Travelling the world as a young black woman does have its challenges, especially at the intersection where race meets gender. The more I’ve travelled, the more I’ve realised that this is due to many reasons, most commonly because of minimal interaction between some groups of people and biases in media which may be portrayed onto certain travellers. But I’ve had way more positive experiences than not to know that there are ways this can be improved. Check out these pointers below on how to make travelers of colour feel more included in the travel space.
- Words above and below by Jessica Anyan-Brown
Don't stop being curious about where someone is from
It is perfectly normal to ask where someone is from when you’re travelling - accents aren’t always easy to place and many people have lived in various places around the world. Travel is one of the best ways to learn about different cultures in an authentic way.
Putting out any assumptions or stereotypes onto a person based on how they look is where it gets awkward. We’ve likely heard these stereotypes before and so we actually want to be able to impart some firsthand knowledge to our fellow travellers.
Please avoid taking photos secretly
It’s something often experienced in certain countries where people of colour are the minority and it is unnerving. Mainly because you don’t know where the photos are going to be! If you are a photographer and want to shoot content for your social media and think we would make a good muse for creative reasons then that’s okay but please ask first!
Do give out compliments if you want to
If for example you like the way someone’s hair is styled, it is absolutely okay to say so! Complimenting someone’s physical features is bound to make them smile. However asking if hair is real or trying to compare physical features to sweet food is a reminder of previous negative encounters so keep it neutral.
Avoid prolonged staring
We’ve all been there when you’ve not realised that you’ve looked at someone for too long (followed by the sheepish look away) but not breaking a stare after the person sees you?! If it’s not a way to start a conversation then it will be making the other person very uncomfortable and almost not feel welcome at all!
Don’t be so surprised that we are able to travel
The days of a European man being the typical traveller are fading away and now travellers are more diverse in all aspects. There are still reasons such as lengthy visa processes and lack of decent flight connections which may reduce the number of people from certain countries travelling around but it doesn’t rule it out!
The main takeaway is to not stop being curious (because as travellers we naturally are) but just have an open dialogue instead of holding onto any negative assumptions! If in doubt, take a moment to think about if you being asked that same question would make you feel uncomfortable..that will usually give you your answer!