowered Black travelers, we have the responsibility to support and celebrate Black-owned businesses, tourism initiatives, and cultural preservation efforts. By intentionally supporting these endeavors, we contribute to the economic growth and well-being of Black communities around the world.


Another avenue for empowerment and advocacy lies in education and awareness. By deepening our understanding of the historical and societal factors that shape racial dynamics, we become better equipped to navigate and challenge systemic inequalities. This knowledge empowers us to engage in meaningful conversations, educate others, and contribute to a more equitable and inclusive world.


Additionally, mentorship plays a vital role in empowering future generations of Black travelers. By sharing our experiences, offering guidance, and providing support to aspiring travelers, we can inspire and uplift those who may feel hesitant or uncertain about venturing abroad. Mentorship helps to build a sense of community and reinforces the notion that there is strength and resilience in the Black travel experience.


Through empowerment and advocacy, Black travelers can bring about positive change, influence perceptions, and shape the future of travel. Our journeys become catalysts for broader conversations about diversity, representation, and inclusivity. Together, we have the power to transform the travel landscape into one that is welcoming, inclusive, and acknowledges the immense contributions of the Black travel community.



Being Black and abroad is a complex and multifaceted experience. It encompasses moments of empowerment, cultural connection, and personal growth, as well as instances of racism and discrimination. Through navigating our identities and building community, we find strength, support, and a sense of belonging.


As Black travelers, we have the power to challenge stereotypes, dismantle biases, and advocate for inclusivity and equity within the travel industry. Our experiences pave the way for future generations to explore the world with confidence and pride, free from the limitations imposed by societal norms.


While travel may expose us to the harsh realities of racial inequality, it also presents countless opportunities for cultural exchange, empathy, and bridge-building between different cultures and communities. Through sharing our stories, engaging in conversations, and supporting local initiatives, we actively contribute to a more inclusive global narrative.


As we strive for empowerment and advocacy, let us remember that our experiences as Black travelers are not isolated but are part of broader societal struggles for justice and equality. By intertwining our travel experiences with a commitment to social justice, we create a powerful platform for change.


Together, let us foster a travel community that celebrates diversity, challenges stereotypes, and promotes understanding. Let us uplift and support one another, building a network of empowerment that paves the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.


Being Black and abroad is a journey that transcends borders, expanding our perspectives, enriching our lives, and strengthening our sense of self. It is a testament to our resilience, creativity, and cultural contributions.


So, let us embrace the opportunities, navigate our identities with grace, and advocate for a world that embraces the beauty and diversity of Black travelers. Through our experiences, we can inspire change, shape perceptions, and create a travel landscape that truly celebrates the richness and vibrancy of the global Black community.