3 Things to Know While Traveling as a Black Woman
Are people there racist? How did people treat you? I don’t think there will be any products you can put in your hair! Did you get a lot of stares? These are just a few of the hundreds of questions I get asked every day whenever I tell people that I am either traveling or that I live abroad. Traveling is something that I have always loved to do, and something that I will always continue to do. Never in my entire 20 years of living did I ever think that I would be living in a different country during my senior year of college. But it’s amazing what a little Black girl magic, God, and hard work can get you.
Every time I visit a different country, I get excited because I get to experience a new culture of people and food that I have never experienced before. But of course, I do always have that fear of how people are going to treat me because of my race. The American stereotype of Black women tends to be, “loud, ghetto, and uneducated.” Fortunately, some of those stereotypes are finally starting to be removed thanks to social media and positive Black influences. So, for my fellow beautiful Black women, let this be your guide and walkthrough when it comes to traveling as a Black Woman.
#1 Hair Care
The very first step and the most crucial step when traveling or moving abroad is hair. I mean come on! We have to be honest here, as Black women, hair care is so important. From weaves to braids to being natural all the way to a relaxer… We need to make sure that we all have the essentials to make sure our hair is healthy and thriving while we are abroad. During my young years, I had the privilege of living abroad in Japan for 16 years. Even though Japan is rich with every possible beauty product that you can imagine, when it comes to Black hair, it is just not the place. For anyone who is traveling abroad to a country where the Black community is slim to none (I lived in Japan from 1998 to 2015, there are a lot more Black women there now), I suggest getting Box braids. Box braids are perfect because they are cute and easy to maintain. By having box braids it allows you to not have to worry about filling your suitcase up with many too hair products. When your hair is braided, the only thing that you have to worry about is rebraiding a braid when or if it comes loose, bringing oil and mouse for your braids and a silk cap.
For the women who personally do not prefer braids, I highly suggest stocking up on all the products you possibly can before flying to a country where it will be hard for you to find products for your hair. Again, when I lived in Japan, it was from the year 1998-2015, so things have probably changed since then, but to be safe, I would bring as many products as possible. That way if you find yourself in a position where there are no Black hair products whatsoever, you are prepared.
#2 Sunblock & Skin Care
Let me go ahead and debunk the false assumption that Black people can’t sunburn. Yes, yes we most definitely can sunburn. Not only can we sunburn, but we can also get sun cancer. For all my chocolate beauties that are traveling to a hot country or island where the sun is out, PLEASE bring as much sunblock as possible. Again, you can sunburn and you will sunburn. So bring sunblock, shea butter, cocoa butter, and aloe vera.
#3 Dealing with Racism
Disclaimer: I am not a professional, this is just my experience with how I deal with racism and body objectification. There are many other ways you can deal with these problems.
Nobody ever wants to go on a vacation, move to a different country, or study abroad just to deal with racism in that country. As much as I want to say that once you leave your home country all the racism and discrimination will just magically go away… the truth is, it doesn’t. Not all the time, but there is a chance that when you travel, you could still face racism. It can depend on where you are, but truthfully no matter where you go, there is a chance that you can face racism. So, let me tell you how I deal with it.
The first thing I want everyone to know is to NEVER let racism ruin your trip! Just because one person or a group of people are ignorant, does not mean the whole country is like that. So whatever happens, don’t let it ruin your trip. This past summer I went to Morocco, when I was there, I faced racism constantly, but I never let it ruin my trip. I kept reminding myself that I am there to enjoy my stay and learn about the culture. If someone has a problem because of my race, that is their problem and not mine.
If you are at a restaurant and for example, a person doesn’t want to sit next to you, you get mistreated by a waiter or waitress, people are disrespectful, etc. you report it to the manager/owner of the restaurant, write a complaint, etc. Also, don’t go back to that restaurant again. For any store, restaurant, hair salon, etc. that you experience racism at, make sure that you report it and make it known what you experienced at that location.
If you’re walking down a street or you’re just minding your business in public and someone says something racist or prejudice towards you, you have the choice on whether to respond and educate them. Again, you have the CHOICE to educate them, but you ARE NOT obligated to respond. If someone is ignorant and is treating you poorly due to your race, you are not obligated to do anything. Whether you want to respond to them and let them know the queen you are is completely up to you.
I also want every Black woman to know that you always need to keep the mindset that no matter what anyone thinks of you, you are a queen and no one can take that away from you. Don’t ever let someone’s preconceived idea of you change the way you think of yourself.
I hope these three things helped anyone who is traveling abroad or thinking about traveling abroad. Two things that I love is being a Black woman and traveling. I am happy that I can share my experiences with everyone.
Satarra is an International Business Major minoring in Spanish in Hawaii Pacific University (HPU). She spends her time traveling and learning about business and cultures around the world. Follow Satarra on Instagram @satarraleona!