The Road Well Travelled
As you may have heard, I recently returned from a Chicago trip. As I’ve made known, I’m from the area…well, technically. But if I’m really to speak in my truth, I grew up in the outer suburbs in which an actual Chicagoan would shun me for claiming the city. However, this trip was an opportunity for me to step out truly on my own and explore my home city, although, yes I have travelled alone, rode a plane, and have been abroad; THIS would be the first trip in which when I got off the plane I would not immediately be greeted by a familiar face or guided throughout my stay. For 5 days and 4 nights, I stayed in a room, before going on to visit family, that I booked via AirBnb (for the first time ever!) and had an itinerary for me to see as many museums, sites, and events as possible.
Besides the fact that I suffer from RBF, I tend to give the impression to friends and family alike that I generally know what I’m doing and have it together with no hesitation about staying on my own, and mostly I can say this is true. However, I acknowledge that this was a big step for me, something I’ve wanted, but wasn’t quite sure I was ready for. And in true form, my family made it clear this is something we don’t do. Explaining the concept of AirBnb, reassuring them that other people do use these accommodations quite often and without peril. Convincing them, and myself, that it is not unusual to plan take an Uber between museums and end the evening at an improv club or having dinner alone in an unfamiliar place.
The surprise and awe of my family, and surfacing fears, felt reminiscent of the days in which African Americans, people of color, were not so fortunate to travel so freely. My itinerary began to feel like the outline of a green book (click the link to view actual green book, The Negro Motorist Green Book, from the collection of The Henry Ford), a travel guide once used by African Americans to indicate which rest stops would accommodate people of color; fearful of any wrong turn or ending up on the wrong side of town. That trepidation has now carried on throughout the years is now evident in the way in which a wave of African Americans are just now discovering the means to travel and the power of social networks that have allowed them to share these experiences. A site that I have followed for some time, Travel Noire, has promoted the visibility and encouraged the possibility of travel for people of color. Recently, I joined the #TNDistrict, in which forums for connecting with other travelers are available from discovering cheap fares to sharing the best of food in Greece. I look forward to increasing my ability to travel and transcend my fear to trek the unknown.
I remember a friend, not too receptive of my reveling in the genius that is the site and as someone not a person of color, attempted to call the site racist; for if a site had existed in which it was catered to white people solely, say…Travel Blanc, it would be completely criticized. But what my friend failed to see in her post-racial imagination is that traveling has largely been a white institution catered to those who have had the luxury of long careers and generational wealth. My Grandmother, rest her soul, born in ’48 was a nomad to several jobs with four kids; no means to save for a trip to Europe let alone go cross-country. When I had my first abroad opportunity I sold my first car (a pre-owned Jetta I had only had for a couple years) not knowing when I would have the chance again or a car.
It’s a road well travelled, though people of color haven’t always been on it. So share with us where you go or where you’ve been. In true BGMB fashion, lets create networks in which travel becomes an opportunity to share in each other’s work. It gives me courage to know that others are venturing out into the world, and, as my mom would like to know, are making it back alive. We in the humanities and social sciences have a special duty to travel the world, meet new people, and delve into different ways of life. What resources do you use when you travel? #BGMBtravel on Twitter!