Motivation Must-Haves

8 Things Black Women Travelers Want You to Know


I WANT TO BE VERY FRANK: I’M DISAPPOINTED THAT IN 2016, THIS TOPIC IS STILL RELEVANT. It’s a shame to see that women of color like myself aren’t traveling more often, so much so that when looking at the landscape of travel bloggers and vloggers, I’m one of a handful, and because of that, I’m expected to speak on behalf of my entire kind; black women in general.

I want to express that my experience shouldn’t be symbolic of the entire demographic of black women, but that as a black woman, these are various things I’ve experienced, noticed, and would like to bring attention to.

1. We barely exist.


It’s 2016, and yet when you see black women traveling, they’re usually immigrants fighting for better lives for themselves and their children taking jobs as housekeepers and nannies, just as my mother did. Of course, there are black women traveling the world every single day, but the ratio to everyone else traveling is minuscule.

As traveling is a privilege, it is simply not seen as something for people of color; which is upsetting as a person of color who’s actively trying to change that perspective.

After actively traveling for about six years, I haven’t seen more than a dozen black women on flights, in tour groups, or in hotels and hostels. It gets lonely not seeing people who look like you.

2. We carry more weight than the average traveler.

Because there are so few of us out there traveling, when we come back from a life-changing trip, we swallow the moral duty to share our experience with the world, and more importantly, to other black women. Whether we come back with stories of racism, praise, ignorance, or friendships in uncommon places, we want to share our journey. As it’s in most women’s nature to help causes, and people, we feel personally responsible to bring up our kind.

As a travel influencer, I feel this burden more with each new subscriber or reader. We carry the weight and responsibility of speaking on behalf of our entire kind.

3. We experience more than the average cat-calling.

Of course, all women have to deal with the annoying and entitled action of rude men catcalling as we casually walk around, even in our own cities. There was that viral catcalling video that showcased a white woman walking around NYC and secretly filming all of the catcalling she experienced; most of the times by black or latin men. I remember reading criticism on that video, black and Hispanic women felt that a white woman couldn’t nearly depict what we have to experience in regards to harassment by men.

Then I understood their angst during my latest trip to Cuba, where I was enraged at how many Cuban men, mostly mulatto or black men would loudly blow kisses, whistle, scream “BEAUTIFUL LADY,” and follow me for blocks down the street. I ignored them and used my silence to reflect and observe. I saw that they wouldn’t do the same to white women traveling; at least I never witnessed the same persistence and aggression.

This kind of treatment isn’t only limited to Cuba, it’s anywhere black and mixed men are. I’ve experienced the same instance in Harlem, where my white guy friend blatantly told me not even his blonde bombshell girlfriends get harassed as much as I did.

There’s a sense of respect that white women receive without knowing it; at least from black and latin men. As there’s an unspoken understanding that white women are protected by white men, so black men simply don’t feel it’s their place to harass a white woman. Whereas black men see black women as “their people” and therefore feel that they can act and say whatever they like.

Who’s protecting the black women? That’s what I want to know.

4. We are seen as ugly in most countries.


Despite the high level of harassment we receive, we’re not seen as beautiful by most of the world, mostly because societies simply aren’t used to our thick hair, brown skin, and curvy bodies. The stereotypes that societies hold on to about black women never have the words: beautiful, graceful, or intelligent, attached; something that I learned while on a trip to Egypt.

I was so surprised at the honesty I heard from Egyptian locals that I made a video about being a black woman while traveling. What I heard is “Jo jo, you’re the first black woman that I’ve ever seen who’s pretty, I always thought they would be big and fat, loud and ugly.” Homeboy said those words to my face, and I wasn’t even mad at him, I was frustrated at the ignorance behind international beauty standards.

I’ve experienced several instances of being ignored in restaurants and stores when I was traveling with my best friends who, although ethnic, have lighter skin than me. They would have to ask for the check, order more drinks, or request service in order for us to be attended with a smile.

5. We surprise people.

Because of all of these preconceived notions about black women around the world, when we travel, we’re helping soothe the worlds’ ignorance about us. The more we become present in the travel space, the more we’ll change “ugly black women” stereotypes. I’ve had several conversations with men and women who are genuinely surprised at my ability to not only travel but to have created a business out of my lifestyle; when I start speaking to them in several languages, I blow their minds. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but at least we have the pleasure of seeing eyes bug out of heads.

6. No, you can’t touch our hair.

I’m almost 99% positive that all black women have had moments where strangers go full throttle to grab a hair strand, to feel a lock, or to try to bounce a curl; and it’s not ok. Of course, we’re willing to help educate your questions about our hair, but why would anyone think it’s ok to stick their grubby fingers in someone else’s scalp?!

On the subject of hair; I know all women struggle keeping their luscious manes on par while on the road, but finding black hair products abroad is harder than finding a needle in a haystack; part of the reason why my hair gets bigger and bigger with every trip. Most women who travel keep their hair as natural as possible, it’s just easier that way.

7. We’re curious about other black women.

All black women have different stories, but having these two badges attached to our lives gets us thinking about the trials and tribulations of being a black woman elsewhere. Are they praised in Cuba? Are they honored in Portugal? Are they shunned in Denmark? Can they marry anyone of their choosing in South Africa? We have questions on what being a black woman means globally and we empathize with our sisters.

8. We’re role models and we’re proud.


As we’re scarce in the travel community, and there are several confusions attached with our experience, we feel a sense of pride after every trip. Anytime we step outside of our homes and set out on a new journey, it’s not just to see something beautiful, or to take great pictures for a blog; it’s about changing the reputation of black women everywhere.

This post originally appeared on MatadorNetwork jo

You Might Also Like

  • Breanna Fonseca

    As a proud brown girl, I am so glad you are out there representing women of color and women in general. I hope to one day be as confident as you Jo! Keep doing you!!

  • I love this post, you, Jo, and Damon. The both of you have been such inspirations. I have been fortunate to do a bit of traveling and I must say all of your points hold very true. We’re very much on an island all alone, and I’ve experienced that even in my own city. We stick out a bit and it can feel very intimidating. Keep doing you Jo! You will continue to inspire others for years and years to come I am sure 😊 💕

  • Esther Imbula

    I don’t even know where to begin. It’s sad to read all this because I find myself actually relating to most of the comments above, though the most annoying one for me has definitely got to be the hair issue. I’m just waiting for someone to get a heart-attack because of apparently how often I change up my hair. And that “can I touch your hair” bit really gets on my last nerve, but as you mentioned, we’ve got to educate these people no matter how old they are.

  • Giovanni V

    Thanks for the post Jo! This post was needed, keep inspiring people cause girl u rock!

  • Carrie Joyce

    Thanks for posting this. Travelling as woman can get dicey enough. As a white person who normally travels solo, I was ignorant of many of the experiences you described. Gonna do my best to use this as a jumping-off point to help make travel more inclusive, in any way I can, for black women and other women of color that I encounter in my travels. I shared your post with the Wanderful Women Boston fb page.

  • Tomi Jegede

    Great post! I love to travel and have some interesting insights. When I was in Thailand, I actually experienced more ignorance and microaggressions from the other Americans I was staying with :/ And I have let people in different countries touch my hair. I think it’s a good opportunity to connect and it can show others around the world how beautiful black hair (and black women) are. But I understand that’s not for everyone and people should respect your space if asked.

  • delia

    Great post! The travel world (bloggers, travelers, and the industry as a whole) needs to pay more attention to POC travelers in general, and black women in particular. It’s so weird to me when topics central to the experience of black women travelers are deemed too “political” or “controversial” for travel blogs and travel groups. You are who you are, wherever you go, so of course these issues matter and need to be discussed.

  • Tish Benson

    Thank you for this.

  • Melody

    Hi Jo! This was a fantastic post. I am a Black woman from the U.S. who just took my first international trip. I went to Trinidad and Tobago. It was life changing. I have always been into traveling but never had the courage to go internationally alone until now. I heard horror stories about how I would be treated outside the U.S. and chose not to go “until I had friends to go with me”. Well…people are flaky and things kept getting put off until I just said “forget this” and booked the trip by myself. I had life changing experiences and so far, all positive. I already have my next trip planned and I truly appreciate your insight. Thanks for the blog and vlogs 😀

    • PoodlePoo

      TnT, being in the Caribbean, has a significant black population as it has a history of slavery. You shouldn’t really face any problems there. Travelling through Europe and Asia is a different story though 🙁

  • Lea

    That is a great post! I can feel what I mean. I am a afrogerman female traveler and I used to study in Cuba, too. The catcalling was extreme and I also had some negative experiences in other countries, but I also had a lot of times the advantage that locals did mistake me for a local, which makes traveling more fun! I think being a minority traveler gievs you a broader perspective and out voices need to be heard more often.

    Hope to hear more from you and spread the message! Would be happy if you would check out my blog


  • Adrienne A

    Thank you for this article. I have a love for travel also. I always have a little trepidation because I’m wandering how my family and I will be accepted. I haven’t let that stop us. We just shut up and go:)

  • theyoungblackfeminist

    Thank you so much for this. I’m a young Black woman who’s always been passionate about travelling, though so far, it’s only been with my family. As I look more into solo travel, it’s sad that when I’m researching countries, I eventually Google things such as “germany black women” or “how do Japanese people feel about black people” since I know racism is worldwide – I just want to know which type I’m gonna face in that country. I get the same stuff you mentioned in your post in the States, I can only imagine what happens abroad.

    But, it doesn’t discourage me. I want to be an example, a pioneer, and I still want to enjoy my life! So thank you for still encouraging Black women to travel. This is a huge boost for me. 🙂

  • Jacklyn

    This is such a great post. And as a black woman I agree 100%

  • Anna

    I concur with all 8 points. I have experienced almost everything you said, as a black woman. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on traveling! You are beautiful! 😉

  • Aniya Jefferson

    I love this segment about women of color and the struggles we face while traveling. I might only be fifteen at the moment, but I have big dreams of traveling the world and backpacking Europe, and I’m not going to let the color of my skin, or the ignorant standards that other individuals have engraved in their mind about color people in general stop that. Soooooo, Thank you Jo (+ Damon), and now I’m going to #ShutUpAndGo!!! P.s I love your Youtube videos I literally watch them everyday, you guys are amazing!!!

  • Joshuanna-Marie Houessou

    Thanks so much for this. You truly are an inspiration! I’ve always been hesitant to travel anywhere alone because of how women, and black women especially as i am one, are treated. I absolutely agree with all you’ve written though. I’m glad you are writing this and I watched the video on this too, however disheartening that it is that something like this still needs to be said in this day and age. Thank-you for not shying away from the issue.

    I’m planning my first (solo if I don’t get a travel buddy before then) international trip for when I’m done with uni and national youth service which should be in like two, or three years. ‘Til then I live through your and Damon’s blogs and most especially you guys’ videos.

    My thanks to you both for doing what you do! God bless the both of you and keep being awesome!! 🙂 xx

  • Siobhan Fa’alogo

    Holy f***, you’re badass! I love your zest for life, honesty, and confidence. Keep doing you and seriously consider coming down here to New Zealand – we’re very multicultural x

  • palmeria

    “4. We’re seen as ugly in most countries” >>> I would correct that to say “most countries that are non-white.” Because white superiority and white worship is still a thing in almost every country around the world.

  • Imani

    Yas Jo. I completely agree there should be more black women travelers or black in general. When I begin traveling, I have to prepare myself for this, especially in Northern Africa…