Dr. Tony J. Atwater is a small-town guy who knew at an early age that he wanted to get out and see what the world had to offer. The 31-year-old from Forsyth, GA now resides in Atlanta, where he works as an education professional and also as a personal trainer and nutritionist.

“I always aspired to leave my hometown and see the world,” he told Travel Noire. “There I felt like a shark in a fish tank. I knew there had to be more out there, and I wanted to discover it.”

Tony began traveling and discovering the world in 2016.

“It took me some time to start traveling because I did not have anyone to travel with. My friends either weren’t interested in seeing the world or their work schedules did not allow them to have the time off that I had. I finally took a leap of faith and ventured off by myself to Jamaica. This was the best thing I could have done.”

Photo courtesy of Dr. Tony Atwater

“Desiring to see the world and learning more about cultures made me gravitate to traveling. As a child I was drawn to foreigners and I could sit and listen to them talk about their unique upbringing for hours. I knew traveling would inspire my fashion, help me to be more open-minded, and also help me to be a more well-grounded man.”

Tony has traveled to 36 states and various countries, including Thailand, Cuba, Costa Rica, Turkey, Jamaica, Greece, the Bahamas, China, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. He says Thailand has been his favorite travel destination thus far.

“I stayed in Thailand for 11 days and traveled to Bangkok, Pattaya City, Ratchaburi, Kamphaeng Phet, and Ubon Ratchathani. The experience was amazing. The food was a delight. The restaurants were great, but the street market food hit the spot every time.”

Photo courtesy of Dr. Tony Atwater

“The people in Thailand were extremely friendly. I received the best service I ever received in my life while visiting. I did get plenty of stares and many people wanting to take pictures, but it was no disrespect. They were excited to see an African American man. In my entire time visiting I did not see any other Black people.”

“Everywhere except Greece has treated me like a king. I’m accustomed to the stares and people pointing anytime I’m at a beach in Speedos, but in Greece you would have thought I was a foreign animal at the beach the way some people looked at me.”

“Also, there was a beach club that my two friends and I were standing in line to enter. We were refused access because of our ‘attire’ even though we were dressed just the same as everyone else in line. Later, the bouncer said if we did not purchase a section we could not enter. After requesting to purchase one we were still denied. I could tell this was their effort to keep us out of their establishment.”

Although Tony eventually found friends to travel with, he still enjoys traveling solo and is glad he made the decision to take his first trip alone.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Tony Atwater.

“I do not mind traveling with friends or a significant other, because experiencing new locations with loved ones is always a blast. But my best travel moments are solo. I love to create my own itinerary and venture off alone.”

“When I travel I have already researched the destination, things to do, places to eat, and great picturesque areas for photos. It may seem selfish, but I love to wake up early and get a good workout in, leave my resort to sightsee, and experience the destination at my own pace.”

“If you ever find yourself lonely when traveling solo, you can always befriend some locals. When I traveled to Greece with friends, I ended up getting separated from them in Santorini. A large festival was taking place that day and somehow I lost them in a crowd. I searched everywhere but I still could not find them. I had been taking pictures all day so my phone was dead.”

Photo courtesy of Dr. Tony Atwater.

“I met a group of girls who sparked a conversation with me. They were so nice and even took photos for me on their phones and emailed them to me. I was having so much fun with them I almost forgot that I was lost. I ended up finding my friends later in the day at a taxi stand.”

Tony credits travel with opening his eyes and expanding his thinking. “When I travel my creative juices begin to flow and I am able to think of innovative ideas, learn new concepts, and gain fashion insight. Travel increases my adaptation skills and allows me to relate to others more easily. Each destination births a new level of me.”

Tony is looking forward to traveling to Peru, Honduras, and Brazil this April.

“I’m still kind of bummed that my Bali, Indonesia, and Singapore trip has been canceled twice, however, I can’t wait to indulge in the South American culture!”

Follow Tony’s travels at @tony_the_explorer.