Diary Of A Black Traveler: South Korea Helped Salena Be More Secure In Her Blackness
PUBLISHED: May 19, 2019
We all have unique experiences when we visit a different city or country, but how often does your black identity have an impact on your trip? In our Diary of a Black Traveler series, we ask members of the Travel Noire family to share their personal experiences of being a black traveler in an unfamiliar space. Salena (@Salena_Altamese) tells Travel Noire how moving to South Korea has helped her better understand her place in the world.
Travel Noire: Why did you decide to move to Daegu, South Korea?
Salena: It was more of a trip of self-discovery and freedom.
Travel Noire: Do you connect with Daegu, South Korea on a personal level due to your black heritage?
Salena: Although in South Korea there isn’t a significant black cultural presence, this trip really allowed me to gain further security in my blackness. I became more aware of the concept of race worldwide and how it is perceived in a different context. Overall I am growing more secure in my blackness because there isn’t a constant structural presence of white supremacy that black Americans have to base their existence on, unlike America. Also, I have met so many other outstanding black travelers in Korea with very similar mindsets to mine. Meeting these very unique and open-minded people could only happen through me traveling to Korea. This experience will forever shape my perception of the world.
Travel Noire: Do you feel like you have been treated differently because you are black and from a different country?
Salena: So far, I cannot confidently say that I have been treated any differently due to my being black or from a different country. In fact, I feel less stigmatized because of my race here than I did while in America. For example, when walking down the streets or entering stores in America people would constantly stare at me. Even in my workplace, I did not feel welcomed even though I had been there for three years. In Daegu, Korea, surprisingly no one stares at me in the same way as in America. The stares I get here are like “Oh, a foreigner, interesting!” whereas in America I would get “Oh, what is she doing here?” You can definitely feel the difference and it is refreshing to live in a country where race wasn’t the primary structure for its social class and well-being.
I haven’t faced any particular challenges as of yet. This is not to say that I will not eventually face any challenges, but right now I have not been faced with any extreme circumstances because of my race.
Travel Noire: What impact has this experience had on your life?
Salena: This stay abroad is tremendously altering the way in which I see the world. I have a much broader view and understanding of how although people are different and live on the other side of the world, we are pretty much the same. This is something I always believed in, but it became even more apparent after living abroad and becoming accustomed to the daily lifestyle here.
Travel Noire: Would you encourage other black travelers to visit this destination?
Salena: Yes, I would recommend other black travelers visit Daegu, South Korea! It is truly an interesting experience that will influence the way you look at the world. If you have the financial ability, get your passports! It is something that will truly challenge your perspective of your place in this world :).