The Black Expat: Mastering Living Abroad Without Giving Up Life Back Home
By DeAnna Taylor
Alexia, a 29-year old attorney from North Carolina, has mastered living abroad without completely giving up her life and career in America. She spends up to 6 months at a time living in Nairobi, Kenya.
Her career as an attorney allows her some flexibility when it comes to traveling and living abroad.
We had the chance to speak with her more about the steps she took to live in Kenya.
Travel Noire: What motivated you to take time off to travel to Africa?
Alexia: I traveled to Africa for the first time in 2013 while studying abroad at the University of Western Cape in Cape Town. From that point, there was an ever-present tug to return to Africa. I returned in 2015 and visited Kenya. I only stayed three and a half weeks and upon leaving, I felt that I was leaving a piece of me there. I felt I had unfinished business, and decided before leaving that I would return in a year to give living in Kenya a try.
Travel Noire: You briefly touched on this, but why did you choose Kenya?
Alexia: I chose Nairobi, Kenya because it felt familiar and more like home than South Africa. The people were friendly, the cost of living was super affordable, and the food was amazing. It was also a busier city with nice nightlife.
Travel Noire: How did you find housing for your time there?
Alexia: I talked to a few female friends that I met on my previous trip, and asked their advice on a safe neighborhood. Both friends suggested Kasarani. I initially stayed at an Airbnb that I booked before arriving in Kenya, for a week and a half. I researched crime in Kasarani, and set out on foot thru the neighborhood when I arrived, with one of my friends who suggested the area. She also lived in that neighborhood.
Travel Noire: Can you explain any Visa requirements for American citizens in Kenya?
Alexia: A tourist visa is required for U.S. citizens. The tourist visa is valid for three months with a one-time extension of an additional three months. I later purchased the East African Tourist Visa to visit Uganda and Rwanda. I kept my stay at only six months due to the tourist visa constraints. You are typically instructed to leave the country and return after six months OR apply for permanent residency. I do hope to reside in Africa one day.
Travel Noire: Do you feel “at home” when you are in Africa?
Alexia: Yes, I feel at home when in Africa. My spirit seems happiest and at peace in the land of my ancestors. The feeling is not easily articulable, but I would advise you to go to the Motherland and see for yourself.
Travel Noire: What challenges do you face being a Black American as opposed to a native, when visiting?
Alexia: There are several challenges one faces as an African-American in Africa. Swahili is the main language and when one realizes you don’t speak Swahili, you are labeled “mzungu” which some see as a chance to upcharge you or a few may even try to take advantage of you. However, 80% of the population speaks English in addition to Swahili and a tribal language.
Some natives have negative views of African Americans based on the media. They may even try to say things like “what’s up my n-word” or ask you to sponsor them.
Travel Noire: What are the positives?
Alexia: Many locals are genuinely helpful and excited about meeting you, a sibling from afar. I also get the chance to educate others on the miseducation and misinformation of the media.
Travel Noire: Do you have any tips for our readers looking to do something similar?
Alexia: Travel, spend, and live like a local. When you live as an expat, it limits your perception and blows your budget. Housing around typical expat neighborhoods ranges from $800- $2000. I was able to find housing, pay for WIFI monthly, and load up my monthly electricity for $200 per month. I lived in a middle to working-class area.
Since the area was middle-class, I could eat lunch and dinner for $1.50 on average at a neighborhood diner. When I visited Expat neighborhoods, I spent at least $15-$20 on a meal. I also cut expenses when I use the “matatu” (local bus). The cost ranged from $.30 – $1.00, whereas Uber would cost up to $12 each way to get into town.
Travel Noire: Where can readers find you on social media?
Alexia: You can find me on Instagram at roamwide_soarhigh.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel writer. The Charlotte native recently completed one year abroad working as an English teacher in South Korea. Her hobbies include fitness, traveling to new countries, and trying new foods.