In 2012 I found myself in tears as I slowly descended into Cape Town, South Africa’s airport. I was arriving in Africa for the first time and somehow, despite weeks of planning, the magnitude of being a young black woman traveling alone had escaped me. My first glimpse of the motherland rang in my mind as an epic personal accomplishment. In that moment, I had not only closed the gap on thousands of miles to arrive at my destination, but also hundreds of years of separation.
My trip to Cape Town would go on to be one of the best experiences of my life, even with many trips prior and proceeding. It changed something within me. The sense of inclusion and friendship I found amongst the people I met–both native South Africans and other black travelers–seemed effortless. Excursions to Robin Island and local townships opened my eyes. The joy I felt taking in the physical beauty of Cape Town felt like heaven on earth. It was like I had found a missing piece of myself. As every moment felt like a culmination of the past, present and future, these experiences helped reveal to me what it truly means to be a traveler of color.
I have carried the insights I gained in Cape Town on every trip I have taken since, like an irreplaceable piece of luggage. Now, amongst sight-seeing, it is always my mission to find community, build relationships and write my own history in a new place. Sharing meaningful experiences between the generations of my family has also been one of the best things to evolve from my experience in Africa. Taking an annual trip to a new destination with my mother and grandmother has help me learn so much about the women who raised me as well as myself. I look forward to sharing such experiences with my children and their children one day.
While you don’t have to go to Africa to unlock your sense of community within the diaspora (you can go anywhere!), I do think it is important to cherish the idea that travel is grounded in our heritage and can serve as a platform for enlightenment. All month long Travel Noire has highlighted many trailblazers of color in celebration of Black History Month. Gracious thanks for the Matthew Hensons, Malcolm Xs, Jill E. Browns and Sophia Danenbergs who elevated their understanding of the world and themselves through travel. And shoutout to the new wave of black travelers doing the same.