It’s been a while (again)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post. Not because I haven’t wanted to but because I’ve been lazy.

I could make excuses but I wont.

Did life get in the way? Has work been super busy? Has Coronavirus turned the world on its head? Has the mind been boggled by current events around Black lives matter? They’ve all been a part of my life but it’s still no excuse.

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Acting Black While Abroad

How does one act black while abroad? Is your hair in braids? Are you wearing wild prints? Do you say ain’t?

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To me, those aren’t black things. They are just things people do but somehow, doing it makes you stand out.

I recently had a conversation with my friend about this as race is still ever prominent in today’s society. From Kanye shouting about slavery being a choice; to Trump calling countries in Africa a sh*t hole, the dialogue is something I’m aware of. I find it exhausting as a black american female but it’s even more tiring when it concerns travel.

Traveling is usually done for fun. It’s a leisure activity that is packed with new cultures, adventure and possible ways for training your brain to look at the world. It’s not supposed be stressful. Granted, when I’m on vacation I’m a bit on edge trying to stay vigilant about scammers, pickpockets and high prices. But why oh why do I need to worry about representing a race or having people mistreat me while abroad?

Now, I don’t truly worry about this but it is a thought that pops up when I notice I’m the only one in the room.

As I said, I recently had a conversation with my friend about this. I was curious to know if she felt like she needed to be on her best behavior. Her response? She said that she only ever got an inkling of that when she was in European countries but in places like the Caribbean or perhaps Africa, she felt there would be less scrutiny over her attitude and demeanor. For the most part, she felt at ease on her trips but she wanted to make sure that she didn’t give the wrong impression. It made me think whether other black travelers felt this way too. Did they feel that they had to put on a performance or be anything other than themselves?

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Whenever I travel, I try to be the best me possible. I’m not worried about being watched or having someone call me out for being black. That’s totally ridiculous! And anyways, I had to get used to other people calling me an Oreo while growing up. I was told I wasn’t behaving like a black girl in my speech, what I liked to do, what I liked to watch, who I had crushes on, everything. It made me feel weird. I didn’t know how to take it but eventually, I realized that what they said didn’t matter. No one race acts in one particular way or even carries the same traits. I shouldn’t have to worry about people (black, blue, white or brown) thinking I’m living up or living down to their expectations of black people.

Last December in Morocco, I blogged that it was pretty hectic. But another thing I mentioned was that with my box braids, a lot of the locals called me a Rasta. Braids aren’t dreads and I’m not a Rasta. The point of this? I had no idea that I was being judged for my hair and that I was representing Jamaicans. I did feel that I stood out in some way but I was trying to represent, I was there to explore. I was there to see a new place through my eyes and walk the city and do whatever felt.

Vacations are supposed to be a break from reality, but then again, you can’t escape life. Maybe you can only dodge a few everyday annoyances and thinking that you can get a true break from nonsense is a dream.

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What I’m trying to say is that we aren’t all one way. We are all individual no matter the race and that people need to see past color. I’m not on my best behavior when I travel because I’m black and want to represent, I behave the way I do so that I can just leave a good impression of myself. No one else. I guess I just want others to feel the same. I want others to travel and just enjoy because traveling is fun.

Wear your hair in braids and do what’s comfortable to you is what I say. What do you guys think?

 

 

Unknown Facts About Camden Town

Most people think of Camden when they think about the modern music scene in London. It’s one of the places Amy Winehouse is famous for. It boasts a grungy punk vibe but it’s also super colorful and filled with A LOT of food and handmade goods. But would you have known that without visiting? I’m sharing some unknown bits about Camden (or surprising facts I wish I knew before I got there). It my help you better plan your visit.

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The streets are alive with color and unique designs.

As soon as you step off the tube at Camden Town and head towards the market, you’ll see the buildings come alive! There’s one building especially vibrant (at least to me), it’s an office space that has a “green plant” wall and the bottom half colored to look like a rainbow. It’s gorgeous.  There are also tattoo parlors and shoe shops that are painted bright yellow, blue, purple and more with big sculptures adhered to the front of the buildings. You’ll find dragoons, big shoes and other random items. So much color.

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You should also know that Camden Market is wired. Free WiFi! Why am I excited? Free WiFi was harder to come by in London than it is right now. I mean, I still find it hard but they’ve really stepped it up. Especially in Camden. Go to your settings and connect to the Camden Market WiFi by filling out a brief online survey. After agreeing to terms, you can literally Instagram, Livestream or look up restaurant reviews.

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This is important while traveling because sometimes you may have little or no coverage. In the market, you can work out of one of the coffee shops or sit outside on a nice day at an open table and stream bits. And no matter where you go in the market, the WiFi works. I loved this when I stopped at PanBam and had a rose chai latte.

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I found a life size Amy Winehouse!

This one is a small unknown fact, at least to me. There is an Amy Winehouse statue! I walked by it once and completely missed it but on my second pass, I just caught it. It’s about 5 ft tall and had colorful flowers and pieces styled on the statue (I think a fan did that). But it was super cute. Definitely worth seeing, it only requires you to walk further into the market.

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There’s also a lot of food as mentioned earlier. Don’t waste your time getting lunch before going there (like I did). Instead, go to the market a get a slice of pizza, asian cuisine, fish and chips from Poppies and so much more. Prices vary so you can spend as much as you want for whatever you have a taste for. The desserts in the area are also vast – vegan donuts, hearty cupcakes, ice cream, waffles with sweet sauces – so much!

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One last surprising fact – Camden Town has so many fake designer items. There are lots of little shops lining the streets selling fake Chanel, Gucci, Prada and whoever bags. They look cute but boy, I did not expect to be surrounded by so many fakes.

All in all, Camden Town was a great time. I spent a total of £30 pounds that day in the market. 10 for transportation, 10 for some cool sunglasses and the rest on a mini cupcake, a chai rose tea and a sandwich from Waitrose. For a closer look at the neighborhood, you should see my video now. See here.

What do you think of Camden Town? Worth visiting or is it a pass? If you have any questions or think I left out an unknown, let me know below!

#InternationalWomen’sDay And My Rights To Travel

To some, my life might seem extraordinary. To others, I’m just a random person who crossed their path and nothing more.

Right, now I’m sitting in a Starbucks in London. Sipping on a coffee and typing out a blog post on my laptop. I just had a mediocre experience at Elan Cafe (more on that in another post) and walked down the streets littered with high end shops, peering at sparkly diamonds and clothing I’ll likely never be able to afford.

A girl from the ghettos of the Bronx, this is some achievement. No one would have guessed I could venture this far. Well not no one, but many wouldn’t have guessed this outcome for me. I didn’t really guess this outcome for myself. As a “poor” black female, how would I be able to travel and experience a life so distant from my upbringing?

With International Women’s day just around the corner, it’s made me think about the significance of that celebratory day and what it means to me as a “poor” black female.

International Women’s Day is March 8th. It’s a day marked on the calendar to celebrate the women’s right movement. A movement that helped awaken the world to the rights that females deserve and are inherent to us as people. Now, women all over the world still don’t have all of their inherent rights which is awful. We need to make more progress but the achievements we have made, they certainly need to be celebrated. Me personally, I’m celebrating how the women’s movement has impacted my travel life and all that comes with it (love, work, and more).

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Climbing rocks in Morocco

I’ve been to 14 countries to date. Many miles flown, lots of pastries eaten, countless streets that have been walked and experienced. Those trips have all changed me in small ways. Giving me a new perspective on the world and what I’m personally capable of, I love every one of my experiences (even those I may not have had the best time living).  Most of those countries I traveled to were on my own and as a woman, that would have never been a fathomable idea without the women’s right movement.

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Cloudy skies in London

I would have been stopped from going anywhere without a man. Or for that fact, I would haven’t even been allowed to earn the money to use to pay for my trips. I would have been barefoot and pregnant. Expected to make meals and clean. Maybe that is a hyperbole but I do think there would be a certain pressure on me. I’m currently not married but in a relationship. At my age back then, I think people would have thought me to be a freak to not be married now (I’m 28). And thinking I could fly on a plane all on my lonesome to a foreign country, forget it.

I’m glad that I can purchase a ticket to a new place on my own. That I can go into a shop and not be harassed for being alone (though truthfully, that isn’t always the case). That I can dress how I feel and make my own decisions without consulting with someone first.

There’s then that added element. The fact that I’m black that makes what I’m doing now even more awesome. As much as we want race not to be an issue, it still exists and people can be horrible. I never experienced too much racism (that I’m aware of) but I’m glad that I can travel as a black female to so many places.

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Walking in South London

Although there aren’t many faces like mine at the airport just yet, there is the opportunity to improve and increase more female faces of color. I’m happy that I can travel and that people have more of an open mind. I’m happy that I can assert myself in situations to earn more money or work in a field that may not have many people like me yet. I’m happy that I can be single or in a relationship or other. I can make my own decisions and see real results!

To hear about some more successful women celebrating – see this article here (I’m featured there as well).

Booking Cheap Flights Across The World

I’m itching to plan my next vacation. Perhaps Portugal, Peru or Chile? As you can tell the theme is some place warm with a bit of Spanish flair. But I want to fly there cheap, super cheap! How do I get the biggest bang for my buck?

I research and use these key websites for planning my travel. Keep in mind though, sometimes the cheapest flights aren’t to the destinations you initially wanted to go to. Some times the deal is too good to pass up and you have to move your travel list around. However if you plan early enough and take in to account the “off season” of a certain location, you will find that your hard earned cash will go a long way.

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Finding a cheap as heck flight is easy. I love love Hipmunk. I go here first whenever I’m booking a trip anywhere. I get flight comparisons and you can see how you can get where you want broken down by price, travel time, multiple stops, etc. On my last trip, I went to Marrakech via London from NYC. I ended up in Business Class for the first leg of my trip and boy was it glorious (post to come)! It was beyond my wildest dreams but the price of that ticket would have cost me $3800 at least. I’m not saying Hipmunk booked me in Business Class (I’ll never forget you Business Class) but through my booking I was randomly placed there. Yay me! Why do children get to fly so bougie, just why? This a great place to start when looking for cheap flights.

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With Skyscanner, I find it best to book flights when you are abroad but it’s another great flight aggregator website. No idea where you want to go but feeling as if the walls are closing in around you and you need to get out? You can head over to the site and just hit the search button. It looks for cheap flights anywhere in the world and offers some great ideas on where you could go on your next adventure. My boyfriend uses this all the time and gets cheap flights to NYC from London. I’ve also used it a few times myself to go to Greece and Spain.

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My friend put me onto this one. Scott’s Cheap Flights is a newsletter you can sign up for that sends alerts for amazingly cheap flights as soon as Scott get’s his insider tips. You can sign up for the free newsletter but he also has a paid subscription model where the insider deals are even better. Text message alerts, more flights, choose your departure airport, first to know about the deals amongst all the free subscribers, etc. This really has amazing deals but the catch – you need to act fast. So if you see something, buy it. This is for the person who has no reservations when booking a trip. Do it and enjoy your travels.

Those are really my top sources for flights. Some honorable mentions, Google Flights.  I haven’t booked a flight through this site yet but I have gone here to price compare. Scott (from Scott’s Cheap Flights) has a lot of cheap offers through Google but you have to catch them the minute they are up. I have found some really nice or comparable prices though so it’s worth checking out. I’d also recommend Expedia as source. There have been some really good deals that I’ve booked. I once caught a flight to London for $500 which was pretty decent.

My only last tips, Tuesdays usually have dips in flight prices. I don’t know why but I have noticed that flights have been cheaper when I’ve looked on that day compared to a Friday.  Try to book in advance. The earlier you book, the more likely you’ll get a great deal for the trip of your dreams. And take your time! Unless you need to be some place tomorrow, it’s ok to monitor the flight prices for a week or a few days to get the best price you can.

Do you have other ways to save money booking flights across the world? Standby tricks? Other cool websites? Let me know!

How To Follow Your Heart And Travel The World

This question is so hard. It’s so hard because I try to do the “right” thing, the “responsible” thing, the mulled upon for hours thing. But does it make me happy?

I feel early on life, if you’re lucky. You’re encouraged to travel and see the world – but just for fun. Don’t think this is something you can do regularly. It’s a nice treat and look forward to it once or twice a year.

At first, I never even thought of travel as an option (see why I think black women need to travel here).  Then I saw the light and made a promise to go two new places each year to myself (I have been keeping true to this). Now, I’m at a crossroads because I want to do more than just those two trips. I want more. I want to see more countries and I want to be an expat (a whole other story). But how do I earn a living? This isn’t typical behavior. They don’t teach or encourage you to follow the road untaken at school. This goes against every fiber of my being as a girl who grew up poor. But I want my dreams to be reality so bad and I think I should be able to realize them.

To be as cliche as a card from Between The Lines (the cutest paper store in southeast London), you need to believe in yourself. You need to know that you can and you will – no matter what others say or think but it does require you to be a bit smarter. You need to plan, research and maneuver to get what you want because luck doesn’t always happen when you’re sitting still.

So where do you start? I’m no one to give advice because I’m currently blubbering over a plane decision but I do have perspective. I’m using this to help me move pass the teary stage on to the doing one. Let me know if this offers any help for those looking to travel the world on a more consistent basis.

  1. Save. Save. Save! If you haven’t been already, you should definitely be saving. This will serve as a great jump start if you are slow to find freelance work or one off legal gigs that will offer you some income while you travel. Use an app like Mint to get you in that mode or Bank of America has a budget wheel so you can see how your money is being spent. My greatest accomplishment for my travels has been my ability to save.
  2. BUDGET CAUSE YOU AINT DRAKE. Yes, budget. When you are ready to travel, think about how much you may need to spend and the length of your trip. How can you save on airfare (look at sites like Skyscanner, Hopper, Hipmunk). For lodging, Airbnb or hostelworld can great. Hostels are just like hotels and you can find amazing deals on these sites. Another way to budget, plan your next destination based on what’s cheapest to fly to. Torn between two places on your bucket list, look at ticket price.
  3. Ask Yourself If You’ll Be Happy. A silly step but happiness is key. Don’t just travel the world because it’s a trend. Do it because you want it. You’ll find it will make traveling a lot simpler.
  4. Look For Remote or Freelance Gigs. Earning income is part of life (unless you’re lucky enough to be a royal, or is that unlucky), so looking for work that let’s you fulfill your travel desires is essential. Try looking on remote work job sites or even reaching out to brands you admire or to people in your network. It doesn’t hurt to ask and at least you know you tried everything in your power.
  5. Find A Support Network. Another important thing about travel is having someone behind you to support you when things don’t go according to plan or you end up a blubbering mess. Facebook has some great groups you can join to help you connect with others traveling in the same part of the world as you or friendly people willing to help you find a place to stay, share knowledge or offer a job. Just be careful and do your research.
  6. Don’t Wait! You may think, I haven’t saved enough or now isn’t the right time but you won’t ever have a true right time. If you know how your heart is leading you, just go for it. You will feel better knowing you did.
  7. Remember That You Are Not The Star of A Movie. This one is just for groundedness. Your travels around the world may not all be a fairytale adventure but that’s ok. You may hate a destination that was a dream to visit, that’s ok. Knowing that will make your travels easier.

 

So that’s what I think. It’s easier said than done sometimes and I have my own travel desires (see the world mixed with expat dreams) but I have to remember that there’s no time like the present. Take my own advice! lol

 

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My boo with his dad. Using this as a travel motivation to remember what can be.

Are any of you struggling with these kinds of travel dreams? Why? Let me know!

Why We Need More Mainstream Black Female Travelers

Go to Google and type in ‘Women Travel’. In the search engine results, you’ll see loads of travel groups and information on the rise in solo female travel. Head over to the Google News section with the same search term. You’ll find similar stories but notice there’s something missing. The representation of black females.

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INSTAGRAM @N.ARASAH
In my travels, I can’t help but notice that for every trip I take, finding another black woman is hard. This isn’t a joke. At the airport, you might be lucky to see a group of black friends or a family on vacation but at a foreign destination, forget about it. Nothing in the restaurants or on the bus. If you do happen to spot one, they’re likely hustling for money or a local beggar. Recently on my trip to Marrakech, I was a rare find – a black female wearing box braids. I was called a Rasta by nearly every local (not every person in Marrakech, but beware the ancient Medina) and had a hard time finding travelers like me. But why? Where are all the black females? Why aren’t we traveling more and promoted in the mainstream?

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INSTAGRAM @ALICIACBARNES

Wandering through Jardin Majorelle

Well, I can tell you that we’re traveling. Currently, you can find a variety of influential black female travelers who showcase “real” and aspirational travel experiences on Instagram. There’s SimplyCyn, a life, style and travel influencer who showcases how she makes her 9 to 5 work with her travels to exotic luxe locals. There’s SomeCallMeAdventurous, who shares the beauty of cities both near and far. And there’s the likes of OneikaTheTraveller who has built a brand around traveling the globe and recently started a Travel Channel video series. There’s a community. It’s big, it’s eager and it’s worth investing in. But why does it seem like mainstream is avoiding it? Why do they find working with black female influencers less than their white counterparts? It’s mind boggling because nearly anyone who has had a taste of travel loves it. No matter the race or gender. Once you tap into travel, people are dying to save their money to go on their next adventure.

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INSTAGRAM @BELLAWORLDWIDE
Why is it important to get black women (really, all women) into travel you ask? It creates people who are open, culturally aware and more educated. Cassy Isabella said “many black women that I know around me come from homes where experiencing the world is not a priority encouragement from parents or they’re ignorant to the fact that travel is accessible to them.” Combatting this notion, Cassy uses travel as an essential part of her growth. It has served as a tool for self discovery and provides a level of worldly awareness that she initially never had.

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INSTAGRAM @CALLMEADVENTUROUS
Samantha O’Brochta of Some Call Me Adventurous said that she grew up incredibly shy, however traveling taught her that she could be more outgoing and brave. “If I had stayed within the bubble of my childhood, I wouldn’t have known how strong I can be. I have done things while traveling that I never thought I could do based on my introverted and passive personality.” This is incredibly valuable as a woman growing up in a society still working to navigate race and equality. This sort of experience is something that more black women need to hear, especially as they are fighting to navigate the complexities of life.

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INSTAGRAM @SIMPLYCYN
Aside from advancing a black girl’s hopes of doing and becoming more, travel is also important because it breaks the monotony of adult life. Cynthia Andrews expresses this, “there’s something about travel that reminds you that you are part of something bigger. That there’s more going on in the world that what’s happening in your neighborhood or on your local news. When you’re growing up, you’re constantly energized by learning new things- and then when you get into the work world, you can easily fall into routines.” Her curated gallery of amazing destinations and blog posts, truly enlighten. They provide women with a perspective that they too can travel and live out a form of black girl magic.

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INSTAGRAM @ALICIACBARNES

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INSTAGRAM @TRAVELINGFRO
It’s great that we have a black girl travel movement happening and we too can become backpackers if we dare. Jakiya Brown of the Traveling Fro states “I feel like black women are encouraged to travel more and more. There’s an increasing amount of images in the media of us traveling.” Cynthia agrees saying “pre- social media, I would have said black women traveling was an abnormality. However, social media has shown great communities and stories of encouragement.” This movement is important. It shows that black female travel is not only possible, but it can be glorious. Jakiya uses her platform to educate black women on travel to add value to this movement. Showing women how to truly connect with different cultures without breaking the bank is a priority for her. Notice women – not just black women.
We need more content though. If you aren’t aware of travel as an experience or black women traveling, you may never stumble across fabulous influencers like these.

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INSTAGRAM @CALLMEADVENTUROUS

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INSTAGRAM @TRAVELNOIRE

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INSTAGRAM @IAMABYSSINIA
Black women are eager to explore and we’re gobbling up all the travel content we can find. Travel Noire and other profiles on Instagram are shaping our minds and showing us the numerous ways we too can see the world. Forget the stigmas or preconceptions about a certain place. Everywhere isn’t off limits due to the color of your skin or stories of racism; see what works for you. Ribicca of Amro Menor says “some places require more patience than others. There have been times where my travel experiences have been affected by the negative attitude some people have of people that look like me. Over the years, I have learned to ignore these experiences since they’re most likely a reflection of a few individuals and are outweighed by my positive experiences at the place.” Samantha says “The best way to face them (negative responses) is to just be an example of a good world citizen wherever you go and that will help combat whatever bad things people think.”
We need to remain confident as Jakiya adds “…there are so many negative things in this world trying to put black women down. No matter where we go we are strong, powerful, resilient and magical.” Cassy from Cassy Isabella also says “Not to believe everything you read online about a place. If there’s a country in your heart that you want to visit, go out and experience it for yourself. I can guarantee that no two experiences are ever the same.” So now we have reaffirmed the following, black women love to travel, we love content and we aren’t immediately eliminating locations due to “bad” behavior.

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INSTAGRAM @SIMPLYCYN
With all this established, what’s next? It’s important to realize that we not only influence “our community” but we influence everyone. We want to go everywhere, not just to the Caribbean. Our voices are strong and it’s vital that younger generations know what the world is like and that they too can travel. We need to be encouraged to see the world and broaden our horizons. So encourage us – put us front and center too because we have valuable things to contribute.
Follow me on Instagram @aliciacbarnes and check out my blog for more thoughts on travel, aliciawandersaround.wordpress.com.