Travel Noire has always been about showcasing black travelers that inspire others to see more of the world. L.A.-based photographer Elton Anderson Jr. shares how travel gave him the confidence to live a bold life.
Travel Noire: Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
Elton: I was born-and-raised in Detroit but I’ve been L.A.-based for the last 5 years.
Travel Noire: When did traveling become more than a hobby for you?
Elton: I got my first passport back in 2008 at the age of 26 and decided that Jamaica would be my first destination! It was a great trip but I don’t really remember getting the travel bug. It wasn’t until 2009 when I joined my friend James on a philanthropic trip to Swaziland that my life changed. Not only did I get to experience a new culture, but I also had a chance to impact a few lives through service. After that I was fearless and that philanthropic job lead to several paid travel gigs to countries like Taiwan, Nigeria, St. Lucia and Senegal.
Travel Noire: Where do you like to travel abroad?
Elton: There are so many but I’ll just give you 3!
I’ve visited Brazil four times so it would have to be number one on my list. The beaches, the food, the people and the relaxed vibe are unmatched AND it’s super cheap. I usually head to Rio but last year I got a chance to visit Salvador de Bahia as well…this is a MUST for black travelers. Bahia’s culture is filled with tons of West African influence and the people have the darkest skin I’ve seen in Brazil. There is nothing like seeing hundreds of beautiful, black, melaninated people all hanging out on the beach together.
Tanzania, specifically Zanzibar, is another favorite! Located on the eastern coast of Africa, Tanzania has soooo much to offer. First of all, we flew into the Serengeti, which is in Northern Tanzania, and immediately went on the most amazing Safari I’ve ever seen. Then we headed over to Zanzibar which has been high on my list for years. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome the beaches and sunsets were. I’m also big on culture, so being able to interact with the Maasai people was a plus.
I lied… I’m going to give you a three way tie for #3 on my list — Chile, Iceland and Vietnam! I try to do at least one solo trip every year and absolutely loved visiting these countries by myself. Chilean’s LOVE black people and the country’s landscape is so diverse as well as the food. Iceland is a photographer’s dream! I rented a car and just explored the country and its beautiful sites. There is so much more to Iceland than just the Blue Lagoon. Vietnam has great food and I got a chance to spend two nights in a Sapa Valley village. It was so peaceful and I also rented a scooter to explore and interact with the people.
Travel Noire: What are your top three travel secrets that black travelers should know?
Elton: ONLY pack a carry on! Trust me, you do not need six pairs of shoes and 17 shirts. The less you take the better and you can always buy things as needed.
Get a Charles Schwab checking account! If you ever need to take money out while traveling abroad they pay your ATM fees, which can rack up. I don’t like the whole currency exchange thing, so ATMs are my go-to. They also pay you interest on your money so it’s a win/win.
Go on a solo trip. It’s great for the soul and can inspire you in ways you never imagined.
Travel Noire: How did traveling change your perspective on life?
Elton: Travel, especially solo travel, has removed a lot of fears that I’ve had in the past and showed me the importance of creating the life you want. When I quit my job to pursue photography I was terrified but travel showed me that your best life is on the other side of your comfort zone.
Travel Noire: What has been your most inspiring travel moment?
Elton: Definitely this year when I was chosen to star in a Chase Sapphire Commercial. I had no dreams of being an actor or being in front of the camera at all but a casting director had been following my travels and thought I’d be perfect for the spot. The flew me all the way to Uganda to go gorilla trekking, something that was high on my bucket list, and paid me to do it! I realized that anything was possible and nothing is more surreal than being face-to-face with a silverback gorilla.
Travel Noire: What’s one item that you aways have in your carry-on?
Elton: I always have a camera. I mean, duh, I’m a photographer. Floss would be #2.
Travel Noire: What advice do you have for black travelers traveling abroad?
Elton: Be more open-minded and please push the African continent higher on your list! I have had some of my richest travel experiences in countries like Senegal, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Botswana. People often think of Africa as a monolith when in fact it has some of the most diverse cultures and countries I’ve seen to date.
Travel Noire: Where are you off to next?
Elton: I’m actually staying stateside until my huge birthday trip in March. Thirty of my closest friends are joining me in Bali so it should be a lot of fun!