Traveling is beneficial because of all that it allows us to do through seeing and experiencing pieces of other cultures. Growing up, I did not see very much in travel advertisements or marketing that targeted black people in the same way it did other races. Most depictions of blacks taking vacations or traveling showed black people staying stateside, and there are not a lot of travelers in my family outside of my grandfather who saw much of the world while he served in the US Air Force.
Nevertheless, I have been able to cultivate a travel log of my own as an adult, and having just come home from a short visit to Melbourne, Australia, I want to urge other dark-skinned black women to look overseas for their next vacation destination.
I think there might be a perception among black people that traveling abroad with dark skin is somehow dangerous. My father (who watches a ton of world news) has always been cautious about it when pitched the prospect of vacationing someplace exotic with my mother.
Certain news stories that have dominated news media in the past also come to mind as very clear evidence of the injustices dark-skinned people have faced in other countries. Yet, I have never been a proponent of giving in to fear. I also believe that outcomes can be influenced by approach. My visit to Melbourne was proof of this.
I had no choice but to interact with people everywhere – at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne, on the Skybus, at the hotel, at the conference I attended and spoke at, at shops, at the observation wheel, everywhere. I was all alone on a continent not my own and had to figure things out. But the good news is that everyone was kind and helpful. I was never scoffed at or brushed aside. People had smiles on their faces. That could have been because I made sure to always have a smile on mine, but it made for friendly encounters.
People asked where I was from, then impressed me with their accurate knowledge of certain accents and cultural quirks we have throughout the United States. One line I heard repeatedly was, “You don’t speak like someone from Florida.” That’s because I’m really not. But most importantly, it felt nice to just exist in this place as a person. The friendliness I encountered was not steeped in orientalism or fascination in othering, it was steeped in simple human kindness. That is a gratifying feeling that all dark-skinned women need to experience.
One final plug for why Australia makes for a nice destination is that it is an affordable, English-speaking continent with many of the same brands and cultural fixtures we have in the United States. After a 14-hour flight over the ocean to get there, you might appreciate the familiarity. One United States Dollar currently converts to $1.42 Australian Dollars, meaning your hard-earned money goes further.
Getting around on your own is feasible as long as you can be patient, read signage, and maybe have a smart phone that you can scout locations with. All in all, Australia is not a bad place to add to the list of stops you will make on your world tour someday. It, along with many other parts of the world, offers beauty that no one should have to miss out on, especially dark-skinned women.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as a writer/editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses or recording episodes for her podcast, she is usually busy enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.