I promise you, one of the questions I get tired of answering and get asked the most both home and abroad is, “Are you by yourself?” Unfortunately, many black women and a few black men get asked this question more times than we care to answer. I guess because I have been “doing it” so long that I am just immune to it, but the real question is, why do we have to travel solo?
It is not to brag, but I have been to almost every U.S. State, several Countries, and a handful of Continents. In my travels, there has been one thing that both amuses me and makes me sad all at the same time; it’s seeing countless black women traveling solo. As unpopular as most of my friends and family may think it is, it is actually sadly common, particularly for single and successful women of color. You don’t believe me? I belong to several, yes several single, black travel sites on Facebook and Instagram. Here, you will find the most fabulous pictures, stories, suggestions, and cautions before you (Single You), plan your next getaway. I find that I word search where I would like to go in these sites steps before I arrange travel. But again, why?
I sat next to an amazingly handsome, single Latino male on a flight recently to Cartagena, Columbia. He was a pilot, and we hit it off as soon as I buckled into my window seat. We started with the usual pleasantries, and within five minutes, he asked, “Are you traveling by yourself?” and as always with a forced smile I replied, “Yes sir I am.” I’ve come to realize that when I look around the plane, if there is not a couple traveling together, there is often a group, but the solo thing, well it has always been “My Thing” but I also noticed over the year although some of us do it by choice, many it becomes their reality.
For those that don’t know, I’m in my 40’s, single, and don’t have any children. Now, don’t cry for me Argentina, I have and continue to live an amazing life, and that’s a whole different blog 😊, I say all that to say, that when I speak to other solo travelers, their story is similar are close to mine. Some have children, and they are now grown. Others take group trips but will also reserve a solo trip in that same year for their “self-care,” but it still cannot go unnoticed that we (single black women are the biggest solo travelers).
My first solo trip was close to 20 years ago after I was going through a divorce. I went to the Bahamas to get my mind right and get over my funk. I realize that not only was I am an amazing person, but I also enjoyed my own company. Honestly, the first two or three trips I hated the stares when I went to have dinner by myself. I hated the thought of having to “protect myself.” And worst of all, I hated the single traveler surcharge that cruises, hotels, and travel sites penalize s with merely because we are a solo traveler. As time when on, I started using it to my advantage. I made it clear I was solo. Men made sure, I got to my room safely, and women that worked at resorts offered me package deals that would not be a distraction and added me to odd numbered groups to assure I was not by myself. I’ve never met a stranger in my life, so meeting new people was never the problem, my circumstance just made it a necessity.
Now to be clear, I have traveled with friends in the past, but nine times out of ten they too are single black females, and I don’t know about you but every NOW and THEN I enjoy the company of the opposite sex, but they are not always readily available. Not making it a stereotype, but most of the men I know, can’t swim, don’t enjoy International Travel the way I do, some don’t even possess a passport, making it even more challenging to find a travel buddy. I know married women who have told me they take solo or girls trips because their husbands do not like to travel. What I see on more than 99% of my trips are European couples, European families and single black females. Even on this recent trip, on the Delta flight, I was on, there were only two black women on the entire oversold flight.
I don’t predicate my life or happiness on others thoughts, fears, and perceptions of me being a solo traveler. As a matter of fact, for me to enjoy all that this world has to offer, it’s the only way. Do I have fears? Sure. Do I get nervous walking around in a strange Country? No more than I do in a peculiar U.S, city. I learned real early to avoid looking like a tourist, speak as much of the language as you can (I keep a translator app on all my phone and electronic devises), and make every trip a Great Adventure!!
So, to answer your question, “Are you traveling by yourself,” the answer is YES.