1. Could you tell us a little about your story and what you do, for anyone who doesn’t know you yet?
My name is Joy Iromuanya. I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. My dad came to the United States in the late 70s from Nigeria, and my mom joined him shortly after. I always wanted to travel because I heard my parents talk about their life in Nigeria, and I had a childhood friend who spoke about her father being a sailor in the Philippines and meeting her mother. I knew there was so much more to see and learn of the world and that is what prompted me to enlist in the United States Navy in October 2010. Once a year, the Navy would send me somewhere to complete my two-week annual tour, but I realized that I wanted to travel full time. So, in January of 2018, I applied and was hired by Delta Air Lines as a flight attendant.
2. Have you ever faced any challenges or issues as a Black female traveler?
I’ve traveled to many places around the globe in the last few years, but this past year, I spent two weeks in Naples, Italy, for my two-week annual Navy tour. While there, I downloaded a dating app thinking it would be an excellent way to meet local men. However, I was surprised by the number of men who asked me if I was African or American. Initially, I wasn’t sure how to answer; I consider myself African American. Nonetheless, it became abundantly clear that I would be treated with more respect if I identified solely as American. When I answered that I was African–just to see if there was a difference–Italian men would assume I was a sex worker.
3. What piece of advice would you give to new Black female travelers?
Many Black women were taught that the world is dangerous, and we are especially vulnerable as Black women. We fear that our skin color will make us more visible. We fear that we will face racism and stigma. We fear that even when we are endorsed, it will be through dehumanizing fetishization. Despite these very legitimate concerns, I encourage you to be unapologetically black. Wear your braids, afros and locs. Do things that you might not ordinarily do. Go horseback riding, take a cooking class, go ziplining. Date men who you wouldn’t typically date. Give other men a chance. In sum, get out of your comfort zone. Do research. Join black travel social media groups. They have a wealth of knowledge. Ask other black female travelers about their experiences, both good and bad. Ask if they experienced any overt or covert racism, listen to their stories. On my website, www.traveltheworldwithjoy.com., I also provide travel guides, including a list of places I would highly recommend for Black women to experience safe and respectful travel. I also list the names of excellent professional tour guides, accommodations, restaurants to eat, and activities to do.
4. Piece of advice to give non-black travelers?
Research the country you are visiting before you arrive in the country. Learn a few phrases of the native tongue. Learn the local customs, courtesies, and traditions. Does the culture expect women to dress modestly? What is going on in the country politically? Often, I meet non-black travelers who have no idea about the culture of the country they are visiting. They don’t even know basics like the currency,
conversion rate, and on what side of the road to drive. Visit places off the beaten path. Many of my non-black traveler friends stay at resorts and refuse to leave their cruise ship when it docks, but instead of playing it safe, spend three days in a resort and then three days in an Airbnb so you can mingle with locals and experience more of the vibrant everyday life and culture.
5. What are some myths and misconceptions about traveling as a Black female solo traveler that you’ve found to be untrue?
When I first started traveling, I didn’t know how I would be received. Would I encounter racism? Would my gender make me vulnerable? Indeed, sometimes locals do touch my hair and ask me questions. But I don’t feel disrespected. Usually, they are genuinely curious and admiring the beauty of my texture and style. (Of course, I would prefer that people not touch my hair without first asking for permission.) Some of the people in the country are also proud to be an ambassador, showing me their hometown. They want to make me feel accepted, welcome, and safe.
6. What are some states or countries that have been kind to you?
During a Belgium layover, a few friends of mine decided to take a train to Brugge. We had a fantastic time touring the city and eating. On the way back to our hotel, I realized that I had left my cellphone on my train seat. I was distraught. One of my friends suggested that I text, “This is my phone that I lost. Can I please meet up with you to get it back? Please text this number.” To make a long story short, a kind man texted us back and told us to come to his workplace to retrieve my phone. Once we arrived, he handed me my phone. I tried to offer him money, but he refused. We also mentioned that we were going to eat nearby. He told us that it wasn’t the safest neighborhood, and he wouldn’t advise it. His kindness meant the world to me because it showed me that good people still exist.
7. What are some states or countries that haven’t been so kind?
As a flight attendant, when I am working on certain international flights, passengers see me as their servant. During a flight to Lagos, Nigeria a few passengers left their luggage at the boarding door. They expected me to retrieve and stow their luggage for them. It is my company’s policy that customers are solely responsible for stowing their carry-on bags in overhead bins. Carry-on bag related injuries are a top driver of flight attendant injury each year, causing approximately 25% of In-Flight’s total injuries.
8. Tell us what you’re up to next and where we can find you.
Due to the COVID-19 global health crisis, I am currently on leave from Delta Air Lines but I’m hoping to return in November and resume travel. I also plan to blog about my Annual tour trip for the Navy to Connecticut this summer. In addition, I was also selected as the LimitLes Zion giveaway winner, so I will be going on a hiking trip this fall. You will find these blogs on my website Travel the World With Joy and Instagram. I would love you hear from you. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.