Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have been traveling the world longer than many of us have been born. The couple has seen and done things around the globe that one can only dream of. Whether it’s being asked to come and speak in Colombia by the State Department or personally being asked to come to South Africa by the late Nelson Mandela, the Kinsey’s are the epitome of travel goals.
It all started when Mr. Kinsey took a job to become the first Black park ranger at the Grand Canyon in 1965. “This opened up a new world for me,” Mr. Kinsey told Travel Noire.”It showed me a way to actually satisfy the dreams I had of seeing the world.”
When the Kinsey’s met and married, they made it a priority to travel together from the beginning. The plan was to have Mrs. Kinsey put her paycheck aside while Mr. Kinsey used his checks to pay for bills. This allowed them to save up a large sum of money over time. “When you build your foundation first, you can literally do anything you want from there,” Mr. Kinsey said.
“Our first big trip was a 3-week tour around South America in 1976,” the Kinseys explain. “During that trip we saw several countries including Colombia, Brazil, and Paraguay.” The couple was able to find deals and take trips with tour companies at that time.
They had about 3 weeks per year to take off from work and they were intentional about using it to travel internationally at least once every year.
One can only wonder what it was like for two, young African Americans to travel the world in a time when Blacks weren’t always well-received. “We haven’t really had a lot of issues traveling as Black Americans, even in the late 70’s and early 80’s. It has mostly been a lot of curiosity. People ask things like “what are you doing here?” But no matter what, we were always nice to the people we met, and that went a long way.”
Mr. Kinsey talks about a memorable moment when they traveled to China for the first time in 1980. “China was just opening up as far as welcoming tourists. The locals were extremely interested in learning English. There was one point when my wife had about 50 people swarming her just to try to practice English.”
“We would go down for breakfast each morning and all they had was boiled eggs. Well, being American I wanted some scrambled eggs too. I went into the kitchen and showed the staff how to make scrambled eggs for the first time. Every morning after that, they knew exactly how to make them.”
Over the course of their 50 years of traveling, the couple has been able to experience many moments just like that. They credit it to simply giving a quick smile, even if you don’t know the language where you are.
“We try to leave something with the people that we meet all over the world. People don’t care about what you know until they know that you care,” Mr. Kinsey explains.
The great part about their travels, is that they collect memorabilia everywhere they go that tells the story of African American history. Over the years they have been able to build their own museum that is now seen and displayed all over the world. You can read more about it here.
The Kinsey’s have easily been to well over 100 countries in their lifetime and have traveled to many places multiple times. Their favorite destination is Italy.
“We’ve probably been to Italy around nineteen times by now. We plan to go every year. There’s something that I feel there that I just don’t feel anywhere else,” Mrs. Kinsey said.
The couple has gained many friends turned family throughout their travels around the world. When you sit and listen to the wealth of knowledge and the stories that they are able to share, your mind is truly blown.