While in Sayulita this January, my friend Curt Barter showed me the wonders of Quora. Recently, I made a Quora account to comment on an article, but didn’t understand what it was so it was pretty serendipitous that he asked me if I’d ever heard of it while hanging out one night. Yesterday, I answered my first Quora question
As an African American where are the best places to travel without experiencing racism?
I couldn’t think of a more perfect question to be my first Quora answer. I’ve been asked this by several friends and family members and is something I want to explore here on ‘NAPW more. Here is my answer for Quora with a bonus FIVE MORE locations for my ‘N A Perfect World readers.
From childhood, I’ve traveled with my Caribbean American family. As founder of my blog ‘N A Perfect World and travel writer for places like Du Jour, Vice and Popsugar magazine I’ve been to dozens of countries all over the world and have lived in Italy (in Milan and a small beach town in Salento).
It would be ignorant to say that we’re in a post-racial society and that it’s something you shouldn’t think about when you’re traveling. I have traveled abroad during both the Bush Jr. and the Obama presidency and there was a huge difference between how Americans were treated during both. It will be extremely interesting to navigate travel politics during Trump’s presidency; something I’ve already experienced having been to Anguilla, London and Mexico since he’s been President-Elect.
I encourage people of color to go out and see the world. That is the only way these boundaries / stereotypes can be broken. I’ve rarely experienced travel prejudices vs. curiosities (i.e. an Asian family in Singapore asking to for a photo of me with their child). This all being said, here are 10 places I’ve traveled that I was particularly well received as an African American woman.
- Italy (both North and South): There’s a funny stereotype that Italian men love black women — from my experience over the last 10 years, it’s true. I’ve been met with kindness, love and curiosity during my times spent in Italy — especially for black American culture. I’ve also found an openness there, a willingness to ask questions that break down walls. Questions that would be un-PC to ask in the US but when coming from a place of genuine curiosity are quite helpful in dispelling untruths and myths.
- London, UK: I’m from New York and find London to be equally, if not more-so culturally diverse and thriving. As a person of color, you do not stand out at all, maybe as an American, but there are tons of those there as well ;).
- Geneva & Lausanne, Switzerland: Less than an hour apart, Geneva and Lausanne are like two very different sisters. Geneva playing the affluent older sister home to the WHO, international banks, nestled under Mt. Geneva. Lausanne is a hip, hilly, college town, filled with dancing, late night bars and an active student population. In both places I noticed a large amount of I.R.C (interracial couples) and families. There is also a large population of very wealthy black people from African countries like Nigeria in Geneva.
- Anguilla, The West Indies: Many islands in the Caribbean are predominantly people of color with a rich history due to the native population, colonization, the slave trade and immigration patterns. The motto of the island of Jamaica best describes it “Out of many, one people.” Due to proximity, and our immigration patterns here in the United States, African American travelers are pretty normal in many Caribbean countries, so why Anguilla? The food culture! On this tiny island, there are over 100 restaurants!
- Japan: Japan is really awesome. There is a strong culture dating back to ancient times that everyone should experience. There’s also a pretty cool Japanese hip hop culture dating back to the 1980s. As hip hop developed from African Americans in the cities of the United States, DJ Hiroshi Fujiwara started playing it back an Japan. There is a strong affinity for African Americans in this niche part of Japanese culture and it’s definitely interesting to experience.
- Medellín, Colombia: Colombia is a multi-cultural South American country teeming with Afro-Colombians, especially in cities like Medellín. Typically there is a class disparity that you’ll see between black and white Colombians and the race issues of most countries with multiple races but I was extremely well received by all types of Colombians while I was there.
- Havana, Cuba: The Afro-Cuban culture is rich and strong with many of the most known aspects of the Cuban culture being derived from Afro-Cubans like Celia Cruz. Much like Colombia, there is an obvious class disparity between the races despite the notions of Communism eliminating this. I really encourage black Americans to travel to Cuba. At this point, especially in Havana, many Cubans are used to tourists. However, I had a pretty heart warming moment with an Afro-Cuban waitress that was so thrilled to see my mother and I in Havana. She hadn’t met a black American before and you really saw how much it meant for her to see other black people doing well enough to travel.
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Here’s another South American country with a vibrant black population with a strong influence on the culture, from dance & the arts to the science.
- Tel-Aviv, Israel: Israel is a very special place. I was thoroughly moved visiting Mary’s tomb in Jerusalem and no matter what religion you are, the energy is palpable. Tel Aviv is this wonderful combination of Miami and San Francisco with a thriving food and arts culture and I found no qualms about being a black American there. In fact, many Israelis came up to me speaking Hebrew — a friend told me that they probably thought I was an Ethiopian jew.
- Paris, France: From Josephine Baker to James Baldwin, there is a long history of black Americans seeing Frances as an escape from the racism in the United States. Dating back to the early 1700’s, wealthy French colonists sent their mixed-race sons and their black or mixed-race mistresses to Paris to be educated, at a time when it was illegal in most of the U.S. for black people to even learn to read. The gens de colour, as they were called, made up a middle class of sorts in many French colonies, such as New Orleans and Haiti. There are obviously two sides of the coin to this idea as the French are fraught with their own stereotypes and racial issues — like the fact that France refuses to collect any racial demographics statistics. There’s a strange invisible line, and elevated distinction if you will, that you experience as a black American in Paris that I’d definitely encourage you to explore. However, besides the typical sites to see in the City of Lights, it’s an amazing place to explore black American ex-pat history too!
Something I’ve often noticed, especially in the cases of Medellín & Havana, use your skin color to your advantage. I’ve often found myself gaining access to places and situations that I know I wouldn’t necessarily have had access to if I were white. I take pride in this and happily eat up all of these moments. Be safe, be cognizant of your surroundings but EXPLORE EXPLORE EXPLORE!
Thank you so much for your information. I must say it was very helpful and i will be visiting the cities you listed. I myself visited havana, cuba and i whole heartedly agree with you. The afro-cubans show me and my friends so much love we didn’t want to leave. They definitely understand that no matter which part of the world we live in. We are one. And anytime i travel, i will always make it my business to visit the afro community and learn black culture in foreign lands. Thank you again and keep on traveling and sharing. Peace and light
Thank you so much for your feedback. Positive messages like this reinvigorate me and make me so excited to create more content. Peace and light to you too Symphony!
Good reading. I’ve been to quite a few places overseas and am looking for my next adventures which I must say Medillen, Havana, Anguilla, and Rio look really exciting. Can’t wait!! Thank you for the good suggestions!
Thanks! Are you based in the US? If so, I’d say head to Havana before restrictions tighten (during Trump they’ve been tightening a lot and reversing a lot of the Obama partnerships). If that doesn’t matter then I say MEDELLIN!!! I absolutely love it and am itching to go back!
Thank you so much for this helpful information. I am planning a vacation for this year and I want to go some place where I can feel comfortable. Happy New Year!
Where did you end up going?
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thank you so much for your information travel to Spain is in mind do you have any experience about living there ? am from Nigeria from Africa.
Hi! No, while I have enjoyed visiting Spain (South like Alicante and big cities like Madrid and Barcelona, in the countryside of Estremadura) on many occasions, I do not have experiences living there. I have a handful of black American friends who did live there and it does not seem to be an easy experience, I must admit to you. One thing that my female friends that lived there often lamented about was the catcalls and discussions as though they were prostitutes. Here is a great personal account from a Nigerian woman’s experience in Spain: https://www.expatica.com/new/es/about/culture-history/diversity-663881/
As well as an account from On She Goes, a podcast that I am a regular on.
I’ve met the leader of Las Morenas, a site / community for black women in Spain: https://www.lasmorenasdeespana.com/blog/black-in-spain-an-exotic-beauty
And while I was preparing to answer you found these two interesting articles as well:
Obviously, this isn’t going to be the sweeping statement for every person of color’s experience living in Spain and as I mentioned above we have to be out there traveling, living until it’s normalized BUT your mental health and happiness is importance. Should you decide to make the wonderful decision to live abroad in Spain, find a community of people of color. Best case scenario you’re in a big city and you have a gaggle of white Spaniard friends, it’s great! However, they don’t see or understand when you’re served last at a bar etc. Find a community of other people of color living in your locale. Micro-agressions like these can chip away at you and you don’t have to go it alone.
I too am CONSIDERING a trip to Spain but am a bit reluctant. Here is a blog I’ve found that gives really good insight. Read the blog as well as the comments.
Thank you for this blog! In your closing you state, “I’ve often found myself gaining access to places and situations that I know I wouldn’t necessarily have had access to if I were white.” Can you elaborate on this a give a few examples?
Hi Sam! Sorry for the delay in this. I mean I wasn’t treated like an outsider but rather, in many places I’ve visited, someone that looked like that, someone that may have shared the same experiences. Racial issues / tensions in the US are world news. Even in Paris, when a caucasian woman was reading the paper and the front page was about Trump and she heard my American accent while ordering, she looked at me apologetically. Visiting Mexico, I’m not Mexican, but very few Mexicans are torn when chatting with me as to whether I’m a “build a wall” kind of person solely because I’m American. I’ve had guides invite me to their home and say to my mom, “you have to meet my aunt, you look just like her.” Sometimes, I think people simply feel safer telling me their stories because at least visually, I can’t “other” them.
I love this post! Not sure if we will make it this year, but next year will definitely make our first trip out of the US.
Wonderful Madeline! Where are you thinking of going?!
Thank you for writing this article! I’m glad I came across it. I visited Havana last summer and fell in love with it and their people. It felt really welcoming. I am going to Colombia at the end of this month, Cartagena to be exact. Have you been to that part while you were in Colombia?
Hi Delilah! I’m so sorry for my delay in response. Yes, I’ve been to Cartagena and I absolutely love it. The people were very welcoming and while there is a class divide between people of color tending to be in the service industry vs. otherwise they are also used to travelers and international people of color and as a foreigner didn’t experience colorism there (I was there with my mom)! This all being said, people often thought we were Colombian! There is a warm spirit much like Cuba and I think you will enjoy!
I really appreciate your insight. My husband and I will be traveling with our 4 kids (4,8,10,13). My thoughts are either cuba or Colombia so that they may experience a Spanish speaking destination with African ties. What are your thoughts on finding cultural experiences with kids in this age range and accomodations.
Cuba and Colombia are great suggestions. I’d go with Cartagena or Medellin in Colombia and Havana and perhaps Trinidad (OR Santiago de Cuba in Cuba — Santiago is the city in Cuba that has the strongest ties with it’s African roots and is considered such a cultural epicenter for Cubans – music, dance, food…) Your children are in a great age range to understand, appreciate and be proud of the black diaspora and I think it’s important to see a Spanish speaking country as much of exported hispanic culture is all too often whitewashed commercially. Accommodations in both countries are very reasonably priced and in many cases you can rent the whole casitas or guesthouses. I’d start on AirBNB (It’s very popular now in Cuba as casa particulares were the norm even before the idea spread to the US etc). Looking forward to hearing about your trip and good luck!
Thank you for your list. I have long thought that African Americans would not be particularly welcome in the U.K. and that the French were “snooty”. Thanks for giving a glimpse into a welcoming world out there! I plan to use your list in my bucket list of places to visit. Also, have you ever visited Dubai? My daughter expressed an interest in going there.
Hi Yvette! I’m sorry this comment must have slipped by me because it was while I was in the South African bush with no service! Oh no! The UK is probably the most similar in make up to the USA and Canada in terms of different races. Consider it an older and more established US. The same racism that you might encounter in say NYC you’d in London. And the French are snooty ;), but they do have a love affair with black Americans that help temper it! No, I haven’t been to Dubai — I know that it was a “hot” place to travel but it’s never been on my bucket list preferring some of the neighboring Middle Eastern countries with rich histories and culture first. I’ve had a lot of friends go and were bored after the first 2 or 3 days, expressing it as a chicer Vegas. I definitely want to get there and make my own assumptions but there are so many places to see. I’ve also updated with 10 MORE places. https://naperfectworld.com/2019/01/05/10-black-friendly-destinations-2/
Thank you for writing this engaging and friendly article! You’ve given me many ideas, as well as a new designation (IRC). Ha! We’re looking for communities that we can learn/mingle in as brown-skinned people. Our main goal is to nurture in our kids the OPPOSITE of the poisonous self-image that can occur as a result of spending too much time among latently hostile folks. So far, Costa Rica and Panama have been lovely and eye-opening. We’ll give some of these places a try.
I am so sorry that I missed this comment! IRC, Swirl etc. Are you in an IRC. Working on a new story about that based on my experiences traveling with my boyfriend. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head saying “latently hostile” sometimes it’s not overt racism, but micro-aggressions that are exhausting and kids are impressionable and sensitive so why expose them to that! I’ve also updated with 10 MORE places. https://naperfectworld.com/2019/01/05/10-black-friendly-destinations-2/ Martinique and Guadeloupe in particular are GREAT for family travel.
Thank you for sharing☺️
No problem! Thanks for the love! I’ve also updated with 10 MORE places. https://naperfectworld.com/2019/01/05/10-black-friendly-destinations-2/
a black woman traveling is totally different than a black man travelling, so i would love to here the prospective of a black male traveling the world and how he is perceived there. but my main question is have u ever visited any african country?
Hi Zaya, I am a black woman traveling as you can see on my blog. Feel free to reach out to a black male traveling — I am friends and have done collaborations with many, though not sure why you’d come to my blog to say mine is NOT the PERSPECTIVE that you’d like to see. Thanks for your opinion, you highlight a fair point — do think about your delivery and how it reflects on you.
And in regards to the main question, yes, I’ve been to several countries on the African continent and have written about my trips for my blogs, shot them on Instagram and for international publications. Thanks for your visit!
Thank you so much for sharing! My family and I started traveling abroad a few years ago. My main objective was to show my adult kids and younger ones that there was more to life than what was within The States. So far, we have been to Barbados and then ventured a little further to London, which I absolutely LOVED!! I’m planning now for 2019 and I was torn until I read your post. I, now, have several countries to choose from. Thank you, again and continue your traveling posts as they are much needed. Peace & blessings.
Hi Shunda! I’m so glad to hear that. I have even MORE coming your way — the post should be going up at the end of this week. One of them includes Guadeloupe! It’s a great Caribbean island to visit in the French West Indies because it’s definitely French, but still retains their African heritage VERY strongly and has one of the best African history / slave museums I’ve seen to date! Great for families as you have beach, adventure, and it’s educational. Please subscribe as you’ll get an update when it comes out.
I just recently posted ANOTHER 10 locales – check it out! https://naperfectworld.com/2019/01/05/10-black-friendly-destinations-2/
Now you have even more countries to choose from. Barbados and London are among my favorite places in the world! Safe travels! xx
Love this article! Thank you, it was excatly what I was looking for. Were an AA family of three from Kansas and while we cruise ALOT we don’t do lots of “land” vacations outside of the US coastal states (NY, FL, CALI) I would really like to go to London for my 40th Bday in April and I couldn’t believe that my husband said ‘SURE”! Now Im nervous…the article really helped! Our son will be 10 and Im hoping he will enjoy it as well. What are your thoughts? Thanks again for the article!
Hi K High! Got your comment while I was working on the updated list with 10 MORE places. https://naperfectworld.com/2019/01/05/10-black-friendly-destinations-2/ and I couldn’t wait to share it with you. London is GREAT, similar enough to the US as say going to a NYC, or Boston and different enough that it’s still WOW! It’s beautiful and charming and in terms of racially, you won’t stand out at ALL! The UK is a lot like the United States in terms of make up. It’s a beautiful city and in April it really comes alive. It looks like this: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bijvmx2Arji/
And on a good summer day you’ll get this!
https://www.instagram.com/p/BlQHb2kgGxL/ This was a park near our home.
The Brits really love gardening and public parks etc are blossoming. They are even cherry blossom trees in government housing. I’ve lived there for the last year so let me know if you have any questions! My favorite area is cliche, but it’s Notting Hill! I’ve also stayed at CitizenM hotel and blogged about it here: https://naperfectworld.com/2017/05/15/citizenm-tower-of-london/ and in Chelsea etc. Here are my stories there: https://naperfectworld.com/?s=London&submit=Search
Also, my favorite pizza place in the world is in London, Zia Maria! Enjoy!
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I absolutely loved this article! I’m an Afro Caribbean Man born and raised in the US. My wife and I recently went to Guatemala, and loved it! After reading this its given me more places to see and explore! I think we may visit Thailand or Cuba this year. Also have you been to Athens, and if so did you feel welcome there? (We were also considering Athens.)
Yes! I’ve been to Athens. Greece is beautiful, in the currently political climate, and flood of immigrants into the EU through places like Greece, Spain and Italy has breed a strong xenophobic voice in Greece. That being said, if someone were to watch the news WHY would they come to the US — they could say the same thing about us. Athens has world history, you guys should definitely see it, but make it a bigger trip to the islands as well. Athens is a chaotic and smoggy city and I wouldn’t recommend for more than a few days! Enjoy your travels!
Thank you so much for the info! I’ll let you know where we go. Safe travels!
Dire need of your input….I mentioned months ago that my family and I are traveling to Rome in May and my husband has compiled a list of must-see cities along with private tours for each. On this list are Venice, Florence, and Amalfi Coast (Capri/Naples). His method of transportation is the EuroRail 3-City Tour. I’m not sure if I really want to spend my 2 weeks running from city to city. I guess my question is,”Where would you recommend as far as day trips to other cities, outside of Rome” and “What is the best method of transportation to take in these sights”? Also, are the local tours worth it in Rome and its outer cities? We will be there 2 weeks and there are 6, maybe 7 of us traveling. Your feedback is most appreciated. Best wishes to you….Shunda
Rome has a LOT to see. I was just visiting my godmother in Rome for the day and we spent the entire day at the Vatican! I definitely recommend seeing it with a guide so you know what you’re seeing. If it’s your first time in Italy, it’s well worth it running from city to city. The average tourist spends a week and 1/2 in Italy so you’re in like mind. I’m all for slow travel and really digesting a place but if you’re not sure when you’ll get to Italy again, see as much as you can. Your list is great. Venice is overcrowded but a beautiful must see so you don’t need more than a night there. There is Pompeii besides Naples but other than that I think you have a GREAT plan! Good luck. I’d say pack light for the train travel since there’s so many of you. You are going to have THE BEST time. I have a post on Rome coming up and will be in Italy in May so may see you there 😉
Thank you for this. This was terrific information! I just got my passport and I want to travel (mostly on my own) and to see other countries other than countries predominately people of color on the list is refreshening. I shouldn’t have to worry about not being safe in countries where there may not be an abundance POC, however it’s the reality and it’s better safe than sorry. Also, it’s not to say don’t want to go to places where I see different shades, but I also want to experience different cultures and see other beautiful landscapes in places Iceland or Germany.
I’m so glad you liked it! I also updated my site with part 2! You’re right, we have EVERY right to explore, but safety so we can CONTINUE to explore is definitely a priority. I’m so happy that you got your passport. Where do you think your first destination will be?
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