I’m not here to sell you a dream. Moving abroad isn’t a chance to escape everything you hate about America. There are good and bad people everywhere and racism, colorism and sexism are certainly not unique to the United States. However, there’s so many benefits to travelling regularly, immersing yourself in different cultures, learning new languages and all around exploring this colossal world we live in. Although there is no part of the world that has been specifically built with the safety and comfort of the black woman in mind, moving, studying or simply traveling abroad is an option for you and it can certainly be an opportunity to improve your quality of life.
Elain Lee, editor of the anthology “Go Girl: The Black Woman’s Book of Travel and Adventure”, stated in The Times, “The biggest surprise about traveling internationally was to discover that it is an asset to be a black woman, unlike in North America, where it is often a liability. Travel to Africa is among the most healing of all. You go there and get part of your soul back.”
Here are just a few of the reasons why more black women should consider going abroad:
1. Lower Cost of Living
Simply existing in North America is expensive. Especially in the United States, health care expenses and private education tuition can pile up quickly and place you in huge debt. However, there are parts of the world where living isn’t a liability. According to Forbes, cities like Bali, Indonesia, Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, and Playa del Carmen, Mexico and are just a few places where the cost of living is highly affordable.
According to Kathleen Peddicord, publisher of Live and Invest Overseas, it’s very possible to live comfortably in Lisbon on a budget of $1300/month, including rent, food and other necessities. Thanks to high-functioning and affordable public transport systems, it’s also possible to live in many parts of Europe without a car, while many opt to skip the bus (or train) altogether and bike or walk to their destinations.
2. Curiosity Vs. Disdain
We can’t talk about black women moving abroad without discussing the elephant in the room: race. We’ve all heard the horror stories of black women moving abroad and being stared at, ridiculed and abused simply for being…well, black women. And while I can’t guarantee that this won’t happen to you, I’ll also encourage you not to let these stories prevent you from exploring the world and travelling. It’s true that there are places in the world where black women are not exactly welcomed with open arms, and thus, all black women should remain vigilant at all times while traveling.
That being said, there are also parts of the world where people are curious about black women and black culture and there are places where we’d be welcomed and treated better than we currently are in the United States. While in the United States black women are treated with disdain by law enforcement, the judicial system and in schools, you may find that the racism is less systemic and prevalent in other locations.
3. Travel Is Good For Your Health, Science Says
Travel has the potential to improve everything about you, from your social and communication skills, to your emotional intelligence and sense of wellbeing. A trip to Peru or Ghana may be just what you need to reinvigorate your jour life and add a sense of gratitude for the great things you already have in your life.
Likewise, travel will undoubtedly put you in trying situations which will only give you a confidence boost when you overcome them. According to a study from the Global Commission on Aging and Transamerica Center for Retirement Students and the U.S. Travel Association, women who vacation more than once a year are at a lower risk of suffering a heart attack than those who don’t prioritize travel as much.
There aren’t many downsides to travel, but there certainly is one that I can’t neglect to mention. Its name is loneliness. And I’m not talking about the kind of loneliness you feel when a friend cancels plans on you. I’m talking about the kind of loneliness you feel when you are the only black woman in the room. There are still parts of the world that are super homogenous (even uncomfortably so) and in these parts of the world, seeing black women is far from a part of the daily routines of the locals. If you take a one-way trip to Bulgaria tomorrow, it will be especially difficult to find a community of other people who look like you.
This problem persists even in bigger cities. However, there’s nothing stopping black women from trailblazing and bravely venturing into these parts of the world where we are traditionally unseen and unheard. If you’re one of the valiant souls willing to move to a place where the black population is minute, take precautions to ensure that your mental and physical health stay up to par. From getting regular therapy to reaching out to the other black women you find abroad, it’s important to continue to take care of yourself and attend to your need to commune with like-minded people.
All in all, if you do decide to go abroad, don’t stick to the traditional tourist hotspots of Europe and Asia—try South America and Africa as well! Travel is a great way to relieve stress, push yourself and expand your view of yourself and the world. Don't miss out because of fear.
Grace is a freelance writer and blogger from Canada. Her work has been featured on HerCampus, 21Ninety, Read Unwritten. She is a voracious reader, a dog-lover and a self-professed pop culture junkie. Her other hobbies include watching sappy romantic comedies, consuming too many strawberry-filled doughnuts and people-watching. Grace currently attends university, where she is working towards a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Pre-Law.