Asia, People, Reflection
Diary Of A Black Traveler: Ari Feels The Love In Seoul, South Korea
By Travel Noire
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. Ari shares what it was like experiencing the vibrant city of Seoul, South Korea as a black traveler.
Travel Noire: What was the significance of your trip to Seoul, South Korea?
Ari: I wanted to try a completely new culture and test myself on my first solo travel experience.
Travel Noire: Did you connect with the destination on a personal level due to your black heritage?
Ari: I connected with my heritage and my skin color, but it was also unexpected and unintentional. I stood out in this country, as to be expected. But it was incredible to see people marvel at my skin color and hair. To be excited to talk to me about the trips they’d taken to Africa or America. To try to connect with me with music, culture, and history. I’ve never felt as celebrated as I did on that trip and it made me remember why I love being black.
Travel Noire: Did you feel like you were treated differently because you were black and from a different country?
Ari: I definitely felt I was treated differently because I was black and a foreigner, but mostly in a positive way. There is a fair share of racism in Asian countries, but for the most part, people were simply shocked to see me as I walked through less touristy areas. I would get a lot of unabashed stares and a lot of excitement. I enjoyed it.
Travel Noire: What challenges did you face (if any) because you were black and how did you overcome them?
Ari: Being constantly stared at was definitely a challenge. I’m used to the ability to become invisible at home, but it’s impossible to blend in there. It was frustrating during the first few days, but I came to enjoy it and just pretended like I was a celebrity. It reframed the entire experience for me.
Travel Noire: How did this experience help you grow?
Ari: I grew much more comfortable in my own skin, flaws and all. I felt that if I could handle a solo trip to a country where no one looks like me and still make friends, have a good time, and not worry about what I looked like, then I could handle anything back in America.
Travel Noire: What impact has your trip to South Korea had on your life?
Ari: I don’t feel inhibited or constrained when I plan new trips. I always feel that however many people are unwelcoming in a place, there’s always an equal amount of people who are excited about you and your culture. I think more black people should travel and I’m excited to be a part of changing the perception of us and our culture overseas.
Travel Noire: Would you encourage other black travelers to visit South Korea?
Ari: Yes! The culture is amazing and you’ll be treated like a guest! Also, always be ready for a photo!
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