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March 27, 2019
I had wanted to visit Europe for many years. At first, I couldn’t go because I didn’t have the money. Then, once I had the money, no one seemed interested in traveling [to Europe]. So, when I finally decided to go, I knew that I would more than likely go alone.
I remember one day at work, at least a year before my trip, I mentioned to a couple male co-workers that I was considering going to Europe. They both told me that it was unsafe (if I remember correctly due to terrorist attacks). Interestingly, neither of these men had ever traveled to Europe. I just told them, “Europe can’t be any more unsafe than the U.S.” That year, I didn’t go. Honestly, I was scared. I allowed my own fear and others’ fear to hold me back.
Then one random day in March 2018 I called in sick to work. While lying in bed, something in me said, “Book the trip.” I searched for flights and, without hesitation, booked round trip airfare to Europe. For my trip, I was flying into London. I would leave London by train and head to Paris. From Paris, I would head to Rome by air. I was so excited! After booking airfare, I started scouring the internet for all things black travel.
It might be hard for some to understand, but as a black woman I was concerned how I might be perceived or treated overseas. Race relations have always been strained in the U.S. I was born here so it’s the norm for me. That said, coming from the U.S. and having only visited Caribbean nations, I had no frame of reference for what Europe might be like. Thankfully, most black women online had had positive experiences in Europe.
My first destination was London. Touching down in London was surreal. GOD is so good! I had only seen these places in the movies and now I was traveling to them! I got me a Tube card so that I could travel by public transportation (I used public transportation for my whole vacation). In three countries, never once did I feel out of place or uncomfortable on public transportation. For my accommodations, I used AirBNB. My hosts were white, Brazilian, and black. All of them were nice, respectful, and gave me my space.
I spent 15 days traveling solo in Europe. I had some really great experiences. I visited Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed; I visited the Louvre; and, I stumbled upon the Trevi Fountain and hung out with hundreds of other tourists in the hot sun. Not once did I feel out of place or singled-out for my race. On this trip, I visited huge, world renowned cities. I’m not the first nor the last black woman to visit. Not just that though, many black people live in these cities. That’s not to say that there aren’t problems with race relations, I didn’t encounter them on my trip though. I imagine it’s not dissimilar to visiting any big city in the U.S. where there are definitely racial and cultural issues. But for the average tourist to those cities, they’re not immersed enough in daily life to see it while visiting.
I will add that traveling solo as a woman didn’t make me feel unsafe either. Because I live in a large city in the U.S., I’m already pretty cautious. The public transportation system is great in London and Paris- but so so in Rome (although in Paris my cab never showed but Uber did!). I visited in summer, so there was light until almost 10 PM. I was usually back to my apartment no later than that. I didn’t party or go clubbing (I don’t club at home anyway). I made sure to hold my purse, kept it zipped (I either held the zipper pull or kept it in a direction where I could feel it being tugged at), and I stayed aware but not scared.
As my trip ended, I wrote a hefty Instagram post on how I loved visiting another country. I talked about how people are just people (in general) getting through everyday life. They work, laugh, argue, spend time with family and friends- the same as I do. It was eye opening to see the world from the perspective of another country. With that said, if you are thinking of traveling solo to Europe, go for it! Do your research ahead of time. For each country you visit, understand the customs, cultural norms or expectations, and language if you can. But don’t let the fear of being mistreated for being black, a minority in general, or a woman keep your from traveling the world!
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