The more I travel the more I realize how much living in America...no, let me rephrase that. The more I travel the more I realize how much the American media has influenced how the world sees me and how I see the world.
It's almost always a surreal moment when I enter a new country and see it with my own eyes: the good, bad, ugly, and indifferent. In a simple blink, it's almost always a shattering of biases I didn't know existed for that particular area or people. The unconscious ones are really the harder to acknowledge until they are staring you in the face.
Before I get into my why's and wherefores let me also state that travel doesn't cure biases or even build empathy.
I've been fortunate to have lived in some great cities, states, and now countries. Each one has opened my eyes to life outside of my "growing up" boundaries. When I think about the 18 year-old Black Girl from Mississippi whose first flight ever from Mississippi was to Texas for basic training in the Air Force, I realize that first flight was an eye opener and it showed me that I can "do"; I can "go" anywhere with a little effort and a lot of desire.
But I also must reflect on that 18-year-old and all the things that life had taught her up to that point.
Don't go in this neighborhood after dark.
Don't travel here at all, it's a sundown town.
They think we all steal or are up to no good, so be mindful when shopping, walking, or driving in certain stores, neighborhoods, or areas.
And being honest that last one has followed me on my travel journeys thanks to the Western media's portrayal, real and imagined, of African Americans or Black people in general. I've gotten the stares, the follows in stores or even on a street or two. I expected certain things to happen because I am Black, because I am a Woman, and because I am a Lesbian. I mentally prepared myself to "survive" when traveling solo, when traveling in countries that aren't LGBTQI friendly, and, more importantly, those countries that Western media and others have said aren't safe for African Americans.
However none of "those things" have stopped me from traveling and I hope it doesn't stop you. The only way we can fight society's racial and sexuality biases is to go, to do, and to let them know we are here!
Let me also be honest, I had my own biases as well, that again I blame on Western media because it's easy and it's true. Add to that societal conditioning and gender constraints and you have me traveling with eyes open! In a good way.
We were warned about crime and murder in Mexico, and currently live in one of the safest cities in the world--in Mexico. We were told that there would be racial issues in SE Asia and had the total opposite experience in every country that we lived in. Not to say that it was all roses and green tea, and I can't say we blended in, but I can say they moved with and around us as if we did. Except China because there's always got to be a little truth to things right? And I chalked that up to a lot of "never have seen" which got old quickly!
A personal bias is one I have or rather had against color: I assumed that bright colorful walls, in or outside, equaled not so good taste or even poverty. Don't ask me why or how that thought was placed in my head, but it was there. Traveling to the French Antilles, Iceland, Thailand, Vietnam, and now Mexico has totally eradicated that thought. I love color in everything! It's energy-giving and affirming if that makes sense.
Another of my big biases that I've also gotten rid of is around wealth and what that means to me and my life. I've been indoctrinated into the greatness of America and achieving the American dream. We did that. Bought the house, the car, corporate jobs. And then--well, nothing except bills that stretch for years. Wealth is measurable until it's not. And the not is the worthiness of it all. Happiness and contentness when you awake in the morning are easier to see and experience. And I've seen all ranges on my journey, not to say that any country is perfect or that there isn't wealth disparity in almost every country because there is. It would be foolish of me to minimize the every day reality of many, but travel has also taught me that less can really be more.
I'm looking forward to what the coming years bring to me and the erasing of my biases and the opening of my love of people and places.