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Truth in Travel

Truth in Travel

Dame Traveler: Black is Beautiful – Two Brown Eyes & a Lens

Hi my fellow Dame Travelers, my name is Ty! Professionally, I am an Analyst and passionately, I am a travel content creator on Instagram. My travel journey started as an adult in 2012 when I was afforded the opportunity to Study Abroad in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and Akita Japan. From then on, I became enamored with travel.

I’ll address the elephant in the room – lack of diversity! That has been a huge challenge as a Black female traveler. I would love to see more Press Release opportunities open to people who look like me and who represent the growing number of People of Color (POC) who DO travel. Shortly after I began travelling with companies aimed at young, professionals, I noticed very few people were POC. I didn’t see myself represented in brochures or on websites. So, my advice to travel companies, brands, hotels and tourism boards, is to actively hire people from all ethnic backgrounds.

To my black traveling sisters,

Sis, do not book a trip without first learning about the tolerance of Black people in the destination you want to travel to. Use Instagram to research hotels, scroll through tags to see if anyone looks like you, search for pins on Pinterest, read blogs about other Black experiences in “x country”. I literally google “x country, Black travel experience”, “safest countries for Black solo travelers”. You should not have to do this, but the reality remains, not all destinations in the world are as forward thinking as you would hope them to be.

To my non-Black travelers,

PLEASE SEE COLOR! I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to hear non-POC dismiss the idea of color or want to keep things “positive”. It is offensive! See my color, see my see my uniqueness, see the beautiful hues of Black skin and please take it upon yourself to learn more about US. Yes, it will make you uncomfortable at times, especially if you have taken the pledge to become an ally. I also ask, when you see or hear something that is being done or said to lack travelers that does not seem just, SPEAK UP. It could potentially save a LIFE!

Let that sink in.

Some misconceptions I’ve heard of regarding traveling solo as a Black female: that are untrue:

1. You won’t be able to find hair products to care for your natural hair.

The grocery store has plenty of natural ingredients that you can use to whip up natural hair products, such as coconut oil, olive oil, eggs, and avocado for deep conditioning treatments. When in doubt, bring your own products with you and or research alternatives before you arrive to your destination.

2. It will be hard to meet people.

If you have an okay time with meeting people at home, you will be okay when traveling. You may find it easier to be open-minded when traveling. Hostels make a great environment for meeting like-minded travelers such as yourself. Go a step further and hang out at a local café

and strike up a conversation with the barista or book a group tour! Your options are virtually limitless, you just have to put yourself out there and take a chance.

Whenever someone asks me what country my favorite is, I always say Japan! I spent about 6 months there and felt completely immersed in the culture. The people of Japan are some of the kindest, funniest, and welcoming people I’ve ever met. Their hospitality is unparalleled, and I always recommend that POC should visit Japan. My skin tone was unique – yes – but it was not a repellent. People were intrigued and wanted to learn more about me and I in turn, wanted to learn more about them.

South Africa was an interesting experience. It was the first country I visited alone, and I had so many expectations about visiting “The Mother Land”. Many of the expectations were met with disappointment. It was the first time I had experienced “colorism” (discrimination based on skin color). As a woman of medium-deep complexion, I was often followed around in shops as a presumed to be a “thief” until owners heard my American accent.

It was the country where I learned how valuable my “American Privilege” is. It was an eye-opening lesson.

As we all learn to navigate the new, post-covid world, I will most likely be at home in California until I feel safe traveling internationally again. Until then, you can check out my previous travel content on IG, @thatgrlty.

Be safe, travel intently and often,

Ty

Advice Solo Travel Truth in Travel

Truth in Travel: How Hiking with Mansplainers Taught Me to Hit the Trail Solo

“Milk powder is the most complete form of protein,” said Jakob nodding sagely. Just the day before he had tried to argue with the same air of authority that Trump was a feminist. “I’ve brought 2kgs of it with me to give me energy, you should have done the same.”

He shovelled spoonful after spoonful of cement-like gruel messily into his mouth. His stomach was visibly bloating and straining against his down jacket; milk powder was crusting around the corner of his lips. Jakob was a very good looking boy (and he knew it) but watching the powder crusting around the corners of his mouth and dribbling down his chin was more than a little repulsive. He spoke with the pompous, unfounded confidence unique to white males.

It was the second day of the four day Huemul Circuit in Argentinian Patagonia. Although not particularly long hike it is lauded as one of the most difficult, but also most spectacular, in the whole of Patagonia. It involved ziplining over gorges, hiking over a glacier, near vertical climbs on slippery ground and breakneck descents. The views were some of the most mind blowing I’d ever seen.

What had also been mind blowing had been the amount of bullshit spouted by the two boys accompanying us. Patronising comments, dubious ‘facts’ and a grotesque amount of mansplaining.

“That’s not how you pitch a tent,” said Noam dictatorially on the first evening, hovering over us both like a gangly praying mantis. “Hammer the pegs in at more of an angle. You want them at about 70 degrees.”

We were both seasoned campers. Anne was travelling on a strict budget and had virtually lived in her tent over the winter. But Noam always knew best.

“I know a better way to roll up your sleeping bag,” he said condescendingly. “Adjust the straps more on your backpack like this to spread the weight more evenly. What brand are your hiking boots? You’re going to struggle. I’m amazed that your feet aren’t covered in blisters already. I thought about buying that sort of stove and then decided this one would be much better.”

Of the other 20 or so hikers on the trail at the same time as us, a good three quarters were male. One or two girls were hiking with their boyfriends and there was one other mixed group of four like ours with two women and two men. There were several pairs of boys, and boys hiking solo. No girl groups and no girls hiking alone, although the other girls that we met seemed to be as experienced or more so than their male companions.

I read an article once which claimed that statistically women tend to only apply for a job when they have 100% of the qualifications whereas men will confidently apply with 60% and it always stuck in my head. I wondered whether this was the same when it came to hiking, whether women would only set off if they were 100% sure of their capabilities, and that the only reason that there weren’t many girls on the trail was due to a lack of confidence.

“We should tie our food to trees so that the mice don’t get it,” said Jakob one evening. “We can use your dental floss.” We were camped by the side of a glacier and wildlife, even the huemul deer that the trek was named after, had been noticeably absent. The wind was so strong that at moments it had snatched our voices as soon as we opened our mouths, leaving us bellowing wordlessly at each other. We’d lost a plate and pan lid to the fierce wind whilst washing up in the river and we had had to duct tape together one of Anne’s tent poles that had snapped under the strain. But sure, Jakob’s suggestion of tying all our edibles to a tree using a piece of floss seemed like a great idea.

Anne and I stowed our own drybags of food safely inside the tent and watched half amused, half exasperated as Jakob constructed an elaborate cat’s cradle of dental floss and made several futile attempts to attach his box of milk powder to a branch.

On the final day of the trek we rose before the sun. We were camped at a place known as the Bay of Icebergs. The early morning light illuminated icebergs shaped like enormous chess pieces which calved and flipped over in front of us with thunderous bangs, exposing turquoise underbellies. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen.

“Why are you hiking with those idiots?” asked a Dutch boy we’d met on the trek, perched on the rock next to me. “You know that you could do this without them.”

The day before we had only just made it to camp before the sun set. We’d ended up waiting for several hours for Jakob who had eaten far too much breakfast, suffered from indigestion and had to wait for his stitch to pass.

It made me think. Anne and I had been waiting for the boys the whole time. We both hiked and camped regularly. So why did we need two not particularly big and not particularly strong men who certainly had no more than 60% of the skills required to survive in the wild to chaperone us?

That morning we ran naked into the lake underneath the rising sun and swam amongst the bergs. We made coffee and sat on the pebble beach watching the slow yet steady progress of an iceberg shaped like a slug making its way across the bay and as we sat there we made a pact with each other that from that point forward we would hike with other girls or we would hike alone. We had had enough of male ego.

The first time that I set off on a multi day hike alone I was filled with self doubt but I was determined. Of course hiking with someone else is always safer, but there is no reason whatsoever why I need a man to escort me on a hike. Since I’ve been hiking solo or with other girls I’ve met far more people, enjoyed myself so much more, and I’ve been able to pitch a tent without having the angle of the tent pegs scrutinised.

All that I needed to do was take the male ego out of the equation.

 

Food Truth in Travel

Truth in Travel: Chicken Schnitzel

Our new series, Truth in Travel will share the not so pretty side of travel. We will be sharing stories that need to be shared in order to increase awareness and to make the world and the travel world a more inclusive place for all. Sharing the truth is now more important than ever in order to see the changes we all want to see.

It was in October 2016, I accompanied my husband to Vienna in Austria while he was there for business. He was at a conference for three working days, in which I was so thrilled to explore the beauty of Vienna without any time restrictions or a partner with conflicting plans! We had moved from San Francisco ten months prior to this conference, so we were eager to travel to every city we could. Europe wasn’t unfamiliar to me, as I was born and raised in Scotland before moving Stateside. But I also wasn’t fully aware of the mentality in some places in Europe.

Prior to my trip, I spent countless hours pinning posts, reading blogs, and researching cool photography spots. There seemed to be so many things I knew I would love from the Hundertwasserhaus to the Vienesse Sachertorte and was so excited to be going.

It was the 12th of October, a chilly Wednesday morning. I packed my camera, put on wooly socks and lots of layers, and set out to explore the city by myself. All those exciting feelings of when you’re in a foreign land, hearing a foreign language, were kicking in. It didn’t take long for the buildings and architecture to captivate me, the imperial traditions to enthrall me, and the old coffee houses fascinate me. After climbing 50 meters high in St Stephan’s Cathedral, I was hungry and knew exactly what I wanted – chicken schnitzel! I had marked a place I would have lunch at for the three days my husband was going to be at the conference and there was no doubt in my mind which would be first – Cafe Diglas.

Cafe Diglas is a classic Vienesse coffee house serving traditional Vienesse food. Besides the food offering, there was another reason I really wanted to have lunch there. I once saw a photo of a woman on a rainy day, dining there sitting by the window looking out. Raindrops speckled her face and from above shone an angelic yellow glow from a light fixing, where the lampshade was dressed in a tutu skirt. After doing some more research, I learned that all the lampshades by the window booths were tutus and this got me really excited – the little things. Famished, I reached there past lunchtime rush hour where many people were vacating tables. It took a while before anyone noticed me, and being new to a city, I was still figuring out how the dining situation worked – do I wait to be seated or grab a table. A couple of elder women walked in five minutes after me and were seated immediately. That prompted me to seek the attention of the staff and asked for a table for one, hoping they would place me under one of those dusty pink tutu skirts. The server told me to follow him. I walked in past the bustling bar area, hearing the clinking of glasses, the murmur of chatter. I passed people putting on their scarves and coats, thanking the staff for their service, saying goodbye upon exiting, embarking from their empty tables. I next passed the window seats with the tutus I so longed to sit under, questioning myself why I couldn’t have sat there. The server guiding me to my table was fast so I couldn’t reach him to ask. So I kept following, walking now in a part of the restaurant that didn’t even seem like the restaurant, up a dark corridor, where the sound of the faint classical music was replaced with the clanging sounds of pots and pans. Soon after, the server introduced me to my table – an isolated table in a peculiar spot next to the opening of the kitchen. There were no windows, no natural light, and no other customers. I was puzzled and afraid to ask why I was seated there when there were plenty of vacant tables. But I plucked up the courage to ask why I couldn’t sit in the main restaurant to which I was told there were no available tables if I don’t have a reservation. I swallowed hard and had a knot in my stomach. I was soon given a menu and the waiter walked away.

I should have got up and left. I should have stood up for myself and demanded one of the vacant tables. I should have questioned why I was seated where nobody could see that there was a brown woman eating chicken schnitzel. But I didn’t. Was it my British politeness that didn’t want to cause any bother? Was it because I didn’t want to spoil the rest of my day after spending so many great hours in the city? Was it because I didn’t want to accept that I had been discriminated against by the color of my skin?

My heart sank. I felt like I had been punched in my stomach. My throat was dry. But I refused to show the waiter I was troubled by his ill-treatment and immersed myself into my phone, acting busy and unphased, but really typing about my experience in my iPhone notes. I ate my chicken schnitzel, paid the check, even left a tip in case I was treated even worse, and left, saying bye to the staff with a broken heart and wet eyes.


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