From bicycling through France to teaching English in Japan, Black people are exploring the world more than ever before. According to travel and hospitality marketing firm MMGY Global, intent to travel among African-Americans has increased from 5 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2016. The growing number of social media sites and travel groups created by Black entrepreneurs has come to be known as the Black Travel Movement.
Nomadness Travel Tribe is one of many online communities connecting Black travelers. Its members have taken group trips to destinations all over the world, including the Dominican Republic, South Africa and India. Evita Robinson, the creator of Nomadness Travel Tribe, feels social media plays a huge role in the increase of Black travelers. Robinson believes that apprehension related to travel has lessened now that travelers of color can log on to Facebook or YouTube and learn from the experiences of others.
“I think mass media doesn’t always do the best job of showing the Black narrative either at all or correctly. Now that we are in a social media age, we have the ability to own our own story and share our experiences,” said Robinson.
The desire to share her experiences with loved ones was how Nomadness Travel Tribe got its start. After completing undergrad, Robinson moved to Japan to teach English for a year. Many unsuccessful attempts at persuading friends to visit prompted her to bring Japan to them by starting a video blog. After her teaching gig was over, she moved to Thailand and continued her web series before moving to New York.
“It was like reverse culture shock. There were so many things happening and nobody in my networks could relate. I wanted to create a community of people who look like me and come from the same place as me who are out here traveling,” said Robinson.
Nomadness Travel Tribe was birthed out of her desire to connect with more Black adventurers. Today, the tribe has more than 13,000 members that keep in touch through social media. Nomadness Travel Tribe hosts at least four official trips each year. You can follow their adventures on YouTube by watching The Nomadness Project web series produced by Issa Rae, creator of Insecure and Awkward Black Girl, and Evita Robinson.
Not all Black nomads opt into group trips. Claudia Johnson felt that travel was something she needed to do alone.
“This was a very hard year for me. I was battling with depression and anxiety. I had a horrible breakup. I was feeling lost and directionless when it came to my career. I guess I was going through my quarter-life crisis,” said Johnson.
In the midst of tough times, she felt a strong pull to make her lifelong dream of visiting Paris a reality.
“My dad was in the army, so I grew up traveling. Since I was small I always wanted to go to Paris. I took French lessons and learned about French culture; I was a little obsessed. I was tired of living my life with fear of the unknown. I decided a Paris trip would be my new beginning,” said Johnson.
Johnson didn’t have very many apprehensions about traveling alone, because her friends and family did all of the worrying for her. They warned her about everything from language barriers to terrorist attacks.
“All I was worried about was feeling the freedom that only solo travel can bring. A coworker told me about a Facebook group called Girls Love Travel, and the people I met were so helpful with planning the trip. I ended up hanging out with three girls from the group in Paris. I also used Tinder. I talked to a bunch of people but only hung out with two people from the app.”
Johnson says she doesn’t think Black people should let fear of discrimination keep them for traveling.
“I’ve heard that some Black travelers experienced difficulties overseas, but I did not experience any treatment I would consider racist or discriminatory. There was one night that was so magical — exploring the city at night and having an amazing conversation with a good-looking Frenchman. It was straight out of a movie how romantic it was. Another favorite memory is riding a bicycle through the palace of Versailles,” said Johnson.
In addition to traveling for fun or enlightenment, some people use travel as a tool to help others. Jerrah Jackson went on a short-term mission trip to South Africa with The Impact Movement, a ministry that works with African-American college students. Jackson was a part of a team of students who ministered on college campuses and served the local community. Jackson has fond memories of this trip, including painting, playing games with local children and singing and rapping with team members and locals.
“Being immersed in a culture unlike my own was a shock for many reasons. They were much more people-oriented as opposed to task-oriented. They are a very hospitable culture,” said Jackson.
It was in South Africa that he met his now-wife, Tammi.
“She was part of my team. We didn’t have sparks fly when we first met. Over time, I started to notice her more. I found myself having feelings for her, but I wasn’t sure how to act on it. We chose not to kiss until the wedding, and five years later here we are on the same mission with two kids!” said Jackson.
After graduating from Indiana University in 2009, the Jacksons returned to South Africa as full-time missionaries. Now they work on college campuses mentoring and disciplining students. He says being a Black missionary impacts the way he is viewed abroad.
“When they see us in person, they are like ‘What are you doing here?’ Our skin color allows us to blend in to an extent, which takes the focus off of us and onto the message we want to give. Why not take advantage of that for the glory of God? There are places in the world that Black missionaries can have access to that others can’t, simply because of the color of skin,” said Jackson.
Whether traveling for missions, personal enlightenment or fun, all of these travelers say stepping outside of their comfort zone changed their lives for the better.
“Black people traveling more would expand our world view. There would be a greater understanding of the world around us and its needs,” said Jackson.
Robinson agrees. “We can tell our stories. We can make a difference. The message of the Black Travel Movement is that the world is ours to enjoy, too.”
For more information about Nomadness Travel Tribe, visit nomadnesstv.com. For additional information about the Jacksons’s ministry, visit journeywiththejacksons.com.