Travelling solo as a black woman is still a topic that raises eyebrows. Is it safe? Lonely? What about racism? All question I asked before I took my first solo trip and they often stemmed from misconceptions I had. For black women, the fear of sticking out, being fetishised or being racially abused makes travelling solo a very daunting thought. Growing up, we’re taught that the world is dangerous, especially for a woman as we are viewed as more “vulnerable”. BUT travelling solo as a black woman can actually transform and empower you!
In this post, I chatted with four experienced black female solo travellers and they share challenges and triumphs they’ve faced seeing the world alone, solo safety tips, the best places to go so solo as black females and more! I hope these women inspire you to finally take that solo trip! Let’s get into their experience travelling solo as a black woman.
Pelumi of Black Kintsugi
Pelumi is a twenty-something solo traveller doing a PhD in cancer research and human genetics in London (so cool!). She’s passionate about travel and been to over 50 countries already, doing majority of them solo with no plans on stopping. On her blog, BlackKintsugi.com and Instagram (@black.kintsugi), Pelumi shares great travel tips, beautiful stories and just joy to all her followers. Kintsugi is a Japanese term that means to mend with gold, and she feels like travelling is the Kintsugi of life, it’s how we are able to mend and connect and have shared experiences. She loves educating people on how they can travel as well and shares how travelling can be easy, safe and doable. Let’s get into Pelumi’s story.
1. Tell us about your first solo trip. Where did you go and how was the experience?
My first solo experience was to Sweden, Stockholm. I remember I wanted it to be quite memorable, so I actually got a boat accommodation, so I stayed on a ship which was docked. I just wanted to mark that occasion because I had done a few trips before then, but it was the first time I was actually going to be properly alone then I realised you’re not really alone because funny enough a friend of mine coincidentally was leaving on my first day there, so we spent time together. The experience was really nice! Solo travel, I definitely recommend that you at least try it once. I think it gives you self-resilience and shows you’re able to survive any situation. So, I 100% recommend it.
2. How may countries have you travelled to solo? And what’s the most ‘unusual’ place?
I don’t know the exact number but about two thirds of my travelling and that’s why I really encourage people to travel by themselves because if you’re waiting for other people to be ready, you’re going to be waiting a long time! And the most unusual place I’ve visited, tough one but off the top of my head I’d say Tirana in Albania. It’s known as the city of many windows and architecturally it looks so stunning. I remember seeing pictures and wanting to go before I actually visited, it’s a very beautiful small town. They don’t see a lot of black people, so you definitely get the odd stares but aside from that, the history there is very interesting, and I’d definitely recommend! If you’re going to Albania, definitely check it out.
Side note: don’t sleep on eastern Europe as a whole! It’s a place where you don’t have to search too far for culture, it hits you in the face. You know, you go to some places and you have to go searching for culture but not here. Straight from the airport you know and see, this is new, this is different.
3. Have you experienced any challenges travelling solo as a black woman?
I haven’t had any personal challenges really. You get the odd stares and the odd ‘why are you here’ questions but most people are just curious, and I always come from a place of it’s very odd for them to see you in these places. It’s normal for them to want to stare at you or touch your hair or ask where you’re coming from. I think when more people visit these places, it would actually normalise them seeing people of colour. So, they don’t think of it as out of place so I just encourage more people to visit these places that they would normally not go. Don’t let your colour or race stop you from visiting these places.
I think the challenges most people face are ones that might not even be theirs to carry in the first place. I think we’re fed so much, especially in the black travel space, that some places are scary to visit for people of our race and that fear from others is actually what we project. So, be mindful of if you’re actually scared or has someone told you to be scared. There are definitely challenges, but I feel they can be managed, you can still have a good time in these places. Just be open minded.
4. Any really great experiences?
Oh, so many experiences!! One of my favourite travel quotes is ‘Traveling, it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller’ and I think this is very essential when it comes to me. I‘ve had so many great experiences to be honest. The people you meet, the stories you hear, enjoying the music under the desert sky in Dubai or morocco. From scuba diving in Turkey to visiting Australia which is like a whole other world to getting lost in China and not understanding a word to dancing on the street with strangers in Bologna. I’ve always said travelling comes with amazing experiences, I have so many storied to tell!! Travelling can make your problems quite small in the grand scheme of things and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to do it and look forward to all the amazing adventures ahead!!
5. Have you learned anything about yourself by travelling solo as a black woman?
So many lessons learnt! I’ve learnt I’m self-sufficient. Being able to go to another country and navigate myself around it. Even something as simple as catching the right train can give you some self confidence that you then apply to your daily life. I’ve learnt that I’m actually quite the social butterfly, I can literally talk to every and anyone! This has come with practice and being on the road and talking to waiters, to bus conductors, to anybody! Finally, I’ve learnt that I crave experiences, culturally immersive experiences that aren’t just surface level. I love listening to locals and their experiences and how it’s so similar to my reality and we can learn from each other.
Dee of Well-Worn Heels
Dee is a full-time professional working in corporate America with an insatiable zeal to travel, and she juggles this while slaying in a fabulous pair of heels! She’s lived and worked on four continents and since starting her travel journey in 2010 and she hasn’t let her Nigerian passport stop her from visiting beautiful paces you might have never heard of. On her blog, WellWornHeels.com and Instagram (@wellwornheels), Dee shows that it’s possible to see the world with a green passport, shares great information on less known places and real travel stories that will inspire you. Dee always astounds me with the countries that she’s visited solo, so I was really excited to get her experience travelling solo as a black woman.
1. Why did you decide to start travelling solo?
I never intentionally set out to travel solo. My friend had to back out of our ‘big’ Euro trip. I was left with the choice to go ahead or postpone. For some reason I chose to go ahead, and it has made all the difference. Since then though, I’ve chosen to travel solo at different times for different reasons including: because no one else could come, and because I intend for certain trips to be solo. Now I’ve been to 26 countries solo (about half the countries I’ve visited)
2. Have you experienced any challenges as a black woman travelling solo?
Of course, the melanin effect! The stares, the pictures (with or without my permission), the advances, extra questioning at ports of entry, sometimes visa denials (Qatar, I’m looking at you). It seems obvious now but on that first solo-backpacking trip, I was shocked when people queued up to take photos with me in Istanbul. Once I got a ‘break’ from playing Museum, I ran to my hostel to ask wide eyed ‘WTH!’ This first experience is one of the reasons I started my blog. On the contrary I’ve also had a number of amazing experiences for that same reason.
3. How have you addressed your parents or family’s concerns about you travelling solo? Because African parents can be the most dramatic!
On that first trip, my Nigerian parents were confused by my decision to go to Greece & Turkey in 2010. I remember my dad asking, “Who do we know there?” as he assumed that we only go to places where we know at least one person. They didn’t understand it but they also knew that I’d do what I set my mind to, so they prayed extra everyday ☺. I shared my itinerary and stayed in touch while I travelled. Now, they’re used to it, I don’t send all that information unless they specifically ask. In my experience, while our parents mean well, sometimes they’re coming from a place of fear of the unknown. Now, my dad is first to tell anyone that cares enough to listen how ‘well-travelled’ his daughter is.
4. How do you pick where to go? The most unusual place you’ve gone solo that you’ve absolutely loved?
Where I pick depends on my mood/what I’m looking for first (relaxation, city life, cultural immersion, greenery, etc.). I also consider costs, travel time, visa requirements etc. I wrote about it here.
The most remote place I’ve visited solo is Vanuatu and it was such a special experience. The people were incredibly warm and curious, the country beautiful and relatively unknown, being there felt like I was being let in on the most beautiful secret.
5. What are some things you do to stay safe when travelling solo?
- I share my itinerary with my sister
- I choose centrally located accommodation
- I trust my gut
- I sometimes join group tours for evening tours
- Take taxis if I’m out late, or just don’t go out super late
Liza of Spontaneous Travel
This ball of fun Liza is a South African, spontaneous, rainbow coloured hair wearing, self-proclaimed bag of skittles, living in Bedfordshire! She works in events and in mental health all while travelling the world at the drop of a hat. Her love for travel started when she visited Iceland in 2005 and her need for adventure has been fuelled since then. On her blog Spontaneous-Travel.com and Instagram (@spontaneous_travel) she aims to inspire people in the black community to travel more through seriously fun shared stories. Something that I’ve always loved about her is how much of a free spirit she is, she makes travelling solo look like the best fun and so easy!
1. Why do you travel solo?
It’s less stress, I can do everything at my accord and I simply enjoy my own company too ngl.
2. How do you prepare for solo trips?
I don’t really prepare much; however, I always make sure my accommodation is in check and then the rest I wing it! I love being spontaneous.
3. I saw that yourself a solo travel birthday present most years which is pretty amazing! Why do you travel solo on your birthdays and how is it? Would you recommend
I started travelling alone for my birthdays because I didn’t want the hassle of asking people to come and join me. I always choose to go on long haul destinations and some of my friends just can’t afford to have, “for example” a 2 week leave abroad in South East Asia because of work and their own life commitments. In addition, I don’t have to compromise my budget to suit everyone else. Travelling alone is amazing and in all honesty, you get to meet amazing people from across the world and different walks of life, which opens your eyes to a lot of things.
4. What are some great places for black women to travel solo to?
The whole of South East Asia, Japan as I’ve experienced solo to and most of Europe. However, despite race, I say try any country in the world and have your own tale to tell, don’t limit yourself, don’t be afraid, the world is there to be explored.
5. What advice would you give anyone that wants to travel solo but are too scared to take that leap?
Start small, go to some places in the UK first, if you’re UK based of course, then you can slowly hop to neighbouring countries e.g. France, Netherlands etc. If you want to start in the deep end, countries in South East Asia are very solo travel friendly, so book that flight!!
Asmau of AsmaG
Asmau aka the Queen of the North as she’s fondly referred to as is a force of nature. From northern Nigeria, she’s passionate about changing the world and she uses her platform to inspire the youth, especially, to change. She’s visited every continent, except Antarctica (soon I’m sure she will!) and constantly meets people from different cultures and backgrounds. She uses her Youtube channel and Instagram (@asmag) to show her passions beyond just travel which include writing, poetry/rap/spoken word and philanthropy to help inspire you to go boldly into the world and claim what is yours.
1. How many countries have you been to solo? Is there anywhere you wouldn’t go by yourself?
I’ve been to about 47 countries in total and 30 of them were solo.
2. As a black Muslim woman travelling far and wide solo, what has your experience been? Faced any challenges or otherwise?
As a Muslim, believe it or not the issues I encounter are not at the destinations that I go to but rather all the people behind me making all the noise. This is Family and some friends. They claim that “Islam” prohibits women from travelling alone so it’s not something I should be doing. It thus shows that I am “Someone with no regard for religious principles” and a “loose” girl AKA a girl with no morals. Other than that, there are a few times where I have travelled and at some airports, they ask me questions they wouldn’t ask a non-Muslim seeing that I am a potential “Terrorist” they say they are being cautious.
My main predicament travelling as a Muslim is that I pray 5 times a day at different times and when I’m on the move its difficult to do so. I almost never find a prayer space, or they are too far away so I end up praying in parking lots or dressing rooms. Being black woman, you always experience discrimination that’s pretty standard but in a lot of countries I feel almost human. They have no regard for skin colour.
3. Is there one thing you wish you knew before you started travelling solo?
That it would be soo exhilarating. I would have started earlier. Travelling solo is the best thing in the world.
4. Where would you recommend black women to travel solo to?
EVERYWHERE!! The sky is your limit baby. If you want to travel to space, you should please. Don’t allow peoples notions of you limit you from going ANYWHERE. Places that I particularly liked travelling as a black person are the Caribbean Islands like The Bahamas and Barbados. I liked it mainly because it felt familiar, comfortable. I’m used to going to Islands and being hosted by non- blacks so mainly Asia but with the Caribbean I felt the familiarity and the Island vibes are amazing.
5. Can you share a solo travel experience that was particularly memorable for you?
HONG KONG. 2013. I was still early in my solo travel career and I remember going to peak known as Victoria peak. It was where you got to see the whole skyline of Hong Kong and I got up there, I was alone, it was about 8am, I was surrounded by strangers and soft music was playing in the background and I never felt freer. I said to myself I promise to always be a happy soul, one that wants to give back and influence others to feel how happy I felt at that moment. What made it even more memorable was that it was a spontaneous trip, I booked it 2 days before going and even that sense of freedom already put me in a good mood. I promised to never allow myself to be constrained by anyone.
It was freedom.
We’ve come to the end guys and can I first say a MASSIVE thank you these ladies for helping a sister out and sharing their stories!! I really enjoyed reading them and I hope you did too! I’m sure after reading this you’ve realised that travelling solo as a black woman is nothing to fear, it’s instead one of the most empowering things you could do for yourself! So, what are you waiting for?? Book that solo trip today! And if you need any help booking or planning, just contact me and I’ll be happy to help. xx
If you liked this post, please share it!! Let’s get as many people this information so they can start realising their travel dreams. This is a post by black women, for black women (FUBU vibes). To connect with these wonderful women, their Instagram handles and blogs are in the posts so go say hi!
Until Next Time loves xx