Thoughts on Traveling, Privilege and the Things We Don't Think About

by Tausha Cowan in


Earlier this week, I came across an amazing blog post that I immediately loved and wanted to share with everyone:

You Don't Have to Be a Privileged White Girl to Travel

You may be thinking, why does she love a blog post about privileged white girls? Well, the post is not just about privileged white girls; it's also about what it is like to travel as the "other" โ€” black, Asian, Latino, female, LGBTQ, disabled and the list goes on. Throughout the blog post, several bloggers share their personal stories and, most importantly, how it has not prevented them from traveling. They are proof that travel is possible. 

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What I also love about the blog post is the acknowledgement of privilege, the benefits enjoyed by a certain group of people for a particular reason. The blogger admits she doesn't know what it's like to travel as someone who is not a white American female, just as I don't know what it's like to travel as someone who is a white American female.

For me, being black and female are two very integral parts of who I am and how others perceive me, particularly when interacting with other cultures. As someone who loves to travel solo, I often think before going to a place, how will my experience be as a female? How will my experience be as a person of color? What should I be concerned about? How will I be treated? These thoughts have never stopped me from traveling, but they do inform the way I travel.  

How will my experience be as a female? How will my experience be as a person of color? What should I be concerned about? How will I be treated?
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Before going to Mexico by myself, I thought about what it would mean to be there alone as a black female. What would it be like? Will I run into any issues because of my race or gender? I know I'm not the first black female to ever set foot in the country, but it didn't stop the questions from circling inside my head. Ultimately, my preliminary research and intense desire to go overruled my concerns, so off I went to turn 30 in Tulum. Once I got to Mexico, most people, curious about my background, initially assumed I was from Belize or Cuba. Beyond that, they just wanted to chat about New York, Jamaica (mostly Bob Marley) and travel. I didn't encounter any disconcerting situations, and I ended up having an amazing time. Not once was I met with any sort of hostility. 

While I have had uncomfortable or downright hostile occurrences throughout my travels, more often than not, I encounter curiosity and lack of knowledge rather than hatred and negativity. I encounter similarities more than differences. Sometimes the scariest thing for me is what I think will happen rather than what actually happens. And these thoughts are always linked to me being black and female. Someone who is white or male likely does not have to think about these things in the same way.

Sometimes the scariest thing for me is what I think will happen rather than what actually happens.

The other part of my identity that is not as visible but is just as important is my nationality. I was born in Florida and hold an American passport. That passport allows me to visit more than 160 countries without a visa. This fact never occurred to me until I spoke with friends who come from countries where it can be extremely difficult to travel due to visa restrictions. It made me realize my American passport is a privilege, and just like any other type of privilege, I don't think it's something to feel guilt over but rather be aware of. I am aware that, in this respect, I am privileged to be able to travel so freely. This awareness means more knowledge and more understanding of situations outside of my own. And perhaps it means taking an action to change that privilege.

Alhambra-Tausha-Cowan

So, yes, it's true. You don't have to be a privileged white girl to travel. The bloggers in the original post illustrate that very well, as do many of the travelers I feature on this site. But, if you are someone who is privileged in some way, be aware of that privilege and open to understanding what's outside of that. Travel, talk to people, ask questions, learn their stories and acknowledge where they're coming from. In my experience, it has been the best way to grow.  

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