Why do so few black men travel?
If I were given $100 each time one of my fellow African-American male friends responded with ‘why would I want to go there? (overseas) each time I had returned from a journey I’d be traveling the world right now. If I were given $100 each time a person in a foreign country I had met said ‘you are the first black man I’ve ever met’ I’d have be living anywhere in this world I wanted, and if I were given $100 every time someone asked me ‘is it true what they say about black men?’ I’d be a very rich man. But if I were given $100 each time I saw another black man in any country in my seventeen years of travel. I’d be broke, because for whatever reason there is such a small percentage of African-American men that travel.
If there ever a more important for young black men to start traveling it is right now. ‘What’s out there for me?’ What percentage of young black men ask themselves that question. How many think of what possibilities that might await them outside of the U.S.? Or in some cases within this country. My mother (who died earlier this year) is from Demopolis, Alabama and twice a year I visit because I have a sister and a multitude of cousins. One a few occasion’s the pastor at her church asked me to talk about some of my journey’s and each time after I spoke he always told the younger men – ‘there’s a whole world for you out there to explore.’ So what is out there for you?
There is nothing in this world like travel because it combines every single desire, passion, curiosity, want, need and fear you have. It is a journey into the unknown so few of us are willing to take. Travel opens your mind and your eyes and allows you to see what this world has, the good and bad. You experience different cultures, customs and ways of life. You see the world through different eyes and experience places where beliefs and customs are so much different than yours and it challenges you to survive in a country where English is not the spoken language. And while that can sound daunting it makes a journey more then you expected.
Passion, any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling. Once you’re done asking yourself – ‘what is out there for me?’ Ask yourself ‘what is my passion?’ Travel will help you find the answer. Perhaps you have a passion for music, sport or food. A love of art or history. A passion for adventure, history or the arts – whatever it is travel will bring it to you. There are countless people that are pursuing their passion no matter the risk but they are doing is what they love and that is what truly sets them apart from the everyone else.
Travel isn’t just the physical it is the spiritual, it touches your soul and emotions as you finally stand in front of the Eiffel Tower, inside the Colosseum or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and you have that ‘wow’ moment, something those that read this can relate too – that moment.
When you finally see that structure, monument, work of art, or visit that island or beach and you can finally say I did it. Or that moment when you finally land in the country you’ve wanted to visit more than any other. When you finally walk out of the airport and say ‘I made it.’ I remember that morning in Berlin, Germany when I exited the airport, not knowing this would be the start of seventeen years of amazement and fascination.
Something else I’ve learned in my seventeen years of travel is a country can be like a race of people. If a part of that country is violent well that must be true for all of it so a person will not visit. If part of a race of people are violent well the same must be true for all of them. And while it’s not entirely without cause when it comes to young black men it also displays a person’s ignorance and refusal to understand and that will be until the end of time. I can’t begin to imagine what it must like to be a young black man growing up in this day and age and all the obstacles you face and sadly the actions of a few hurt us all.
There are so many still holding onto the past believing this world owes them something. Well travel can change your attitude and perhaps feelings because what you also see is people who have risen above it all and let their past be the past and they’ve even forgiven those that caused their pain and suffering. They don’t forget it but they live in the present and always looking ahead. From the richest to poorest countries and everyone in between so many have let the past go and the anger and bitterness they may have once felt is no longer and they’ve gotten stronger because of it.
Maya Angelou writes: Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.
One the greatest things about travel are the people you meet along the way. To shake a hand and make a friend, so often people you think you’ll have nothing in common are the ones you have the most and they are just as fascinated by you as you are of them It allows you to see history and experience the joys and pain the people of that country have faced. You see that we are not alone when it comes to the suffering African-American men have faced. The struggles, the oppression and the violence is universal and in some cases it is far worse and so many still face it today in a world that does little to stop it.
Something I have realized in my seventeen years of travel, there is a fascination of black men especially to the countries where black men rarely visit, which sadly is more than half of this world. We are different to some exotic and to others erotic and a dream come true. And there are people who simply wanted to talk to a black man, to shake my hand. To finally see, touch, feel a black man, to hear his voice to see if myth is fact and make someone’s wildest dream a reality. Something I am sure my fellow black man can attest too for the times he’s been ‘the only one in the restaurant, bar or nightclub.
Now I’d be a fool to sit and believe that travel will bring world peace, that would be a beautiful thing but we all must live in the real world. Travel is exciting, it’s fascinating, endless and limitless. It’s joyful, gentle and peaceful – it sings, it can dance and it can laugh. It holds you and embraces and touches you. Travel is also fearful and ruthless and can show no mercy. It is a challenge. It can yell, scream, scare and cry. It is unforgiving and it is violent. But above all else travel is necessary and if you let it, travel will change you.
So my fellow African-American Men get your passport, pick a country and go because this world wants to meet you.
‘…We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.’
Alfred Lord Tennyson