10 Travelers on What It Really Means to Be a Traveler of Color

"The more we all travel authentically and the more we all open our minds, the more — I hope — our shared human experiences won't rest in the differences on the surface, but with the similarities underneath."

Nneya Richards
Photo: Alistair Morgan

Where are you from? No, but where are you really from?

This conversation-starter, seemingly laced with suspicion, has chased me around the world — in an Uber in New York City, during a tour in Vietnam, at a restaurant in Mexico, and while shopping in Greece. Occasionally, this doubt-drenched dialogue even morphs into a second round of questioning, in which my ethnically ambiguous appearance becomes the subject of a guessing game: Spanish? Brazilian? Puerto Rican? Pakistani?

Sometimes, depending on where I am and who is asking, I worry. I worry about how I come across and which broad stereotypes are forming. But mostly, this back-and-forth — at once playful and loaded — is exhausting. My answer, “I’m American,” is seldom accepted.

It’s true, I wasn’t born in the U.S., but I immigrated here from India at the ripe age of six and have always considered myself — first and foremost — an American. My English is accent-free, my passport issued from the United States of America, so why then the hesitation, the skepticism, the follow-up question? The answer is simple: my skin.

It’s tough to single out the moment it happens: It has surfaced at the airport, upon receiving my umpteenth SSSS boarding pass stamp, and on a luxury cruise, where I was mistaken for housekeeping, despite my very obvious vacation attire. It made a cameo on a 2014 trip to the Middle East, when my carry-on bag was disassembled, held hostage in a room for hours (with no reason disclosed), and escorted onto the plane — along with myself — by airline personnel. I am also often reminded of it during trips to India, when I’m called didi (or sister) by locals, and in other destinations, where my skin serves as an attraction — the subject of stares and photos.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been privileged enough that my relationship with travel has been one that’s overwhelmingly about what I’m viewing, rather than how I’m viewed. Travel is not only a salve for my curiosity, a show of my independence, and fuel for forcing me out of my comfort zone, but it’s also my livelihood. Exploring a new place and meeting new people — for work, no less — fills me with inexplicable amounts of gratitude and joy.

And so, the question of what it means to be a traveler of color is riddled with contradictions. On the one hand, my travels have not been without their jarring moments — flashes that sometimes strip me of my dignity — but on the other, my career as a travel journalist, coupled with my middle-class background, have afforded me the kind of global mobility that is generally not complicated by concerns around whether my safety will be compromised because of my complexion. I am, generally, able to move through spaces with ease — without question of where I can go, or if I can be a part of the travel narrative once I arrive. When I travel to certain countries, particularly India, my Brownness provides a sense of belonging — a coat of camouflage, a type of connective tissue — while my circumstances create a disconnect, the two perpetually in a game of tug-of-war.

But that’s not always the rule. On a recent trip to India, I was walking through a market in Mumbai, when a man, dressed in a lungi and standing in front of one of the scattered stalls, approached me and asked: “Where are you from?” Excitedly, I told him I was born in India — in Mumbai, just 30 minutes from where we were standing, in fact. His mouth curled, molding into a smirk, as he shook his head no, unconvinced of my response. Perhaps it was the way I was dressed, or my American accent, or both, but I was, once again, the other — left to defend my answer.

Travel, by nature and at its core, is about celebrating diversity. The very idea of visiting a new destination, meeting new people, and discovering new cultures breaks down barriers and helps us find common ground. Travel makes us better, stronger, braver, more sympathetic.

Sometimes, blending in is a source of comfort, especially as a storyteller whose greatest gift is being able to explore, observe, and learn as an insider, without being blatantly seen. But there’s power in standing out, too.

It allows me to be a representative, showing that there’s a space for people who look like me — from the mountains of Patagonia and Peru, to the beaches of Croatia and Thailand, to the streets of Vienna and Budapest. And for this, I know I am fortunate.

Rachel Chang

Rachel Chang in Patagonia
Courtesy of Rachel Chang

“As I was getting off a boat in Costa Rica, I heard some voices yelping in delight in the distance. I looked around to see what had caught their attention, but didn’t see anything unusual. Their enthusiasm and excitement grew louder — and cameras started being pointed in our direction. I took another look. Sure there were some monkeys in the trees, but they were all around. That’s when I realized, they were chanting “Chino! Chino! Chino” in Spanish. As it turned out, it was a group of locals and I was the tourist attraction.

Born in the United States to Taiwanese immigrant parents, I’ve never known anything other than being American. As a frequent solo international traveler, I often find myself standing out in a group of travelers as the only American. Being Asian often doesn’t even come up with the people I meet on my travels, especially in Europe, Australia and South America. In fact, I’m often referred to as 'the American' in the group.

But then there are moments — like when a souvenir hawker came up to me in Mexico saying, 'Ni hao ma?' and a Moroccan family followed me around in a historic area to ask to take a photo with me — when I'm made acutely aware of the color of my skin.

As a travel journalist, exploring the globe isn’t just a job — or even a passion that I'm grateful enough to turn into a career — but it’s an innate need I have to better understand the world by immersing myself into it headfirst. It’s not about posing in front of Instagram hot spots or checking off a bucket list, but rather about experiencing cultures around us with a willingness to challenge my own habits and beliefs.

The problem: To get the most authentic experience often requires blending in.

Depending on where I am, that challenge is different. After a White colleague warned me about her experiences in Istanbul, I was terrified to go alone. But when I got there, I wandered the backstreets with a newfound Black American friend I met there and we had zero issues. On another trip, in a group with a handful of other Asian Americans and Asian Canadians, it was impossible to soak in the vibe of the Marrakech souks since the shop owners were continually calling out to us in Chinese.

Perhaps the place I get my race pointed out to me the most is right here in the United States. I’ve lost count of how many Uber drivers have asked, 'Where are you from?' and then pressed on with 'No, where are you really from?' when they’re not satisfied with my honest answer of California.

The art of traveling is about finding the commonalities among humankind around the world — and whether it’s helping out a stranger whose mother fell in the middle of the Patagonia forest or sharing a home-cooked meal at a local’s home in Zimbabwe, oftentimes that is the case. In most places around the world, that connection is simple. But in some places — and surprisingly in many places close to home — that’s just not the way.

Often, it just takes that one person to point out your skin color to suddenly make you feel like an outsider within the confines of already being an outsider to the location. But the more we all travel authentically and the more we all open our minds, the more — I hope — our shared human experiences won’t rest in the differences on the surface, but with the similarities underneath.”

Gabby Beckford

Gabby Beckford in Cartegena
Courtesy of Gabby Beckford

“I am a full-time traveler (pandemic aside) and blogger at Packs Light. Travel is a huge part of my personal passions and professional career.

I was raised in a multi-racial/Black military family that allowed us to travel a lot. Travel has and always will be in my life. To be considered an ‘avid’ traveler of color to me is a privilege and a responsibility. Many people can't travel the world as part of their job, especially at 24 years old. So, to be a young, Black woman doing what I'm doing, I know I'm in a very small percentage.

The biggest challenge I face as a solo traveling young Black woman is safety. I'm only 5'2" and while I'm feisty as all hell, I can never fully relax. Then again, I can never fully relax sitting on a crowded bus at home either. When I [travel], I always register with the STEP program, send my travel arrangements to my parents, walk with a purpose, adopt RBF, [and take] every precaution. Because sometimes I worry that if I went missing, would people try as hard to find me?

My favorite travel destination is Dubai. I won a language scholarship to study Arabic there while I was in college and the experience was absolutely life-changing. I also really loved living in Okinawa as a child. I remember as an eight-year-old kid, every single time we went into JUSCO (the local mall), Japanese ladies would always swarm me, saying kawaii-des, which means ‘so cute.’ Looking at it now, I suppose it could be seen as a form of exoticism, being gawked at because I had darkly tanned skin and hair bleached from being in the sun all the time. I don't think I would feel comfortable with that attention now, but I have fond memories of being fawned over by those random mall oba-chans.

There are plenty of other occasions where people have blatantly stopped walking and gawked at me in the street (Republic of Georgia), asked me to take a picture with them (Sri Lanka), or grabbed my hair without warning (South Korea).

Despite that, being a BIPOC traveler is an extremely rewarding experience to me — and I know being able to say that comes with a lot of privilege. I have had awkward, scary, uncomfortable, and absolutely ignorant encounters as a traveling Black woman, but I am privileged to say I have never had an outright dangerous racist encounter. As I said, I'm extremely cautious, and maybe that plays a part. But I know that being medium/light-skinned and having loose, gigantic curls make me more Eurocentric or ambiguous than my darker-skinned travel friends.

But I do love being a Black traveler, despite the inherent risks of existing while Black. Wherever I travel and find another Black traveler, it means I have a likely friend. I've had people invite me into their homes, chat me up in cafes, and compliment me on the street because I looked like their nationality. Being a Black traveler gives me proximity and familiarity with the other Black cultures I want to learn about.

As an avid traveler, I found Facebook groups to be a huge refuge. There are many ‘Black Expats in ____’ groups out there, and I like to join them a few weeks before a trip to make friends and contacts in locations. Sometimes, it can ease your fears just to have someone to call if your wallet is stolen or you just don't want to eat alone! I research, register for the STEP program, walk with intention, and try to enjoy my trip. If racism is going to happen to me, it's more likely to happen in Virginia than in Dubai. As a BIPOC traveler, I want to let each person know that not every experience is doomed to be negative and there are magical moments that only you can have as a BIPOC traveler. And they're worth having.”

Oneika Raymond

Oneika Raymond in Cappadocia Turkey
Courtesy of Oneika Raymond

“As the child of Jamaican immigrants growing up in Canada, travel has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. At first, it was to visit family members scattered across the Caribbean and the USA. But later, in university, I studied abroad in France and traveling became more about education, exploration, and empowerment.

Being a Black traveler often means being a representative of or ambassador for my race when I travel to places where there are not a lot of Black people. It also often means being a resource for other Black travelers who are curious and/or reluctant about traveling to certain destinations.

I've gotten a lot of attention because of the color of my skin in places like China, India, and Uzbekistan, to the point where it was annoying. However, given the racial makeup of these places, the curiosity is understandable. In Sri Lanka, for example, people not only stopped me to take my picture, but they also asked me to pose with their small children. I've had my skin tugged at and hair pulled while traveling in South Korea, too.

As much as I love traveling to destinations that are completely unfamiliar in terms of language, culture, religion, and geography, some of my favorite trips have been on the African continent. I had an exceptional time in South Africa, Ghana, and Senegal. I love traveling to predominantly Black countries and learning more about people who look like me.

[Being a person of color] has caused me to be more aware of my race when traveling, because there is often so much curiosity about Black travelers in many parts of the world where there are only a few Black people.

While it can be annoying and frustrating, [traveling as a person of color is] ultimately very rewarding. I find that my race, particularly in Asia, causes more local people to approach me because they are curious. In turn, this sparks conversation and connection with strangers who can sometimes become friends. I learn so much from these interactions and they are precisely what excites me about travel.”

Chadner Navarro

Chadner Navarro
Courtesy of Chadner Navarro

“I'm a full-time travel writer, so I'm pretty much always on the road, either for work or for personal travel. I've always loved to travel. And it's, of course, this passion for experiencing the world that inspired me to shift my career from fashion journalism.

When I'm traveling for work, my profession becomes the most important thing about me to the people I'm with. For instance, if I'm with a tour operator and they know that I'm with them for a story, to them, I am travel journalist first. (And sometimes, that's pretty much it for them.) But there are also not a lot of POC in travel media. At most small events, or if I'm traveling with other journalists, it's rare (it happens, but it's rare) that I'm not the only person of color.

You encounter a lot of ignorance all over the world. I've had soldiers yell ‘China man’ at me as I'm walking out of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Or, when the daughter of a young family sitting next to me at a restaurant in northern Portugal started dancing around her table while pulling on the corners of her eyes. These are humiliating moments where I didn't feel like I was in a position to do much except ignore them. But there are countless other moments, and when you're traveling by yourself or you're in a destination where maybe English isn't widely spoken, your options to respond are very limited.

Having said that, while there have been too many of these instances, most of my travels are incident-free. But I still think that POC should be given more opportunities to take up leadership positions in global travel. I remember being in a hotel in Switzerland whereupon learning that I'm originally from the Philippines, a nice letter in Tagalog was left in my room. It was from housekeeping. It's a lovely enough gesture, but I'm conflicted about it. I shouldn't only see myself in the housekeeping staff, especially if the rest of the public-facing team is White. How do we develop a more inclusive industry if the loudest and ‘most important’ voices are coming from only one group of people?

In a White-dominated world, being a POC (or a minority in general) means something, so if you can, you have to stand tall. Easier said than done, of course, but the insidious nature of racism requires that you show up for yourself if you are a POC. And in travel, that is a form of activism, because in a lot of places, many locals may have never seen someone like me or spoken to a Filipino person before. (That much is obvious when I'm asked if I'm Korean or Chinese right after saying hello. Or, when a waiter in Milan hands me their Japanese menu instead of the English one.) So, while I'm fully engaged in learning from locals while I'm traveling, I also know that as a POC who travels, I sometimes have the opportunity to educate them, too.”

Evita Robinson

Evita Robinson
Paula Hundley

“Travel is my life, my business, my community, my love, my freedom.

[Being a traveler of color means] pride. It means I show up as I am, and while bringing dozens of other Black travelers with me to destinations all around the world — unapologetically. It means being in Africa and feeling more at home than in the United States because Black people are everywhere, and we are revered there. It means seeing another Black person abroad, acknowledging them, and knowing that while we may be strangers, [they are] still my Brother or Sister. It means community. I have made it part of my life's work to curate community internationally through travel and build relationships everywhere we go locally. We seek out the Black experience in the places we travel to, so that we learn more of our history, regardless of our location.

The challenges [of being a traveler of color] range from the everyday microaggressions that we deal with stateside to women in my group being mistaken for prostitutes because they’re Black. We have had service denied to us. But I will say this: By far, my community's largest racial issues take place right here in the USA. We feel more comfortable abroad many times than we do in our own home country, due to things like what we are seeing now with police brutality.

We have taken Nomadness members on over 40 trips since 2012. Our memories are endless. Some of our favorite destinations have been India, South Africa, Thailand, Samoa, and Hungary — from celebrating Holi (the festival of colors), Songkran, Loi Krathong, and Afropunk abroad to hearing the stories of locals hit by the 2009 tsunami in Samoa. Our favorite moments are those of true connection to the people of a destination. We connect to the realness.

I look culturally ambiguous, however I am Black wherever I travel in the world. I am aware of my light-skinned privilege both stateside and abroad. Yet, I am not so light-skinned that I don't come across Black. I also curate international trips with groups of Black people, as members of the Nomadness Travel Tribe. We are always seen as who we are — proudly. But that also means that circumstances arise where we are judged, avoided, or people have to 'get used' to a group of Black travelers in their city.

I am proud of that. I am proud of breaking new ground and bringing Nomadness members to places where for the first couple years, we were the only Black travelers there. To go back years later and see multiple groups there — that is true change. We have done it in Jaipur, India; Johannesburg, South Africa; and a number of other locales. Travel is freedom. It is a cross-pollination of cultures. We leave a bit of ourselves and cherish the parts of others that we bring home.”

Nneya Richards

Nneya Richards
Alistair Morgan

“I've had a lifelong love affair with travel. My family is West Indian with our diaspora primarily split between the U.S., UK, and Canada. There has always been an inherent relationship with travel and community for me — both locally and internationally. As I matured, I really leaned into that, seeing travel as a way to bridge gaps as well as assert my independence. As a lifelong learner, it satiates my curiosity, and as a Black American, it often offers peace of mind and escape.

Being a traveler of color aids me in gaining authentic access in spaces that my White male counterparts may not have. I know from experience that it is empowering to have someone who looks like you tell your story. On the flip side, traveling to places where the majority isn't people of color or Black people, I also see myself as an ambassador. There is power in normalizing Black women traveling.

A few years ago, before Cuba opened up, I had the opportunity to go down there with my mom to volunteer. We encountered so many Cubans that helped us out, really looked out for us at restaurants, and showed us around because they were thrilled to see Americans that looked like them. They were used to White Americans and Europeans, even Cubans with European ancestry, but they were empowered seeing Black Americans. I'm lifted by that.

Being a traveler of color, being born and raised in NYC, and being American — that's all a part of my travel DNA. I consider myself a global citizen: I have multiple passports, but my travels are definitely through the lens of being a Black New Yorker. One of the first things I have to ‘shake off’ when I travel is the New Yorker in me that's like ‘mind your business, look straight ahead, go about your business.’ Then, after embracing that level of openness, when interacting with some people, there's that quick assessment I have to do: ‘Is this curiosity or racism?’ I've had people reach out and touch my hair in several countries — strangers — without asking. I've had people line up to take photos with me at temples in Thailand, and on the flip side, I've had a woman hiss at me on the streets of Jaipur. The first few times, I was in a state of shock. Then I've said angry ‘nos.’

Being a Black woman traveling alone, I incorporate racism in my assessment of travel safety in a way I don't think my White counterparts do. India was a perfect example of my imagining the destination for years based on movies, magazine articles, and even other influencers whose work I admire. It was only upon reflection while there did I realize all of those people were White and they moved through India with a dexterity I wasn't afforded as a Black woman. Then, I dug into a Black influencer's caption under that beautiful photo she took in Jaipur — she experienced many of the same issues I did and was relieved when her friend joined her on the trip. A true artist, her imagery was beautiful and a true traveler, like myself, she gravitated toward the smiles and welcoming people, but nonetheless, it was jarring. It makes me want to amplify Black voices in the travel community more, though.

It's hard to choose [my favorite destinations], but I have a top five. South Africa: Cape Town is beautiful, but Johannesburg is a vibe. Seeing the revitalization of the city from the ashes of apartheid and the focus on Black economic empowerment was so exciting. Morocco: A few years ago, my partner and I spent my birthday in the Atlas Mountains at Kasbah du Toubkal. Such a magical sunset. The Kasbah surprised me with a cake for my birthday and we experienced that renowned Berber hospitality. We also visited the spiritual capital of the country, Fez, and went to the market and cooked a traditional tajine at Dar 7 Louyat. It felt like we had the riyadh to ourselves. We also road-tripped to Chefchaouen and pampered ourselves at Hotel Sahrai. That was my partner's first big trip with me, and he realized I'm not really one that can sit by a pool or on a beach for multiple days in a row. Cuba: Particularly the trip to Havana with my mom, where we volunteered at an arts center, Muraleando, and then a road trip I did on the West Coast, visiting a few cities and towns with lifelong friends. It was pretty incredible just figuring it out day by day, hardly having Wi-Fi, and really having to go on word of mouth from people. Colombia: A lot of times when people ask me my favorite city I've been to, it's Medellín, Colombia. The art scene, the fashion, and great weather year-round. I actually hoped to spend a lot of spring there pre-COVID. I also love Cartagena. I'm a big Gabriel García Márquez fan and that city is truly magical. It’s vibrant, from the people to the colors of the buildings and bougainvillea-adorned balconies. Cartagena leaves you with the feeling that your life has been painted in sepia before. Singapore: I was there to interview food entrepreneur KF Seetoh, and it was a food-focused trip — five days of eating in one of the culinary capitals of the world. I was also introduced to Peranakan food, which is pretty rare to find outside of Singapore. Total shiok. Oh, and then my special happy place that I used to go every winter: Sayulita, Mexico.

There are very few countries in the world that do not have a history of racism or prejudice, classism, and colorism, so that definitely should not stop you. We deserve to see these beautiful places around the world, experiencing other cultures as well. We deserve to be a part of that cultural exchange. For American POC, one thing I loved about living in London was that I was American first. Same in Paris. There are several reasons that Black Americans sought sojourn in the French city and it's not because France or the UK don’t have a history of colonialism or oppression. If only for a moment, you can exercise some privilege. Taste it! Only through traveling can we bridge these cultural gaps and misunderstandings.

By far, we are loved, we are welcomed, and people are eager to show us their locales. The most visited story on my site is 10 African American Friendly Travel Destinations. I wrote the post as a response to a Quora inquiry and didn’t dream that it would attract as many people as it did. Women and people of color are such a big segment of the travelers, and yet they don’t feel like the standard vacation experience is tailored to them.

My motto at 'N A Perfect World: Only through cultural exchange can we bridge these gaps and misunderstandings. We're all ambassadors.”

Meredith San Diego

Meredith San Diego travel ready
Courtesy of Meredith San Diego

“Travel is my drug of choice. I am unabashedly addicted to the adventure that comes with it. Touching down in a new city, a new country, a new culture fills me with childlike wonder like nothing else currently in my life.

Honestly, to be a traveler of color means community to me. More than ever in the present day. There is a solidarity among traveling POCs that has been truly uplifting.

Eastern Europe and certain parts of Asia were the most challenging destinations. In Eastern Europe, Black travelers are so rare that I was asked for photographs by complete strangers, pointed and stared at, and even followed for more than a mile, being recorded against my will by a stranger. Teaching moments are one thing, but there are moments during travel that the color of my skin has erased my autonomy as a human being.

Being a POC has impacted my relationship with travel in the sense that I am utterly grateful for the opportunity to do it. I meet POCs daily that want to travel so badly, but are too afraid, unable to because they don’t own a passport, or quite frankly, cannot afford the expenses or time away from work. Further than that, most people of color grow up fantasizing about travel rather than visualizing that they can do it, too.

As a traveling person of color, I understand that the ideal of privilege extends much further than the color of my skin. As a U.S. passport holder, I am automatically privileged as a traveler. I’ve [also] come to understand that to be Black and traveling in the capacity that I have is both rare and necessary. Having heard repeatedly that I was the first or only Black American that some of the cultures I’ve visited has ever met is evidence of this fact.

A handful of my favorite destinations include Australia, Brazil, and Thailand. I spent close to a month in Australia thanks to friends I had made on previous trips that allowed me to stay with them intermittently between destinations. My epic adventure there gave me the opportunity to snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, watch the sunrise at Uluru (Ayers Rock), laugh with local Aboriginals over beers, and educate myself on the correct way to rescue and care for a joey (baby kangaroo). This continent has a little bit of everything, especially if you are an adventure enthusiast.

Brazil took my breath away with the jaw-dropping views, vibrant cultural exchanges, and the famous Ipanema Beach. Get nautical off the coast and visit places like Ilha Grande, where Lopes Mendes Beach waits for you. Sample the street food and get down at the dance parties that break out in the middle of the street for no apparent reason. There was so much beautiful melanin around me, natural hairstyles, curves, and sassitude; take me back to Brazil any day.

Thailand, I have returned to thrice in life. Each time, I have a different experience, but all of them leave me full of peace and serenity. From volunteering for five months at an elephant rescue, to toughing it out in an intense writer’s residency for an additional three months, Thailand has my heart in more ways than I could ever put into words.

First, the majority of what the world believes Black Americans to be comes directly from the force-feeding of controversial media images portraying Blacks in a one-dimensional light. Second, it’s crucial for the next generation that as a Black American traveler, I am visible.”

Gabrielle Pharms

Gabrielle Pharms
Courtesy of Gabrielle Pharms

“I travel approximately four to five times per year, both domestically and internationally. Traveling is something I’ve loved since I was a kid. I was fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to travel the world at a young age by taking me on their trips.

Being a traveler of color is a privilege I do not take for granted. I realize traveling is not a right everyone has. Though traveling while Black has presented some unique challenges, I don’t allow such hurdles to stifle my journeys.

Last summer, my parents and I had a layover in Frankfurt, Germany. We spent a day there as tourists and most of the locals went out of their way to remind us of our skin color. Taxi drivers picked up passengers waiting in line behind us, airport security singled us out twice for ‘random’ checks, and we were refused service at a restaurant.

On a happier note, I’ve had amazing experiences in Europe, too. Places such as Amsterdam, Netherlands, and Dhërmi, Albania, have welcomed me with open arms despite cultural differences.

I love the UAE and Albania. Albania has a special place in my heart since I picked up the language over 10 years ago and was able to pleasantly surprise locals by speaking their native tongue. My experiences in Nicaragua were fun as well. In a small town outside of San Juan del Sur, my skin color was considered ‘good luck.’ Who knew?!

[As a traveler of color], I’ve learned to be more aware, but not paranoid. I realize when I travel to other places around the globe, I will be the minority.

I do not allow the hang-ups others may have about my race to impact that invaluable relationship. Traveling is a gift, so why should I allow the ignorance of others to prevent me from accepting such a beautiful thing? Don’t allow racism in any country to rob you of your personal peace.”

Bani Amor

Bani Amor
Courtesy of Bani Amor

“[Travel], in some way, shapes all of our lives. I think of the ancient Valdivia and Huancavilca cultures of the southeastern shores of what is now called Ecuador, where my family is from, and the Spanish arriving, to my family immigrating to Brooklyn in the 1960s, and of course, my personal travels to Ecuador and back. I think about how both lineages carried me here.

[Some challenges that come with being a traveler of color]: Often being assumed to be a local in places I’m not from. White tourists speaking about me in English, assuming that I can’t speak it, too. Constant microaggressions in tourist cultures — hostels, tours, and expat spaces. Being treated as an exceptional person of color by White foreigners because I’m from the U.S. and speak English, so they tend to confide their bias against locals with me. Being hyper-policed as a local Ecuadorian in Ecuadorian hotels and such if I show my local ID or passport as opposed to my U.S. one. Being admitted when they see my U.S. passport.

Everyone’s relationship to travel is impacted by and informed by race, full stop. I think a part of being a traveler of color is constantly encountering dynamics that can push us to question what it actually means to be from your place. How much of our identities are attached to being the opposite of a false default race, to being the Other? As Faith Adiele, who teaches travel writing to BIPOC says, 'Every time people of color leave our homes, we travel.'

Racism is everywhere, and each place has its own flavor. Check out travel books by BIPOC and find BIPOC groups and travelers online or in-person who have been to those places before you go. Just know that there will always be surprises.”

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