Colombia is an incredibly rich country and has the third largest Black population after Brazil and the U.S. I received a lot of attention there because Black female solo travelers aren’t very common. I asked my tour guide who’s Afro-Colombian why I stood out. He said matter-of-factly: “You dress too nice.”
Colombia is the first country in the African diaspora I’ve traveled to since my family emigrated to the U.S. 22 years ago. Colombians are infamous for their generosity and warmth. I toured the first city for free Black people in South America. I went paragliding above Pablo Escobar’s house. I even climbed the world’s second largest rock. Here are 5 things I learned about solo travel in Colombia.
1. The most difficult border to cross is the U.S. border
Traveling has exposed just how cumbersome it is to cross the U.S. border. The U.S. immigration system criminalizes and profits from mass detainment of asylum-seekers and immigrants fleeing countries dissolved by genocide, civil unrest, and U.S.-backed dictatorships. Borders exist to contain migration from poor Black and Brown countries. I knew I was finally back in the US when the customs agent asked me which country I was a citizen of while holding my American passport.
2. Choosing faith over fear is liberating
I wasn’t at all scared walking around Medellín or Cartagena at night. I went out nearly every night solo and met people in salsa clubs, on tinder dates and tours. With the insurgence of violence in the U.S, traveling is one of the few parts of my life where I can benefit from being an American citizen so I will enjoy it while I still can. Because of my passport privilege, I enjoyed some of the perks of being a Western tourist. Although, I did experience harassment from officials who demanded proof I was “legal.”
3. Documenting Black Liberation is My Calling
In Colombia, I realized that my true calling is to document Black liberation as a solo female traveler. As I was walking around in Cartagena, I felt a shift occur. I am excited to travel across the African diaspora and document my experiences, struggles and movements toward Black liberation.
4. Haiti wasn’t the only settlement for free Black people
When I went to San Basilio de Palenque with Real Cartagena tours, I learned that it was the first city for free Black people in South America. I also learned about how enslaved African women utilized hair braiding as a way to map their escapes. The people in this town don’t speak Spanish. They’ve managed to preserve their indigenous languages during and after the Middle Passage. In spite of the enslavement, displacement, and marginalization they’ve faced, Afro-Colombians continue to fight for representation and visibility in Colombia. I am committed to contributing to tourism in the African diaspora by supporting companies that directly give back like Real Cartagena Tours.
5. Traveling by choice is the ultimate luxury
Most travel narratives exclude refugees, asylum-seekers and migrant workers. The assumption that everyone travels by choice is a white supremacist construct. More people are forced to migrate due to civil wars, natural disasters, and failed policies like NAFTA than those searching for leisure. We need to decolonize travel writing that perpetuates racist narratives and erases the plight of communities underdeveloped by tourism. Traveling by choice and not because my livelihood depends on it is a luxury that I still can’t believe I get to experience.
10 thoughts on “Gabar Goes Global: 5 Things I Learned about Solo Travel in Colombia”
Thank you for this post and blog. It’s refreshing to read a Somali woman living her life and paving her own way while dealing with the typical obstacles of a first generation Somali frmale in the western world. Please continue writing!
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Thank you, Amina, for the sweet message!! I really do enjoy sharing a different perspective on issues that impact us. Your kind words mean a lot! ❤
It’s super clear this blog has everything to do with showing your altered instagram photos and getting adulation. Too much “Me! Me!” statements and pics of you tryna look fabulous. Ease up about self and write about issues.
Hi Halima! Thank you for the comment. This blog IS about me! Have a blessed day! 😉
Hi Fadumo I’m really grateful to you for writing about your journey to and in Colombia and my only regret is that it’s too short! That said I thoroughly enjoyed it and well done on highlighting the history and life of the Afro Colombian community in Colombia. I really love Colombia and I hope to visit it soon. You’re an inspiration abaayo and don’t listen to haters aka Halima Aden above 🙄 you’re doing great breaking free as a Somali woman and I love you for it ❤️❤️❤️
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Hi Jijo!! Thank you SO much for this incredibly kind comment! I can’t wait to share more of my travels on here! You definitely have to go, InshAllah! I hope all of us break free and live the life of our own choosing!!! ❤️
Great blog! Thank you for educating me about your experience as a Somali woman. We really need to have more of these stories.
I always love it when black people connect with each other, learn from each other. Can’t wait to read about your next experience..:-)
Thank you so much!!! Yes, I am so happy I found your blog. I just followed you back!! I look forward to sharing more on GabarIskuFilan and learning about the Surinamese experience. 🙂
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Hi qalbi qurux😊. Beautifully written. I was so moved by your words, jealous at times, very proud of you because traveling is my passion & I love doin solo stuff