Travel even if you are the “Other”
February 2, 2018
When I used to think of travel, I thought of the quintessential backpacker. Some attractive looking white dude that with that sleek hair, who has been so blessed to be out “finding himself”, and most likely with a travel fund aka their parents.
Yes, you do find some of these people while traveling, and they tend to be nice people, but that is not the only people you will find or rather who should only be traveling. Yes, it can be pricey but also it can be rewarding!
In my own country, I don’t always feel like I belong, I am the other. I am a first generation Latina, child of immigrants, I grew up in a low- income household, and I am a woman. Although I dreamed of it as a child, I was the last person I ever imagined to be able to travel to now 20 countries.
It is terrifying and the truth is it’s not easy but it’s so worth it! This is why you should travel when you are the “other” in the US. The truth is we are constantly traveling in our daily lives. We navigate different worlds and identities, code-switching all day, that we are naturally born travelers.
These are my experiences, this may not be the case with all people but this is what I have found to be my truth and one of the reasons I continue to travel abroad.
1. You will find those that accept you
Many times you will be asked: “No, but where are you REALLY from?”
Ironically, this happens more to me in my hometown than when I leave the country. “Why yes, I grew up here and speak your native tongue.Shocking, I know right”.Yet when I go abroad, people might have a slight look of confusion but saying “the US” is often good enough.Of course, this isn’t always the case but more often than not, and that’s good enough for me.
2. You will blend
If you are blessed enough to be touched by the sun and have the beautiful brown skin. You will most likely blend when you travel outside the western world.Melanin was gifted to them as well, especially in parts of the world where the sun is closer cause #SCIENCE because race is a social construct (no but really read here). Because of this, you are more likely to blend in with the locals, and this is great use it to your advantage! Allow yourself to interact with the local people and listen to their experiences. Also, if you are so inclined, you may be mistaken as a local and pay less in museum fees 😉. It is an amazing feeling, for me, it feels so great to not have to explain your existence over and over. Honestly, it may be one of the main reasons I love to travel abroad, I’m just accepted or maybe it’s that I really am the foreigner there (but more on my native origins later).
3. You will gain new perspectives
Americans tend to not like talking about taboo topics. We like to pretend bad things don’t happen here. We often act as if that poverty is non-existent in our nation and that we live in a beautiful post-racial society. I have found other nations, especially western, tend to tackle these issues head-on. I have found that often many other travelers want to partake in typically off-limit discussions when the opportunity is presented. Which ends up being a really great opportunity for dialogue and insight for all involved. We learn so much from others and exchange our lived experience to become more conscious travelers overall.
4. You will also realize your own privileges
Whether it’s gender, sexuality, or class. You will recognize the advantages that you have in your own home. You recognize how much your passport really impacts where you can even go and move about. As much as we all face oppression it really puts thing into perspective. If you are traveling, you realize that this is way more than many people you are meeting and whose countries you go to may be unable to do. What is privilege you ask? Check out this video that’s pretty spot on.
5.You will expand your network
You may meet someone on your trip and go on a hike, maybe have a couple drinks, and have a meaningful life discussion. Then the next day you may have to part ways and be oceans away. Once upon a time, this was the end of your story may be left to a couple of letters or phone call. Technology today allows us to stay connected and create our own spaces digitally. Personally, I have tried to stay connected to those I have met that had a great impact in my life. I have met up with people years later, crossed paths again, gone on trips, and visited friends I made while traveling. I have been connected to and have connected opportunities when I can. You never know how a person you meet can change the course of your life.
6. You will be confident in your existence
I mentioned before, as “others” we are naturally born travelers. We navigate between different realms, so why not use this to our advantage. Why not live a more fulfilled life and surround ourselves with people who accept and embrace us that we may meet all over the world. We find that our media has taught us to hate ourselves but the rest of the world is waiting to let us in.
Do you have any other tips you’d add?
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