This is the rudest question I am asked right after, “ Why do you travel by yourself?” These questions exude jealousy and project covert power dynamics. Would you ask someone how they afford their rent or nice bags? Whenever people ask me how I afford to travel, I fight the urge to respond with something sarcastic like: “Do you mean how I, a BLACK immigrant woman who arrived in the US as a non-English speaker and earns 68 cents to the white man’s DOLLAR could possibly AFFORD to travel to places like Colombia and Trinidad & Tobago? Is that what you’re asking me?” This is the underlying message. I’m not supposed to be in a financial or socioeconomic position to afford the luxury of travel by choice.
Travel by choice is expensive. My vaccinations for an upcoming trip to Latin America will cost me $300 out-of-pocket because health insurance companies in the US rarely cover vaccinations required for travel. Hey, if you’re fortunate enough to even have health insurance, paid vacation days and can afford a ticket, you’ll be able to fork up a couple of bucks for meager vaccines, right? Vaccinations, visas, and flights can be very costly. Travel by choice remains a luxury for most, including myself. I try to mitigate the costs by traveling during the off-season, working a second job and paying off major debt. However, it’s absolutely possible.
I pay all of my bills and credit cards before a vacation. I will never get into debt just so I can travel and stunt for social media. I do not promote financial recklessness. People assume that I’m spending rent money on Carnival which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve been saving for my 2020 travels since 2018. I bought my ticket and booked my Airbnb six months in advance because Trinidad Carnival is the most famous—and one of the most expensive—carnivals in the world. Planning in advance has proven to be much more cost-effective. Travel by choice is a priority, so I treat it as such.
As a Black woman, I travel to places where I look like the women working in housekeeping or other low-wage service roles. When I was in Colombia, no one assumed I was a tourist. They assumed I was an Afro-Colombiana. Upon discovering I was an American tourist, they treated me better. Suddenly, they wanted to protect me. I was La Reina (a queen). I share more in common with the locals than with white tourists. Being in Colombia, I marveled at being surrounded by people whose melanin, familial embrace and hip movements mirrored my own. I shared so many precious moments with my fellow Black people who are also living outside the continent.
I’m excited to continue documenting and exploring this world from a Black feminist perspective. I will be doing more traveling beginning in February 2020, and I can’t wait to share these experiences with you all. Thank you for reading and please share, comment and subscribe. Support the first Somali feminist solo female travel blog.