Having locals touch my waist-length braids with bemusement, or being told by a man on the train that my “different appearance” was what triggered his three-year-old son’s crying outburst are a couple of incidents that increased my self-awareness during my time in Germany.
I knew I needed to reach out to others who, like myself, were based overseas in less culturally diverse environments and I became inspired to collect a range of stories and document these individual experiences to form a catalogue. Fast-forward a few months, and I launched The Travellers of Colour Collective : a blog that connects like-minded people by sharing our written accounts of our experiences abroad. It has now been a year since The Travellers of Colour Collective was launched, and it has been hugely rewarding, providing a platform for us to express our real, unfiltered chronicles of our various trips around the world.
“only very few could identify with my specific experiences as a woman of colour”
As a black woman embarking on a year abroad, I always saw myself as being placed in a unique position amongst my mostly white counterparts. I realised that, although I could share in feelings of homesickness and cultural displacement, only very few could identify with my specific experiences as a woman of colour. Uprooting myself from the melting pot of London to a small German town made me aware of how my race could play into this new demographic.
I didn’t resign myself to a year abroad riddled with microaggressions and other problematic encounters; l lived conveniently close to Düsseldorf, one of Germany’s more vibrant, dynamic cities. Being the only teacher of colour in the school I worked at was an enriching experience for me as well as my students. In spite of this, I still could not help but feel a sense of isolation thanks to my being black and British, living in a town of mostly white German natives.
Many (if not all) blog posts speak of positive cultural exchange, particularly with diasporic communities. An African-American woman visited Afro-descended regions in Cuba, while another shared her delight in finding an Ethiopian diaspora in Australia. This is what I love about the Travellers of Colour Collective: its ability to showcase the diversity of our experiences. It highlights the unique challenges we have, or may face, but also serves as a source of empowerment to continue to venture out into the wider world.
“the websites that popped up consistently portrayed general experiences by white travellers”
When I first started building my blog, I was passionate about bringing forward a narrative that is arguably underrepresented in mainstream travel media. Before I left for Germany, I decided to do some generic research to quell my pre- year abroad nerves and gain perspective on what a typical year away could entail. However, I found that when I would type in “year abroad blogs” in the search engine, the websites that popped up consistently portrayed general experiences by white travellers.
Our travel narratives were largely absent from the most popular travel blogs. It was only when I tailored my search to “travel blogs by people of colour” that I was truly able to see the vibrant yet eye-opening stories we have to share, and I wanted to contribute to the dissemination of that. I wanted my blog to bring our distinct experiences deservedly to the forefront.
The Travellers of Colour Collective is a small but growing community that encompasses all of our types of travel: whether it be a year abroad, a short vacation or being raised in a different country. It has been so uplifting seeing the plurality of experience yet individuality of our testimonies. I never thought my nine month stay in Germany would eventually lead to connecting with people from all corners of the world and sharing our stories with each other.
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