Photo Credit: TN
The Black Expat: 'I Found The Space To Be Unapologetically Myself In Latin America'
Aminah K. is a 24-year-old YouTuber who was born in Atlantic City and grew up in Las Vegas. A serial expat in Latin America, she recently moved to Costa Rica after having lived in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.
After living in Ecuador for six months, she had to decide if she wanted to invest time and money into getting residency there or if she would rather move to a new country.
“I didn’t have the financial means to invest in residency and travel, so I had to choose.,” she told Travel Noire. “While I love Ecuador, I wasn’t ready to make the decision to stay permanently, and I knew deep down I wanted to see more of the world, so I decided to go to Colombia and see where the journey would take me.”
Aminah lived in Cali, Colombia for a month and a half. While she was there, the political climate intensified and national protests started. With Cali being the epicenter, things started to shut down. Food shortages began, gas became limited, and it became unsafe to leave the house alone.
The protests alone were not enough to make Aminah want to leave. She was living in a relatively safe area and felt very safe in her apartment. She took the experience as an opportunity to understand Colombia and its people on a deeper level as she witnessed firsthand what was happening.
However, one afternoon when Aminah left home to buy some food items, she was faced with a traumatic experience. Just a block from her home in the middle of the day, a man came beside her on a motorcycle and pulled a gun on her.
“With my lack of Spanish fluency combined with shock, I did not understand what he was saying, and I just screamed. He looked at me and, to my amazement, he put the gun away and drove off. The experience affirmed in me that I am divinely protected. However, even though I loved Cali and Colombia as a whole, I no longer felt safe, so I knew I had to leave. The lack of food and people not being able to work had made people more desperate to find a way to survive.”
Aminah decided to go to Peru, where she could rebuild her confidence and sense of safety while she figured out what to do next. Her decision to move there was primarily for financial and safety reasons.
“Besides Machu Picchu I honestly didn’t know much about Peru. I truly wasn’t sure what I would find when I got there, but I listened to my intuition that it would be a good place to go after the experience I had in Cali.”
Aminah’s intuition did not steer her wrong. Living in Peru allowed her the opportunity to recharge and reset. While there, she was able to see Machu Picchu and take part in her first Pride celebration.
“Pride in Peru was beautiful. I felt so grateful that my first Pride experience was international and I was able to see the way Peruvian and queer culture intertwined. It was beautiful to be in a space surrounded by colors.”
In fact, Aminah says living abroad, she was able to fully come into her queerness and identity. Living as a Black woman in America, she faced plenty of challenges, and says there were many days she simply couldn’t stomach the extra struggle that would come from being a queer Black woman in the States.
“Whenever I thought about being more out, it felt severely overwhelming. After a while, it just became something I pushed down and stopped thinking about because it paled in comparison to the other struggles I was trying to navigate. I realize now after leaving that I was living a lot of my time there in survival mode.”
In Latin America, Aminah found the opportunity to stop living in survival mode. She was able to enjoy proper healthcare affordably, access fresh fruits and vegetables for reasonable prices, and begin to heal from the many things she had been facing.
“I strongly believe that ‘You cannot heal in the same place in which you got sick.’ After leaving the relentless hustle and bustle and state-sanctioned violence, I was able to breathe a bit more in Latin America, and it was in that breath I found the space to be unapologetically myself.”
Although Aminah says it is unrealistic to believe that racism does not exist outside of the U.S., she has found that the potency and intensity of it is not the same everywhere. She also wants people to be aware that moving abroad will not solve their problems. But what it did for her was allow her the time, space, capacity, and energy to deal with them.
Despite the bad experiences she has encountered, Aminah is grateful she had the courage to follow her intuition and move abroad. Her advice to anyone considering moving to another country is to listen to and trust in their own intuition.
“When I left, I had no idea where this journey would take me. What I did know is my intuition was going to be my compass. We are taught to listen to everything but our intuition: beauty standards, society, social norms, the list goes on. What I have found is that it takes more courage to listen to that voice within you. Find that courage. You got this.”
Aside from living outside her comfort zone, Aminah enjoys many aspects of living abroad, such as immersing herself in a different culture and talking to people that see the world through a completely different lens than her. Trying new foods, learning new perspectives, and experiencing new norms in Latin America taught her that the way she learned to see the world was not the only way, and expanded her perspective on many things.
“My original goal was to go to law school and become a state Supreme Court judge. Many times I saw firsthand the justice system plague the lives of people that I care about and that look like me, and I wanted to be a part of changing that system. The murder of George Floyd gave me the realization that the change I wanted to make wasn’t going to come from policy changes, it was going to come from liberation.”
“My journey abroad is partly about finding liberation for myself, because it is then I can seek it outside myself. After almost a year, I now see a big part of that was listening to my intuition. I haven’t found all the answers yet, but I know I am at least on my most aligned path that will lead to the answers.”
Aminah recently relocated to Costa Rica, where she plans to stay for a few months to recharge, connect more with herself and with nature, and focus on connecting with her growing YouTube channel community in a more intentional way. She also hopes to return to Ecuador by the end of this year, and to return to Southeast Asia next year.
“My goal is to see 100 countries. I want to see as much of the beauty of this world as I can. If you want to go on the journey with me, you can subscribe to my YouTube channel, Aminah’s Adventures. Leave a comment on a video and let me know you found me from this Travel Noire article!”