Tell us about you. Who is Diyah N.?
I am an artist and special educator. I am transparent and imperfect. I am a person who faces her fears and attempts to conquer her weaknesses. I am always a person who is seeking development and looking at the hard stuff. Did I mention I was an artist?
Why do you travel? Self, pleasure or work.
I have been afraid of travel for a very long time. I am a homebody and quite nervous in new and unfamiliar environments. I have had travel opportunities before that I was afraid to take. I was afraid to be alone. Now, I travel to conquer my fear of being alone and being alone in new spaces. I have intentionally solo traveled as an exercise in facing my fears. Additionally, international travel was framed in such a compelling way to me once, by a professor of mine. She said, "As a scholar, and a person who pursues advanced education, no matter how many degrees one has and how smart they may think they are, one will still be as ignorant as they come because their perspectives are limited. Travel will provide an education that surpasses any advanced degrees. Travel is what makes one really smart and create global thinkers. I consider it my responsibility to travel, to explore, learn, interact, give, and receive by way of experience and communication with the local, everyday people of the world community.
Additionally, it seemed necessary to become more of a well-rounded person. I needed to see the world. I am just a brown girl from Newark, NJ by way of Chicago, IL. I took the opportunity to start travelling internationally in 2017 first with a trip to Cuba. I was going first with a woman I was dating at the time. Then, it became best to travel alone. At the last minute, my co-worker joined in on the trip. A co-worker soley. We were not even friends nor did we talk like that. I thought she was a good choice to go with because she is very laid-back and knowledgeable about "island life." She was the perfect travel mate.
Current Location: Georgia, USA
How do you choose the places that you go?
I let the place chose me. In the case of Cuba, my student forced me to go. He was a Cuban and wanted me to fall in love with his home as much as he was. He kept bringing me videos, and pictures of home. He even went so far as to quote me ticket prices. This went on for some months. All of this was unsolicited by me. Once I finally bought a ticket to Cuba he never mentioned it there after. It was very weird. After Cuba, I joined the travel groups. Columbia, I just picked from someone in a travel group talking about how she traveled there solo. So I traveled there solo.
Kenya, was a great price and I always wanted to go to Africa, so I bought the ticket impulsively and began to plan the trip months in advance. I have now gone to Cuba 3 times and Kenya twice. If I love the place I will go again and again despite the great expanse of the world I have not been to. I have traveled to many wonderful, peaceful places stateside and solo. I usually just wanted or needed to get away. Usually, a forest or a body of water was involved.
I enjoyed a summer trip alone to Chicago, and spending New Year's Eve in NYC alone. When the clock struck twelve, I was in my hotel room sitting in my drawls, doing art with a bag of Whole Foods goodies...very uneventful. I was happy doing my art.
Hotels, Hostels or Airbnb?
I prefer Airbnb's, especially if I can afford the entire place. I also absolutely live-by Airbnb Experiences. They make solo travel much better. I have always enjoyed each and everyone of the experiences from walking around Amsterdam sketching the city, to learning about Santeria more in-depth and in person, to learning how to make beads from clay, each have been so fulfilling and often the highlight of my travel.
I also, love the service and safety of hotels. I like knowing that folks can see me coming and going as opposed to Airbnb which can be more solitaire when renting the entire place.
I am also not opposed to renting a room in an Airbnb as a solo traveler far away from home. There is always someone looking out for you and to notice if you have not returned. Additionally, the hosts often arrange rides for you and share their lives with you, and sometimes even take you around.
When I was in Puerto Rico alone for 8 days, I intentionally chose an Airbnb with dogs. While I am not a total dog person, when I became lonely, the dogs were absolutely great company. In Puerto Rico, the host was a gay man and I was so happy that we bonded and that he was comfortable enough to me to let me meet his boyfriend. He was not open to his other guests. They took me out to hear music with them, and to dance on the beach under the full moon. I asked him what made him so comfortable with me as I thought he saw a random rainbow or something in my belongings. He said he saw my heart and for me, that was a much better reason to be comfortable with me.
Do you have a habit/routine that you stick to when when traveling?
I rely on routines when I travel. For one, I have learned to take my meds. I have learned the hard way that just because I am not at work does not mean that I don't need to focus. So I have learned to continue to take my focus meds because I have lost money, and felt confused with all of the senses of a new place, to include the various airports. I send my itinerary to a family member or a close friend. I send the names and contact info of my guides or friends I have met abroad. I bring 5 hour energies with me, because I can become lethargic and fall asleep and miss flights, so I make every attempt to stay alert.
I bring compression socks, generally only travel carry-on, always bring my school-work because I am still a student in grad-school, and my earplugs because I have medical conditions that are often triggered by sound. If I do not have my earplugs I will most certainly be unsafe. I learn in advance how to order vegetarian food in the proper language, and I learn some other phrases that I think may be helpful. You don't want to know what I consider helpful phrases, lol.
One of the most important habits I have while travelling is I always try to get a guide in advance. This way I can avoid tourist traps which will inevitably ruin the experience I saved all my little coins for.
How have your experiences been traveling as a black woman solo?
I have only run into rampant cat calls, travelling as a very tall, solo, black woman. More than I have ever experienced in the states. More than I will ever need to experience. This generally has ONLY happened in Latin countries. I did not have this experience in Kenya or with travel to any destination stateside.
How about as a Queer black woman?
As a queer, bisexual black woman, I fell in love with a woman and a man in the very same day. I wanted to marry the both of them. My sexuality has not come under any scrutiny because I tend not to place myself into any situations in which my sexuality is an issue or necessary to share. I have been in great experiences thus far to not have experienced any homophobia, biphobia or anything else. I have had only good experiences surrounding the spectrum of sexuality. In Nairobi, Kenya I was present to witness conversation with a spectrum of people that were progressive and open in Nairobi. It was beautiful to interact with a straight man genuinely struggle with pronouns not to be difficult, but to get it right and respect the person as they wish to be called. Present was a queer Muslim woman, a gender fluid person with the pronoun of, "They", a heterosexual woman, a lesbian woman, and me in the same space engaging in conversation from art to politics and sexuality never got in the way or was an obstacle. Sexuality did flow in and out of the discussion but, never was a point of contention. I was in heaven.
As an artist?
As a solo traveler who always travels with her art supplies, it is how I make company for myself when I am lonely. I take my supplies to a public place and I just paint, draw, carve, print, or make jewelry. People always come to me, despite any language barrier. It is better when I am in Spanish speaking places as I can manage enough to engage in conversation. Art attracts people. I have never had a problem gaining human connection when I am, "Arting" publicly.
How has travel inspired your art work?
Travel affects my art greatly. I would say that I travel to see the art in everything. I generally look for the art and artist and I fall in love with my destination even deeper. I always travel with my art in tow and when I leave I make sure to include the influence of my destination in my future artworks.
What have you learned about yourself from traveling solo?
This is sensitive. I have learned that I am gullible in regards to human intentions. I often get approached by men and really, I think they just want an American passport. I really appreciate it when they are upfront about it. I have learned that travelling is not vacationing. Sometimes it feels like work. I do not enjoy any part of traveling to the destination as travel causes me anxiety. I can absolutely love my destination but still be homesick in about 5 days guaranteed. I am best when travelling somewhere between 4 and 8 days no matter how far it is and no matter how long it took me to get there. I also learned that I always have to have a place to rest in the middle of the day. I need to get quiet and lay my head down somewhere, or at least know when I can have a stopping point to re-calibrate.
I've also learned, I may never travel solo again in regards to being alone 100% of the time, unless I've met someone there. I eat alone, walk alone, sing alone, explore alone, talk to myself...alone, lol. I don't know if I want to do this in 2019.
I think I would prefer traveling with another solo traveler and we make it a hybrid situation in which we create our own itinerary and split up to be solo, but come together for dinner and maybe night time engagements. I also prefer to solo travel in an Airbnb that will allow us to have our own bedrooms so that we can enjoy our quiet time when we need it. I often need it. So, a hybrid solo travel will also be better for my pocket, since I will get to split accommodations and transportation and I will have some social interaction with someone that I know and can trust. That really makes a difference for my teacher budget. I imagine I would go more places if I could split the costs of things. Also, it is safer when needing human connection.
Who is the most interesting person you've met so far on your travels?
Me, I am the most interesting person I have met so far. Travelling definitely has brought me great lessons in which I get to know myself deeper. I am grateful and motivated to learn myself some more via travel.
What has been the most interesting item of food you've tasted during your travels?
I can not say I have had any good food throughout most of my travels. I will say that the best food I have had throughout my travels was in Cartegena, Columbia. I ate the most freshest fruits, vegetables, and even tried some seafood, and it was the most amazing food I have had in a while. I would go back just for the hole in the wall restaurant and the sweetest fruit ever. I also owe Columbia another visit.
How many foreign words have you learnt so far?
My Spanish has grown tremendously via travel. It doesn't hurt that over half of my students are Spanish speaking. I speak Spanish like a well spoken two year old. People appreciate when you attempt to learn their language and it gives one great favor with the people.
Any words of wisdom for folks who want to travel?
Download Digit. It is an app that allows you to save money from the use of your debit card. It also lets you shift money from your bank account into your digit account for travel savings, or any other savings. Also, carry first aid, activated charcoal, and all of you meds in your carry-on. Please do not be gullible and use caution at all times with people who attempt fast-friendships or romantic connections with you. If you want to dance, go to Cuba. It seems as if everyone knows how to dance there. Always, always bring good walking shoes. Check in often so people know your itinerary or where you last were.
Takes lots of selfies because you have no choice in the matter...but, remember to take pics of the destination too. Bring a selfie stick.