Diary Of A Black Traveler: How Tondra Became Fearless In Thailand
PUBLISHED: March 21, 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. Tondra (@ dejavugirle) tells Travel Noire how her experience visiting Thailand made her more confident exploring the world solo.
Travel Noire: Why did you decide to go to Thailand?
Tondra: This was actually a trip before a trip with Travel Noire. I was celebrating my birthday and had always wanted to visit Thailand. Since I was scheduled to be in Bali I decided this was the time to go. Planning and preparing did not allow me to get excited. That didn’t happen until the day I arrived. The night before I left I was actually anxious and scared when it hit me that I would be in a foreign country on my own. I literally started tearing up when I was in the nail salon the night before I left. With a pep talk from my bestie, I pulled it together.
Travel Noire: Did you connect with the destination on a personal level due to your black heritage?
Tondra: I did not connect heritage wise but the warmth and genuine kindness of the Thai people I encountered made me feel welcome and at home.
Travel Noire: Did you feel like you were treated differently because you were black and from a different country?
Tondra: You stand out in Asian countries as an African American. I was worried that it would make me an easy target. Some people gave me strange looks…(more so in Bangkok) but for the most part, I blended in oddly enough.
Travel Noire: What challenges did you face (if any) because you were black and how did you overcome them?
Tondra: Blatantly being a tourist by appearance makes you self-conscious. If you are lost it’s obvious…it’s no faking it. It’s rare to see someone that looks like you to provide a safety net. Moments when I wasn’t quite sure where I was or if I had reached the right destination brought about a lot of anxiety since I knew I stood out. I tapped into the pep talk that my friend and I had. ” You grew up in Philly… you have street smarts…if you can make it there…Thailand is a cake walk”. She was right.
Travel Noire: How did you grow from overcoming the challenges mentioned above?
Tondra: Given that this was my first solo trip to a place where I definitely could not speak the language and did not look like the citizens, I learned how fearless I can be. I gained a new insight into humanity as well. You have to trust in the good of humanity when you are in the vulnerable position of not knowing the language or the nuances of the city you are visiting. I also was very humbled. Trying to get something as simple as your everyday coffee can be hard. I will never look at a “foreign” person in the US the same now that I had a major glimpse of the courage it takes and the challenges encountered.
Travel Noire: What impact has that trip had on your life?
Tondra: I am no longer fearful of solo travel and I’m also not intimidated by any destination. I have learned that society will make you fearful of certain places because of where you come from or what you look like but you have to experience it for yourself. Most of those “beliefs” are misguided stereotypes.
Travel Noire: Would you encourage other black travelers to visit this destination?
Tondra: Absolutely! Thailand was safe…rich in culture…welcoming…and nurturing.