Noire Miami: [nwar] adj. French for black. Black Miami’s source of things to do, people to see, and places to go.
In addition to helping you keep your social life intact and keeping you in the loop of what’s hot, Noire Miami introduces our feature series that highlights things of interest to the black community beyond the social life i.e. people, lifestyle, and travel.
During her weeklong tour of China back in March, First Lady Michelle Obama spoke to a group of Chinese students and encouraged more American students to study abroad and travel internationally. The First Lady commented that having worldly experience and expanding beyond American borders to understand different people, languages, and cultures is the way to future jobs. That’s the goal of President Obama’s “100,000 Strong Initiative” - to encourage more American students to study in China.
In addition to study abroad programs for students, Americans should travel a lot more internationally to allow us to venture outside of our own myopia and see the world and different cultures through different lenses, especially black people. Black people love to travel and we travel for any and everything. We travel for large festivals and major events i.e. Essence Music Festival, Taste of Chicago, Indianapolis Black Expo, etc. We travel for our homecoming, annual Greek conferences, and sports classics i.e. Atlanta Football Classic, CIAA, Florida Classic, etc. And even if we're not going to the game, we also travel for major sporting events i.e. Super Bowl and the NBA All-star.
According to a 2013 African-American Consumer Report published by Nielsen Media, our community spends an estimated $40 billion annually on travel. All of this traveling that we do, but is it limited domestically? Are we adding enough international travel experiences to our travel agenda?
Evita Robinson (@nomadnesstribe) from Nomadness Travel Tribe doesn't think so. "I used to believe this 'truth’ wholeheartedly (that blacks don’t travel internationally), until I started Nomadness,” says Evita. "What I have seen everyday for the last three years is that we ARE out there traveling internationally; we just aren't represented in mass media…something I look to do in both television and continuing efforts through Nomadness Travel Tribe.” Robinson’s Nomadness Travel Tribe has amassed more than 7,000 travel enthusiasts (or “Tribe members” as they call themselves) through its Facebook group of which the group’s members are largely of the black diaspora.
Teri Johnson (@TravelistaTeri) of Travelista TV believes that fear is one of the biggest reasons why African-Americans may not travel as much internationally. "We’re sometimes afraid of how we will be treated and if we’re going to stand out. I’m often asked what my experience was like being African-American. It’s 95% positive and often much better abroad than it is in the U.S.” Evita adds that "showing us out there in mass media would break down fears and bring a comfort to those speculating about traveling internationally.”
So where do you start? Because we live here in South Florida it’s so easy to hop on a flight or a cruise ship and head for the Bahamas, Jamaica, or Puerto Rico, but that’s not enough. Those destinations are enjoyable and with plenty to see and do, but we should also travel to countries in other continents where the people, language, culture, and even religion is different than ours. And then there’s deciding where to go, the best time to go, the type of experience to look for, and of course, the budget.
So Noire Miami talked to super fabulous travel gurus, Evita Robinson (@evierobbie) and Teri Johnson (@TravelistaTeri) who are young, black women changing the travel landscape and sharing the world through their lenses. Evita and Teri share their travel tips, secrets, and lessons. I am woman hear me ROAR!
What is the best cultural experience black people should seek when traveling internationally?
Evita: The honest cultural experience. You need to search for nothing more and nothing less than what is authentic to where you are. I'm not a 'sit in a resort all day' type of traveler. I get out and I want to see how the people of a place truly live.
Teri: The best cultural experience depends on the person and what they’re interested in exploring. If you love music, then go to places where music is celebrated and encouraged like Cuba, Mali, and Brazil. Look for local music venues and street musicians, and talk with them and communicate with them through music.
If you love food, travel to places that have your favorite cuisine, take cooking lessons from a local cook, explore the vegetable and fish markets, and connect with people who are local experts.
If you love history, hire a private guide to take you to culturally rich places, landmarks, and sights that interest you.
I personally like staying in private residences where I can meet and connect with the family. That’s the best way to start to truly understand a different culture.
Ok, so you’ve made up your mind to visit another country, but your girlfriend or buddies can’t travel at the same time. So what do you do? What about solo trips particularly for black women traveling solo?
Evita: Be smart. Be aware. Be open to the experience. Those three things are essential. The majority of my traveling before starting Nomadness Travel Tribe was alone. I miss it sometimes. There is a freedom and woman warrior I turn into when I'm on the road alone. I love it! A misconception people make is thinking that because they go on a trip alone that they will be alone the entire time. That rarely happens. You meet so many amazing people along the road, and you leave with new connections all over the planet. One of the things that makes Nomadness so cool is that our members are all over the world. There is literally no country I can travel to now and not know at least one person I could reach out to if I felt the need.
Teri: My advice for people who have the urge to travel but don’t because their friends don’t, would be to go to places where you have friends of friends, or places where there is someone you can connect with. You’ll often find that people who live in other countries are so hospitable, and they often take personal interest in making sure you enjoy their country.
As for black women traveling solo, I strongly advise it. Depending on your level of travel experience, it can be life changing. I believe you can conquer a lot of your fears by traveling solo. It’s nice to be alone and to not have the noise of friends and loved ones when your mind is open to new places and experiences. I’ve traveled to at least 25 countries alone, and those have been some of my best life experiences to date.
What's been the best country you've visited? What's been your best cultural experience that you could've only gain from traveling?
Evita: I can never answer this question honestly. I have also lived abroad, so it's even more difficult. I have had experiences ranging from teaching students in Japan, to getting tattoos on the fly in Bali, to running with the bulls in Spain, and running from security at hip hop festivals in Germany. There's way too many to pick one.
Teri: I love many countries and try to take a little bit of them with me as I journey through life. One of my favorite countries is Cuba. In another life I think I was a salsa dancing and singing Celia Cruz type. I absolutely love Cuban music and believe that the African drum marrying the Spanish guitar is the most perfect music form ever created. I’m obsessed with it and love to explore it. I also love the Cuban people. I’ve traveled there a few times and stayed in private residences (casa particulares) each time where I was able to share my life and learn about their lives and what makes them happy. These cultural exchanges are the only way I would truly know what life is like for Cubans living in Cuba. Our endless conversations over coffee and meals while listening to rumba, salsa, and son music, makes Cuba one of my most memorable destinations.
The biggest barrier to traveling internationally is cost. What is your advice for budgeting for these trips?
Evita: We need to get over this theory that travel is only for the affluent. There is such a thing as cheap international travel, and it can be amazing too. Go somewhere where the exchange rate is in your favor. There's a reason why most backpackers hit South East Asia first. It’s ridiculously cheap.
Teri: Most people think traveling internationally is expensive when it’s usually only the flight that might be more costly. Countries in Southeast Asia, Central America, and Latin America are a lot more cost effective than we realize. My advice is simple: Stop spending your money on material things that don’t truly bring value to your life, and figure out ways to cut your spending and create a monthly savings plan that is dedicated to your travels. It might mean eating meals at home more often or doing your own nails, but if you’re focused on having travel experiences, then you should enjoy doing this. Just imagine how many meals $50 will get you in Thailand.
I’m sure everyone always asks you how you got started especially when what they see of you on social media are breathtakingly beautiful travel photos of you on social media.
Evita: I love to travel and often sought to connect with others who have the same passion for seeing new things and visiting new places that I created an online travel community of travelers and expats all around the world, and the majority of our members are bridged by an urban background. Some of our noted extracurricular activities include meet ups all over the world with members and NomadnessX group trips to every corner of the Earth.
Teri: I started Travelista TV with my friend Andrea Adams out of a passion for international travel, storytelling, and wanting to show that African-Americans do travel. We would travel to places like Sweden, Turkey, Croatia, Argentina, and Uruguay and have such incredible experiences that we started capturing it on video. By creating Travelista TV, we landed sponsorship deals with companies like Ford and Choice Hotels and ending up creating original web series for BET, TVOne, Huffington Post, etc.
Want to keep up with these two adventurers? Follow them online:
Evita Robinson: @evierobbie @nomadnesstribe Website: evierobbie.com and nomadnesstv.com
Teri Johnson: Twitter @TravelistaTeri; Instagram @TravelistaTeri; Website: travelistateri.com and travelista.tv