Travel Noire has always been committed to showcasing black travelers that inspire others to see more of the world. Abena shares how her frustration with graduate school lead her to unleash her inner globetrotter.
Travel Noire: Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
My heritage is Ghanaian but I was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I currently live in “The City of Brotherly Love.”
Travel Noire: When did traveling become more than a hobby for you?
In 2016, I was apathetic about grad school, frustrated at work, and asking myself “Is this the life I signed up for?” I realized if I was unwilling to find contentment in my current situation I had to change it. I left my fulltime position for a part-time remote gig and changed my major to one that did not have an on-campus requirement. With that, I finally had the flexibility to travel more frequently. Last year I explored rice fields in Ubud, navigated the streets of Old Havana, crossed the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border, scuba-dived near Koh Phi Phi and decided that one day I won’t have to return home.
Travel Noire: What are your favorite destinations to travel abroad and why?
I have traveled to 39 countries so far, but three stand out as my favorite. The hospitality and pace of Bali won me over. The passion and vibrancy of Cartagena, Columbia stole my heart. And lastly, the splendor of the Central Anatolia region of Turkey made me seriously consider canceling my return flight back to the U.S. Although I have enjoyed the other destinations I have visited, in these countries I sensed the possibility of new begins in places that already felt like home.
Travel Noire: What are your top three travel secrets that black travelers should know?
Black travel or black expat communities on social media are filled with friends you have to meet and a wealth of knowledge. Don’t just like pictures. Post your travel plans somewhere in the feed or comment section. At the least, you’ll get great destination specific advice, but you could also connect with someone who will be in the area during your stay like I did when traveling to Colombia.
Search for your ticket in hidden or incognito mode. Airline carriers raise prices for you based on your ticket searches by tracking cookies or data that your browser sends out.
GET MOBILE PASSPORT. It’s free and allows you to breeze through customs at participating airports.
Travel Noire: How did traveling change your perspective on life?
I began traveling the world in search of joy, adventure, and beauty. However, my adventures abroad have taught me that I create this type of lifestyle no matter where life takes me. Traveling has shown me that there really is beauty everywhere, even in everyone, if one bothers to look.
Travel Noire: What has been your most inspiring travel moment?
It’s hard to choose one. I think instances where my faith in humanity is restored inspire me to travel and connect with others even more. For example, I was having a pretty difficult experience last spring as a traveled through Europe. Cold weather re-routed my itinerary and I missed one bus earlier on in the trip. During this leg of my journey I planned to travel from Italy to Slovenia. Unfortunately, getting to the bus station outside of Venice took a little longer than expected. I lugged my carry-on off the ferry in time to see my bus pull out of the terminal. If I didn’t catch this bus I would miss a connection to Croatia. In desperation, I decided to hitch hike. A man in a jeep pulled over, and after frantically explaining my dilemma in broken Italian ( I know one word) and hand gestures, he agreed to take me to the bus’s next stop. About 25 minutes later, I was on my way to Slovenia because of a kind soul who refused to take any money for his trouble.
Travel Noire: What’s one item that you always have in your carry-on?
Even though I travel with nothing larger than a tote that can fit underneath an airline seat, I NEVER leave home without a light-weight travel tripod. I’m a solo traveler and I love capturing beautiful images of the places I visit with my smartphone (iPhone 7). However, without a tripod, my pictures would depend on the kindness and/or photography skills of a stranger. No thanks.
Travel Noire: What advice do you have for black travelers traveling abroad?
Don’t buy into a single story or narrative when considering traveling abroad, especially as a person of color. Everyone’s experience is unique even in areas that have a reputation of being unfriendly to black travelers. So visit a destination with an open heart and optimism, and watch dope stuff happen.
Travel Noire: Where are you off to next?
Panama in February 2018!
Follow Abena on Instagram: @beautifully.flawed.one