How Travel Changed Me as a Black Woman

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Growing up black, traveling for me family meant driving up to Virginia one time during the summer to go fishing. We always took the Ram Van (in case you’d like to know what it looked like, here you go) and we always stayed in a Motel 6 across the street from a Burger King that would be our breakfast for the duration of our 3-night stay. And although I enjoyed those trips as a child and have no complaints, I have most definitely stepped up my travel game.

Since boarding flights to different countries with my parents was not part of my childhood, there has been SO MUCH for me to learn when it comes to traveling. I am happy to say that as I am writing this at thirty years old, I have traveled to more than fifteen different countries at least one time and have even lived in four countries outside of the United States for four consecutive months. These are privileges I will never take for granted, and I am so grateful to now be in a place where I can help other black women collect their own passport stamps.

What I would like to talk about today is how travel has changed me and what my biggest life learnings are after having traveled to multiple countries, meeting incredible people all over the world, and experiencing an array of cultures. So without further ado, here are my biggest life lessons I never expected travel to teach me.

1.    The World is Big

Sounds pretty obvious, right? But as someone who grew up in what I now consider to be a small town (i.e. one mall, one TJ Maxx and the black community being so small that you could bet money on seeing someone you knew just by walking into Walmart), I could NEVER conceive how big the world truly is until I left the North American continent. My first time going abroad was a work trip to an eastern European country called Bulgaria. This always sounds so random, but at the time the company I worked for recently acquired a Bulgarian company, so this was part of the integration process. Saying that being almost 6,000 miles away from the U.S. and hours ahead of my home time zone gave me perspective would be an understatement.

Bulgaria looked so different than where I was from. The food was so different, it was a completely different language and I believe I saw literally one other black person the entire time I was there. Fast forward to today, after visiting several other countries, I can now truly grasp just how big the world is and how many different places, people, and perspectives there are across the globe. It is actually one of the biggest dilemmas when it comes to travel – do I go back to a place I enjoyed or go somewhere new because there are SO MANY countries/cities/towns to see and we could never see even half of them in one lifetime?

The problem with never venturing out to see the world is that you get stuck with one point of view and your mind doesn’t have the opportunity to expand the way it does when your eyes are opened to other places, people, and cultures.

2.    The World is Small

Yes, I am contradicting my first lesson, but stick with me because I have a point. I think I can confidently say that if the Covid-19 pandemic did not teach us anything else, it did teach that we are all connected. China sounded real far away before COVID hit, didn’t it? At the time, I was actually working with several people who lived in Asia, including China, so while I wasn’t taking it too seriously yet, I felt the impact. Hearing about how my colleague’s homes and families were in such disarray was a sad occasion and I was happy to be part of a company that was collecting to resources to help.

COVID aside, after being part of five global teams (including my current job), I have such great empathy and respect for other countries and cultures because what you realize at the end of the day is that PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. Just like we have our lives here with our family, friends, jobs, challenges, so does the rest of the world. This sounds like such an obvious thing, but to witness people in a different part of the world in their element, doing their own thing, gives a level of respect and appreciation I will never be able to put into words.

3.    Culture is Everywhere

Let’s talk about my absolute favorite part of traveling, experiencing other cultures. This is why my least favorite accommodation option while traveling is staying at a resort. Resorts are likely to be full of other Americans, and it is hard to immerse yourself in another culture when you are surrounded by people just like you. This is why I prefer to use a site like Airbnb when deciding where I’m going to stay. It is a lot easier to find places where you will be among locals and get to witness the culture of that country. And of course, you can (and should) venture out to explore even more, including a few touristy activities if you want.

This is one reason I will always be grateful for my Remote Year experience that I previously mentioned. Not only did it make me realize how simple it is to travel anywhere you want, it immersed me in Latin American cultures I could not have experienced just staying at a hotel or resort.

Fast forwarding to today again, even here in the U.S., I am always seeking different cultural experiences and constantly attracting people from other countries into my life. Hell, I’m married to a West African, which you never could have made me believe if you tried ten years ago. I am also very aware of American culture, how different it is from other cultures, and even how we are perceived from the outside looking in.

The Biggest Lesson

Overall, the biggest lesson that travel has taught me as a black woman is to get comfortable being out of my comfort zone. I believe being curious and open-minded are the most underrated traits anyone can have. Unfortunately, traveling as a black woman is still not the most common thing when we are talking about places outside of Atlanta, Miami, and Jamaica. No, there is nothing wrong with those places, but I highly encourage you to venture out a bit more and see parts of the world you never even knew existed. That is my goal.

If you want to keep up with my travels, be sure to connect with me on TikTok. And if you haven’t traveled internationally yet, and you are ready to start getting these black passport stamps, be sure to tap into my free How to Confidently Plan (And Take) Your First International Trip in the Next Six Months guide.

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Bianca Lynch

Bianca is a Social Media Strategist and Consultant on a mission to empower business owners to use their authentic voice to increase brand visibility and stand out on social media. She has helped entrepreneurs, agencies and corporations dramatically increase their online presence, gain high-quality leads and drive sales revenue with digital marketing. Her expertise is helping businesses build simple, yet effective social media strategies that align with their unique business goals.

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