By Audra E. Lord
I’m always surprised to run across someone who has never ventured outside the U.S., the borders of their own state or worse, the five-mile radius of their neighborhood. There are several theories as to why Black Americans don’t travel as much as their White counterparts but sitting comfortably on theories simply turns them into excuses.
It is a big fat myth that only rich people can travel. As someone who comes from humble beginnings yet has traveled all over the globe, I can tell you it means squat that the median income of a Black person is less than that of a White person. The young, Black budget traveler that backpacks across Africa or Europe is hard to come across. But why?
There is a certainly a “tradition” of sorts or perhaps an acceptance among White Americans and White non-Americans for people without the means to jetset around the world to find cheaper ways to travel. It’s an “adventure.” No frills required.
On the other hand, sleeping in a hostel for $10 a night or going a few days without showering is a dreadful thought for most African Americans. Our culture simply doesn’t condone it. But after you’ve spent a week horseback riding in the mountains of Argentina, with no hot water or access to an actual toilet, you realize that hot showers are overrated and that you would have never gotten a view like this on your block.
To African Americans who can afford to splurge on hotels and high-end resorts but cannot see past the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean: There is nothing wrong with seeking a sense of familiarity in a vacation destination but there’s something to be learned from a country that isn’t predominately Christian or a government that isn’t democratic.
There are also more and more travel guides catering specifically to African American travelers’ needs. Check out American Airlines’ BlackAtlas.com, a travel blog specifically geared towards African Americans, Fly-Brother.com who explains he’s been able to travel the world by “Spending money I’d otherwise use for new clothes or shoes or a flat-screen TV on plane tickets.” Also follow @JetBlueCheeps on Twitter for discounted flights and giveaways.
Americans as a whole don’t travel much in comparison to Europeans. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, about 28 percent of the U.S. population has a passport. This small percentage only dwindles when you look at the Black community. Travel simply isn’t a priority for most single blacks and black families. But nothing can compare to that first-hand knowledge of a culture unlike your own or that exploration of sights that were once unknown. It’s a magical experience that lasts a lifetime. Not only does it promote awareness, it also promotes appreciation for the life and liberties (even luxuries) we have. You’ll never come back the same.
To college students: take advantage of semesters abroad and summer programs that offer full scholarships. There’s no better time to completely immerse yourself in a culture. To young and mature adults, open your minds and educate yourselves about alternate (and affordable) travel options. Be safe and discover the world!
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