10 Tips for First Time Solo Travelers Going Abroad

The New York Times just ran a piece titled “New Tools and Tours for Solo Travelers” and I am here for it.

As I type this in Luang Prabang, Laos, I’m propped up all by my lonesome in a bed that is large enough to fit me, another adult, and my two nieces (I have to be thankful for this moment because just this summer my scared of the dark nieces were determined to crowd into my childhood bed, fall asleep, and then proceed to destroy my sleep with swinging elbows. It was payback for how wild a sleeper I was when little.).

Since moving to Southeast Asia, I’ve visited Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and parts of Indonesia as a solo traveler. I’ve done everything from 24 hour extended layovers to three-week sojourners. Now that one of my best friends is planning some solo time, I’ve decided to outline my thought process when planning and enjoying a solo trip.

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Hurricane Harvey is A Hard Reset

I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. As I’ve written about before on this blog, the diversity that surrounded me as a child and teenager was the best education I could’ve ever received.

Last month, Hurricane Harvey came and devastated my city. I followed the news while far away in Jakarta and, naturally, worried about my parents.

I feel beyond blessed because my parents did not lose their lives or their homes. The worst that happened was that my father’s car got flooded out when attempting to drive in the city before all of the waters receded.

At least one subdivision zoned to my former high school had to be evacuated, but my little neck of the woods didn’t experience any flood damage even after the reservoirs were opened to prevent the dams from bursting.

Hurricane Harvey has been the computer technician who gave my outlook on life a hard reset. I still get upset with work drama and have visions of being a healthier person, but a huge part of me just doesn’t care anymore.

Someone says something that annoys me? I get peeved but think My family’s still OK though. 

My hair’s being its normal self and not wanting to cooperate? My family’s still OK though.

My family’s still OK though.

My city will have to rebuild, but as long as I can rebuild with my mom and dad the rest of life’s drama will be like the floodwater: something that has to return to its source (re: the ocean and/or the negative X factor in my life) and leave me the hell alone.

My new goal for the remainder of this year and beyond is to really let go of the bitterness I’ve carried concerning people and/or institutions that I think have hurt me. I recently had two painful sessions where a physical therapist of sorts massaged/pounded out all of the knots in my muscles.

I had no idea I was carrying that much tension in my body.

The release made me want to cry. It also made me vow to let stuff go because the body will tell on me even if my lips don’t.

So, Hurricane Harvey, you’ve forced me to take a hard look in the mirror. I want to change for the better, and I may just document some of that journey here.

Back to School, Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Though I have privately written a teeny bit here and there, I decided that back to school would mean that I returned back to blogging too. In the six months since I last posted, I observed orangutans in the wild, vacationed in Maine, walked around NYC’s streets, and perused through the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C. As a commitment to my blogging and myself, I’ll post about all of those past trips and much more in the weeks to come.

But this blog post is not about that. As I wrote about in February, I’ve been very upset about Trump’s election, inauguration, and presidency.  

Since I’m based in Jakarta and 11 hours ahead of EST, waking up to news about the nighttime Klan rally in Charlottesville was upsetting, Heather Heyer’s death was horrifying, and Trump’s infamous comments about “many sides” was disgusting.

I’m a Southern Black woman, capitalization intended. Whether you’re burning tiki torches or a cross, I know what you’re alluding to.

So, I’ve decided to stop biting my tongue. I have no patience for apologists. Quite frankly, I don’t even want to debate with ignorance because it makes me more stupid in the process.

One thing I will post more about is the giving circle I created back in January as a response to Trump. Embedded is a speech I wrote for a group of alumnae explaining more about it. Essentially, a group of people pool money together and then donate it to a specific organization. Our giving circle’s mission is to donate to organizations that push back against Trump’s agenda. Since January, we’ve donated $3,590 to organizations ranging from Equal Justice Initiative to Planned Parenthood.

Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about starting your own giving circle. The visual that accompanied the speech I gave can be found here. 

My Mount Merapi

Since it’s Valentine’s Day (in the States), I’ve been thinking about various types of love besides romantic love.

I’ve been quiet and angry since the election, quiet and angry since inauguration, and just…quiet and angry.

Then, I think of the Ring of Fire I now spend 10 months out of the year in and I think of volcanos. They may be quiet for a while, but one tectonic shift later, one change later and lives are destroyed. Property is lost. Memories are born and killed.

This election was my shift. It was my Mount Merapi, my Mount Vesuvius.

And I can sense that I’m beginning to smoke.

With Trump’s ascension, the final vestiges of my optimism towards my country and race relations burned to ash. America is a country founded on racism, developed by racism, successful because of racism, and yet refuses to acknowledge its racism.

I’m tired of saying this. This is already well-known to people the world over except to too many Americans, it seems.

So, I’m making a recommitment to myself. I’m putting myself first in regards to love, joy, and all things possible because I’ve come to find that one thing some people can’t stand is a successful Black American woman. They’re confused by it. Intrigued by it. Distressed by it.

So, it’s the reason why I switched to Spanish to check an obnoxious German and his Spanish friend when they wanted to question my intelligence as an American. After finishing my conversation in Spanish I turned to the German and said in English, “That’s why you shouldn’t make broad assumptions about a people.” His response was a flippant “Wow, so you speak two languages [compared to European’s polyglot natures],” but my point was made.

It’s the reason why I state that I’m from America, conversation closed, when people want to think I’m from Africa (as if it’s a country, not a continent), Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad, etc… when they see me.

It’s the reason why I no longer smile and say “It’s OK” when they’re mortified and apologize for stating the wrong region (unless they’re a Black person from one of those regions themselves).

It’s the reason why I’ve decided to start writing again, dancing again, living for me again instead of for a job or for a sick society’s definition of success.

It’s the reason why I started a giving circle so people can compile their money and give to organizations that work against Trump’s divisive rhetoric and his inexperienced Cabinet (Betsy DeVos is a disgrace to the teaching profession and just another reason why I have no interest in returning as a teacher in the States. The lack of respect for the profession there should be a national shame.).

And it’s the reason why despite all that’s going on in the States I have every intention of returning in 2018. The US is my country too just as much as it’s the bigot’s, the white supremacist’s, the apologist’s, and the “colorblind” fool’s.

It is my country, and my existence will not be muted to make yours more comfortable.

In the interest of avoiding an eruption, it’s best 62,985,106 people and 53% of a certain demographic learn this.

And I don’t want to hear “I voted for Trump, but I’m not a racist.”

To use the moving sidewalk analogy a co-worker introduced to me just yesterday, unless you’re actively walking in the opposite direction to prevent reaching a certain destination (i.e., a white supremacist state), you’re complicit and moving along in the (right/wrong) direction.

So, again, I don’t want to hear it.

All it takes is one.

Proud Overseas Voter 2016

I am proud to write that I recently mailed off my absentee ballot. As I posted back in August, the last election cycle was the worst voter turn-out in 72 years. Though I voted in that election cycle while living in Venezuela, I have sat out of non-federal elections in the past.

With the likes of Trump, a Congress that refuses to vet a Supreme Court nominee and ignorance, I’ve vowed to never do that again.

Trump is a national disgrace. Regardless of whether or not he wins come November, he has done untold damage to the US. He’s enabled racists, bigots, and hate mongers and torn at the very fabric my country so desperately needs to weave together with all of its diverse people. Couple this with the fact that Americans don’t like to discuss inequality and racism within their own society because of the Myth of Meritocracy and who knows what the future holds?

I’ll tell you what the White House will not hold: Donald Trump and his family.

He’s sexist, racist, and a bigot. He epitomizes all that is wrong with a heterosexual, wealthy White male and does a disservice to the many White males who fit these categories but are nothing like him.

I will forever be amused by people who are born with privilege (re: Whites, males) who can’t seem to get it together and be successful. Then, they want to turn around and blame immigrants or other groups for their own failure.

Let me be clear: the US was built for you. It was built by enslaved Africans and dispossesed immigrants, but it was built for you and for your liking. The forefathers were definitely not thinking of a little black Southern woman’s rights when they wrote our founding documents. They were thinking about landed (re: wealthy) white males.

If you can’t make it work (*throwing up my hands in the air*) I don’t know what to tell you.

Actually, I do. I’ll tell you the same thing that conservatives love to spew at everyone else: Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and stop blaming others.

Isn’t that what you always say to disenfranchised groups?

So, get to it then!

Until then, I’ll continue to admire an athlete like Colin Kapernick for thinking about social justice over endorsement deals, continue to look at Justice Ginsburg’s comments about Kapernick as the PERFECT example of white female privilege dismissing people of color, continue to have conversations about race and privilege, and continue to be a #proudoverseasvoter.

NYT Editorial: The Worst Voter Turnout in 72 Years

Back during the 2014 midterm elections, the US had the worst voter turnout in 72 years. I had proudly completed my absentee ballot while living in Venezuela and never would’ve expected that two  years later people would be supporting a hate monger like Donald Trump.

As an American abroad, it’s embarrassing. Point blank. I’m living in the largest Muslim country in the world while the official Republican nominee spouts outrageousness like banning Muslims from the country.

As a person of color, there is no way that I’m foolish enough to think that an individual who is willing to talk badly about one group won’t turn around and talk badly about me tomorrow.

I find it HIGHLY interesting that Trump targets groups (i.e., Latinos and Muslims) that have not amassed their political power yet. He knows better than to come for Black folks the way he’s attacking these other groups.

Then, there are Republicans like Chris Christie who left me feeling betrayed even though I’m a moderate Democrat. How could Christie, the governor of an extremely diverse state, endorse Trump? I felt like I’d been slapped in the face. Was this the same Christie who endorsed Obama, spoke out against climate change after Super Storm Sandy, and just told it like it was let everyone else be damned? The same man I thought…huh, maybe I would cross the political aisle for him? Proximity to power is something that too many people crave at the cost of their own values.

As the election nears, I’ve already double and triple checked that I’m registered to vote. I’m excited that exclusionary voter ID laws are falling in courts, and I’m hoping that Clinton and the Democrats win by a landslide.

Why? Because this election cycle is a referendum on my country. We are a country with serious problems, but we can do better than to offer up hate like this.

May that horrible election turnout two years ago stand in sharp contrast to the upcoming November election turn out. Inclusiveness and love must win out over bigotry and hate.

I’m Back…

I’m back in Jakarta for a second year and have vowed to relaunch the blog after an extended hiatus. As I posted before, I essentially stopped writing because I felt like I didn’t have a lot of positive things to say.

And who wants to read a blog that’s filled with negativity? I know I don’t.

But I need to write for myself–to state publicly the world that I want to come into existence, the world that I need to come into existence.

A world where Blacks don’t have to march to persuade people that our lives matter; a world without inequality; a world without ignorance and a world that does accept my experience as the norm: a Black, highly educated American woman traveling abroad.

To the people who have trouble wrapping their minds around my chocolate skin holding an American passport, being born in the USA, speaking English as my first language, support a certain Republican demaogue during his presidential run, and the list goes on…

This blog is for you as much as it’s for me.

So, I’m back, y’all! 🙂