“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I spotted an interesting post in the Expat Women of Color Facebook Group a while back. This group is designed to educate and provide resources for women of color who desire to or are currently living abroad.
The post read as follows:
“In your cities, do other black folk that you meet give you a welcoming smile or avert their eyes? I’m a born and raised Southerner whose parents passed at ages 77 and 89. That’s to let you in on how old school I was raised. It really hurts me when a sister or brother will look in every direction except at me when our paths meet. I see Filipinos embrace and travel in packs but sistahs gotta ‘pledge’ you before they befriend in many cases. After they do befriend, we are great pals, but the initial is a trip. I try to be the change that I wanna see but it gets old. Wow… Off my soapbox now.”
The responses were overwhelmingly supportive as a majority of women expressed sadness for her experience and shared their own. I have had similar experiences while traveling on a recent trip to Cancun with my mother.
I love seeing black women travel. They’ve decided to expand their horizons and I’m delighted in knowing that they are too, venturing outside of the conventional. I try to make eye contact, smile and say hello but on more than one occasion, I’ve been met with less than friendly and rude responses. They have averted their eyes or have given me the “why are you speaking to me” look – It almost always leaves me puzzled.
So when a young lady responded with the following, I took the opportunity to ask why.
“I think Black people, especially women, always give one another a hard time. That’s just it, point, blank, period. I am guilty, and so are others.”
Could it be fear, insecurity, or some misplaced, ill-conceived idea of competition? I know women can be catty and vicious to one another and movies like “Mean Girls” show how negativity can manifest itself.
Could be cultural? Having been raised in the south, I don’t find it peculiar when a stranger makes eye contact and says hello. This small gesture of acknowledgment is nothing out of the ordinary. However, I am fully aware that my sisters from north of the Mason Dixie are not about that life! If they don’t know you, they will not speak to you.
How can we transfer the sense of community we feel in online forums to our travels as expats and traveling women of color? Can we use it as a catalyst of growth? Can these platforms help us step outside of our comfort zones, opening ourselves to new ways of thinking?
If life begins outside of our comfort zone, then are we really living life to the fullest?
It doesn’t take much for us to be friendly or kind on our travels. Your warm spirit and friendly smile can be all that a woman may need to get through her day. It adds richness and depth to your experiences–and! you could quite possibly gain lifelong friend, sister, or mentor.
Be that beautiful thing in which you travel the world to find.