Photo Credit: Courtesy of Meckell Milburn
Black Expat In Mexico: I Want Other Black, Queer, World Travelers To Know That We Are Worthy Of Travel
Meckell Milburn, Lafayette, LA, 38, is a digital nomad, a queer travel addict and a content creator who currently is a Black expat in Mexico. Living in Mexico City, Milburn owns Travel Well With Meckell, a Black-owned travel brand, and she creates content that shares her experience and tries to inspire those who are considering living and working overseas.
Milburn’s experience also fueled her to support Black liberation work in the US. In order to bring her life abroad to fruition, Meckell Milburn left her 9-5 job. The digital nomad created her own holistic wellness company and a digital travel brand which allows her to work from anywhere in the world. The digital nomad talked to Travel Noire about her experience of being a Black expat in Mexico:
Life Before Being An Expat
I made the decision to move abroad around the start of the pandemic, so life was very different. I was living in the Bay Area, California and working full-time at a local university. I loved my job but despised the 2-hour daily commute. Mentally I was depressed. I wasn’t in a good place. I was in an unhealthy marriage and knew there was more to life.
I have always loved traveling mostly because I’m a naturally curious person and a huge foodie. I grew up in an outdoorsy family so road trips and camping were always things I looked forward to. I just began traveling abroad in my 30s, though. I always hesitate counting countries because each experience is so different. I’ve spent extended time in some places, like Mexico, and only one day in others, like Portugal. But in total, I’ve been to around 12 countries so far.
Choosing To Be A Black Expat In Mexico
Mexico has long been one of my favorite countries, which made it easy to start assessing for a long-term stay. It sounds insane to move abroad during a pandemic but major life changes are a great impetus.
I decided to leave the Bay Area in 2020, after filing for divorce and ended up back in Louisiana spending time with my family before taking the leap abroad. Red state plus conservative COVID views meant that I was not feeling very safe in the community. What I had learned about Mexico was that they were taking a completely different approach. I learned so much more about their perspectives on community, health, and safety which made the choice easy given the circumstances. I also love that Mexico is so close to the US so I can get back to see family and friends quickly- if need be.
A Good Country For Black Expats
Mexico is a good country for Black expats because we have a long history here in Mexico. Also, although anti-Black racism exists everywhere, my experience as a Black person in Mexico is very different from my experience as a Black person in America. I feel safer here. Yes, despite the rhetoric about the Mexican cartel and the stories of violence perpetuated by the US media for all Brown and Black countries! We seriously underestimate the violence we encounter in the US on a daily basis- individually and systemically.
I’ve actually had to do a lot of work on building my awareness of being a privileged person in Mexico. Americans tend to be favored and catered to because the dollar stretches here and classism is very present. That is important and ongoing work. I love being in a brown country with so much history and culture and want to make sure I am living in harmony with the community I am a part of without negatively impacting the economy.
Living In Mexico City
I live in Mexico City which is the biggest city in North America to many people’s surprise. I decided on Mexico City after traveling around other parts of Mexico for about 8 months. I love that it is a big city which means all of the access that can come with that (lots of food options, great transportation, and unique things to do!) but it still feels small-town at times. It’s also really walkable and bikeable which are my preferred forms of transportation.
For fun, I enjoy being outdoors- there are great parks here! Beyond this, you can usually find me trying one of the great, world-renowned restaurants here or connecting with friends. Living feels more accessible here- not speaking to the cost of living but the approach to lifestyles. People really enjoy the time they have off and I love that.
Cost Of Living For A Black Expat In Mexico
Speaking of costs of living, I spend around $650 USD on rent each month for my apartment (great amenities, neighborhood, and brand-new everything). Since biking is my primary mode of transportation I only spend about $50 a month on Ubers when I need to, food is my weakness so my food budget can be anywhere from $300-500 dollars a month or more! This reminds me of the importance of accurately framing the cost of living in Mexico. Yes, you can live in a small beach town and pay $300 a month in rent and have a lower cost of living but there is a WIDE range of lifestyles here. In CDMX, there is wealth, luxury, and huge availability of Americanized goods and services. You could easily spend more than some folks in the states. As for me… I spend about half what I used to and live a lifestyle that is fulfilling and centered on joy. Plus, I am happy to spend all of the money I make in US dollars towards the community that I am building in.
Feeling Connected With The African Diaspora
Some of my closest friends here (in Mexico City) are Black Americans or other folks from the diaspora. There are great resources here in the city for staying in connection with each other like WhatsApp and Facebook groups. I also think people are more intentional about creating space to connect with each other which feels good.
Being Black, Queer, Digital Nomad And Content Creator Abroad
When I began planning my move abroad, I was working on building my own business that I can operate from anywhere in the world. This has been the container that has allowed me the flexibility to move around. It feels like a dream come true to be able to travel anywhere in the world and not have to worry about getting vacation days approved.
That is actually how my YouTube channel started. It was initially to promote my work in holistic wellness. I naturally started capturing the journey of moving abroad as well and that’s when it started growing. I had no idea where the content or journey would take me then! At this point, we have created a beautiful, growing community called Travel Well with Meckell. I try to create content that answers basic questions folks may have about immigrating to Mexico and my digital nomad lifestyle. Then, on Thursdays, we have live conversations about all things expats! I enjoy interviewing other Black expats because our experiences are not monoliths so getting other perspectives is important. We also have very few representations of people living at the intersection of Blackness and Queerness who have moved abroad so I wanted to make sure my voice was present in the conversation.
Succeding As A Queer And Black Expat In Mexico
One of the reasons Mexico City feels like a great fit is because it is a very queer-friendly place. My first weekend living here just so happened to be LGBTQ Pride weekend and there were rainbow flags everywhere which is so cool to see. As a Black person, there are places in the world that I may not have considered living because I may not feel comfortable there. As a Queer person, there are places in the world that I may not have considered living because I wouldn’t be safe being my full self. So finding a place with the remaining countries can feel limiting, but there are places that will welcome us. I want other Black, Queer, world travelers to know it is possible and that we are worthy and deserving of travel. We just have to do what we need to feel safe and comfortable! I say this as someone with the privilege of passing as cisgender and heterosexual so I understand my perspective may not affirm that of the majority.
Working As A Consultant For Black Expats
One of the most frequent questions I get from people is about how I sustain myself while living abroad. I created my own business, a holistic healing company that focuses on Black women & femmes that was launched in November 2020 after having a 15+ career in health and wellness. My work has and will remain virtual so that I can work from anywhere. I have begun consulting with other aspiring digital nomads to bring their dreams to fruition. Oftentimes we are only a few decisions away from living the life of our dreams but it can feel like that reality is a million miles away. I have a lot of insights as a business owner, digital nomad, and American immigrating to Mexico so it’s been fun to support others in this process.
You can follow Meckell Milburn on her Instagram account Travel With Meckell.