The Not So Fun Side of Being a Black Woman Traveling Alone

By Nicole Brewer

Greetings globetrotters. I hope you all are safe and sound where ever you may be around the world at this time. It has indeed been surreal living abroad during a pandemic and seeing the civil unrest unfolding back home in the USA at this time.

One thing that I have been reflecting on is how blessed I have been to travel to close to 50 countries in the past decade or so of living abroad. While many of those experiences have been absolutely fantastic, I would be remiss to act as if it’s been all peaches and cream traveling alone to so many places solo as a Black woman.

I felt compelled to share with you all some of the not so joyous experiences I’ve had. I’m very hopeful that the current unrest, protest, and marches that are taking place around the globe will bring about much- needed change when it comes to racism. Please stay blessed, safe, healthy, and educated globetrotters.

Ex. 1 No, I’m Not a Prostitute

Yes, it may come as a surprise to some, but many Black women who have traveled solo have been wrongly accused of being a prostitute while globetrotting. I’ve been catcalled even in my own home country the USA, but the micro-agressions of being assumed to be a prostitute while window shopping in Spain or Italy, surely hit differently when you’ve paid your good money to be a tourist and enjoy the sites like the next person.

Ex. 2- Yes, I Can Afford to Travel to the Seychelles Solo (I’m not a Prostitute part 2).

Sigh, yes, it happens entirely too much. I’ll never forget that one time being in the immigration line trying to enter Seychelles and being given the third degree by security. Traveling solo as a Black woman to some luxurious places has surely come with its setbacks. It can be shocking to even locals that I would be traveling to a 5-star resort without being accompanied by someone…or was I going there to “work”. These are questions that arise as a Black woman traveling solo.

I made it to the Seychelles and lived it up solo!

Ex. 3- Sharing a Hostel Room with Racists in Germany

I had so many great memories of living abroad and studying in Germany when I did my MA in Humanitarian Aid, that I almost blocked out this horrendous memory. Talk about an uncomfortable feeling of being in a hostel room in Dusseldorf and having a German couple walk in and give you one of the evilest looks you’ve ever experienced. The boyfriend even had a Swastika on his jacket. They were too scared to actually say mean things to my face, but they would look at me, chuckle and mumble things under their breath. Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep that night knowing that hate was so close to me in proximity.

Ex. 4- No, these Ajummas (Korean Grandmothers) Do Not Want to Sit Next to Me on the Bus

South Korea is a place I adored overall in the 3.5 years of my experience of living there as an ESL teacher. Nevertheless, it was not a utopia either. There have been several occasions where I can recall older Koreans not wanting to sit near me or next to me on the bus. The funny thing about it though, when I look back on this sort of racism I experienced during my time traveling and living abroad, is that I actually built the toughest skin during this time. Yes, show me who you are outright, instead of smiling in my face and talking about me behind my back.

Grateful to have more fun memories of South Korea than not so fun.

I’m sure if I wrecked my brain a bit more, I could come up with a laundry list of more examples. Nevertheless, I think you all get the idea of what it can be like moving about this world as a Black woman. It can be pretty exhausting, yet still I rise and keep pushing because that’s how much I love to globe trot. I have way more beautiful memories than not of traveling, which truly bring me joy.

However, I do want our readers to recognize their privilege. To take the time to not only recognize it but to educate themselves on ways to give a helping hand when they can to elevate the voices of Black people. I hope that globetrotters around the world are inspired and taking strives to be the change that they want to see in the world.

2020 really is the year of clear vision. See our race, recognize it. Don’t state you don’t see it. We want to be seen. We need to be seen. Continue staying safe globetrotters!

  1. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer says

    Oh man, Nicole – as a former solo traveler I can relate on so many levels.

    When I was in Spain and in the Philippines, I have clear memories of people thinking I was a “working girl.”

    I also have had experiences where people thought I was from Africa and treated me differently until they heard my American accent and then they completely changed their tune. People around the world still have these terrible ideas about people from Africa. 🙁

    When I lived in Korea, I also remember older people not wanting to sit near me, staring me down, or thinking they could touch me *le sigh* (it still turned out to be one of my favorite places though, despite the constant feeling of being uncomfortable).

    I am so happy now that the world is talking about race outside of America. I hope these conversations will start to change the way people view us.

    1. Globe trot says

      Amen I totally agree Chanel!

    2. rick baldwin says

      I hope so too.

  2. Les Petits Pas de Juls says

    Nicole,
    As educated as I may be on the subject, I’m always slapped in the face when I read such testimony of the way black (or other color) people can still be treated today. It’s 2020 for heaven’s sake and even though I know I live in Utopia and the real world is not as fun, I hope every single day that tolerance and respect will rule the world.

    It is indeed important that you guys keep traveling and doing the things you like best + share those negative experiences, so that everybody realizes how frequently you are confronted with it. It is of the utmost importance that all of us who are not subject to such behaviors take action with you so the others realize they are on the wrong side of the spectrum and should definitely rethink their priorities and how to be a better person.

    Thanks for this article. Thanks for your smile. Thanks for showing the way.
    Take care and happy trails!
    Jul’

    1. Globe trot says

      Thank you so much for the kind words! I really appreciate it.

    2. rick baldwin says

      I’ve been traveling since 1985 when all Americans were hated,
      but men especially-luckily my size kept most aggression only verbal.

  3. rick baldwin says

    Adding”Good Looking”to Black woman might make dirty old men anywhere
    to hope you were a hooker.Traveling with my Chinese girlfriend in Thailand caused
    the locals to sneer at her as a “working girl”,mistaking her for one of them. I always make
    myself available to any woman,young,old of any nationality who may need assistance,being
    a big strong-looking worldly male,well aware of the chauvinism in every land.

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