Journal

The Minority Report: Traveling Solo While Black, Female and Disabled

So you have been bitten by the travel bug, it was pretty much over from that point on. You are always on the look out for your next adventure, your next big thing. The next place to add onto the other amazing places that you have been that have simply taken your breath away.

But not so fast, you don’t have a passport and you have polio. The dream is over before it was even given an opportunity to start, and make you fall in love with traveling. I was a 5 year old immigrant from Nigeria who had just arrived in London, with no English language skills and a whole lot of malaria.

Our young intrepid traveler back in Nigeria

Our young intrepid traveler back in Nigeria

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Hanging with the salamander at Parc Guell, Barcelona

If I wasn’t interested enough, that right there would be more than enough to validate a choice to not travel. Or not to travel as much. But
I was always drawn to international people. So during my time in
university I lived with and got to know many students that were not from the UK. Please note, that while I did have a great time with them, remember to make friends with people that won’t leave after 6 months! Or in the case of my second year of university, don’t be the person that leaves California so easily! Find a (legal!) way to stay.

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Writing my name on the peace wall in Belfast, N. Ireland

But as soon as I could travel, I did travel. And it was usually to destinations where my friends were, because apparently I just don’t know how to let go. “Traveling while crip” changes you, at least it definitely changed me. I have always loved the thrill of trying to outdo myself, everything is so much better when you are challenging yourself.

Château de Versailles, where you would live if they let you rent...

Château de Versailles, where you would live if they let you rent…

It’s certainly not easy traveling with a disability, everything is just harder, and requires more planning. Except when it comes to see the world, and my friends within it. I go the extra mile for that, and I always will.

Valle de los Caidos, San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Valle de los Caidos, San Lorenzo de El Escorial

So going through Belfast and walking on the Carrick-a-Rede in pouring rain? Been there. Done that. Nearly died while doing so? Yup. For me that’s where the thrill comes from, knowing that I should probably be “taking it easy”. But my life has never been easy, it’s like I have been collecting different minority statuses my whole life.

Not only do I travel with a disability, but I do all of this while [most of the time] solo. And, of course, there is always a concern about being a Dame Traveler going to new places and trying to stay safe. Thankfully, throughout my travels I have been perfectly fine and have felt safe as well. Even when I was on a night train in Chicago and this guy wouldn’t stop trying to sell me earrings, I was able to relieve any tension that there could have been. I believe growing up in London has helped me deal with my fair share of “interesting men”.

Advice that I would give to any female traveler, disabled or otherwise, is to assess the situation and see if it would not just be easier to engage in small talk with whoever is trying to get your attention. What I have found out it that they usually do not like being ignored, but obviously every situation is different. You should always follow your gut and if something doesn’t feel right, it most probably isn’t.
I am a woman of colour with a disability that really enjoys traveling by herself, often to places where I don”t know anyone. But what is life, if not for living? And traveling really does bring me to life, back home in London, I am not so interesting. Unless I’m in the US, of course, then I just play up my accent and soak up the adoration like the fiend I am. When I am not shamelessly soaking up attention, I am Couchsurfing! Most of my couchsurfing experience was during my 2 month traveling tour of USA, Canada and Jamaica. I had the pleasure of being hosted by some absolutely amazing people, both men and women. It can seem daunting at first, especially if you’re surfing as a woman by yourself. But when you get a great host, a friendship could come out of it! Which is always, always a plus. Who doesn’t want to meet up in Malmo, Sweden with an amazing woman that so graciously hosted her when she was homeless in Atlanta?

When Lake Como, Italy is just stunning without trying.

When Lake Como, Italy is just stunning without trying.

So when I was in the Duomo di Milano and could not make the last few steps to the top as I didn’t feel safe because of how windy it was, and how big [and oh so expensive!] my new camera was, I wasn’t upset. I had seen what I wanted to, and the extra few steps would not have changed much for me. And in my opinion, there is no point wallowing in self pity. As that would involve a river of tears, and I am simply not that strong of a swimmer!

During all of my travels, I have had to contend with figuring out how best to see the things that I want with a disability. And I feel that due to this, I have never really taken notice of myself as a “black female traveler”. But I have heard tales of POC having a to deal with a certain curiosity about their race, at best. Or having to deal with outright distrust of their intentions when they are traveling while black, or just not white white white. There has only been an instance in Geneva, Switzerland where I was obviously the talking point for a large tour group of East Asian travelers. I am sure that the combination of a black woman with a disability was just simply too interesting not to discuss.

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My travels are taking me to Greece and Turkey in the next few months, and I am actually beyond excited about this. I have never been to either country before, and I am hoping to soak up as much culture, fun and food as possible! Including the famous Turkish ice cream. I am sure that there will be times where I will become frustrated with certain things that I can’t do. But where there is a will, there is most definitely a way, and I intend on finding it!

The most difficult thing for me would be not to be able to travel at all, in any capacity. As it is hard trying to figure out exactly what you’re going to do with your life, but if my life includes adventures to foreign lands? I will be more than happy with that. As traveling just makes me happy.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Nastasia - Dame Traveler - jayonlife September 11, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    […] taste of travel through her now husband, to meeting many Dame Travelers around the world, including yours truly. Be sure to keep up to date with her travels, especially her recent trip to […]

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