I’ve been traveling since I was in my mamman’s belly. Once she found out she was preggers with me, she made sure to hop from St. Maarten back to Haiti to be with her mom and aunts as they fawned over her and prepared her for mommyhood. We then went to Haiti as children and spent beautiful weeks near the capital on Rue Delma with the Palace looming over us as a huge white edifice.
My first memory of being on a plane was as a young child vomitting and my parents having to pull down the suitcase to clean me up. Motion sickness remains the bane of my existence ever since. We traveled to Miami for what I thought was a two week vacation in 1984 and never returned. There were the silent years of traveling. After all, hard working parents could scarcely pay the mortgage and finance a vacation now could they? Thankfully school trips kept me on a bus to some school competition or other and Disney World didn’t have to worry about not getting my money.
Thankfully, I married a wanderlusting husband who trekked the world as a missionary as his gap years experience. Our modest honeymoon spent in Bahamas was just a foretaste of things to come. His being in Romania right after the hanging of a communist dictator (Nicolae Ceaușescu) faced a firing squad had to be interesting. Being one of two blacks on the team was too. During our second year, we traveled as missionaries (again just us two melanin popping souls) to Zacatecas, Mexico. Dead center in the country’s landscape, it was rich in culture and rich in poverty. We ate good. While our white peers searched high and low for KFC and Burger King, we ate whatever they placed in front of us. There was this green spicy pepper with cheese in the core that they grilled. Good home cooked meals. My AUTHENTIC Mexican food palate has never been the same. Nothing compares stateside. Nothing.
Most of our traveling then became heavy on the domestic side. With trips up and down the east coast, heading as far north as Canada one winter. Saw the Niagra Falls. Experienced the brutal upstate New York winter. We’ve driven up the Smokies, straddled North Carolina and Tennessee. To this day neither of us can’t listen to Norah Jones without thinking of the winding roads in Sevierville, TN. Hiking up random hills, passing by random head stones as the crunch of leaves beneath our feet echoed in the trees.
I’ve driven to Oklahoma for a friend’s graduation and had the pleasure of of being stopped by one of their “finest.” Definitely not one of their finest moments. We’ve flown into Chicago, driven to Indiana to collect our first new car together. Seen why The Jacksons got the heck up outta Gary and saddened by it all. Saw snow for the first time, ran out and twirled around in it and ran right back in. The introvert in me opted to watch the Shaka Zulu marathon instead of venturing too long outside. My older me kicks my younger self for not carpeing the darn diem on that one. Drove our Honda CRV from Indiana to Florida. That was fun. We’ve heeded the call of friends moving from Minnesota and helped them make the trek back down with their newborn baby. That’s what friends did for each other. Fly up to drive back down! Lol! I’ve honored my beautiful state of Florida with the trips to the Keys, Sanibel, St. Augustine. Saw Henry Flagler’s beautiful home and dreamt of the time when men bought grand homes for their new brides. The romantic in me stays on high volume. D.C., MD, NYC, NJ, NC, CA, NV, OK, GA . . . whether it was for work or pleasure I have made the best of my travels. From riding the rails in San Fran to dashing in DC’s museums, I have no regrets. Nearly lost my life water rafting in TN! Still no regrets.
Island hopping trying to recreate some of childhood memories has also been a thing for me. Mexico saw me for my 33rd year. The year that Jesus died. That’s what you do right?! Go to Cozumel! Lol! Oh the irony in that one will be left at just that. Smirk.
You have never been to Jamaica or the Cayman Islands unless you have taken a walk on their very “un-beaten paths”. Ever had curry crab from a big pot on the side of the road? You gotta do it once. Just once. I have yet to return to my homeland of St Maarten. My mother’s passing is creating some level of urgency behind going back, for I fear it’s going to be one huge experience in exposure therapy. My mental health folks can certainly sympathize.
Remember my wanderlusting hubster? Well he’s definitely not the jealous type and has no problem dropping me off at the airport and wishing me well. He’s always encouraged my adventurous side and it helps that he is secure in himself as my life’s partner. Really. How many husbands would send their wives off to Vegas for her 40th and say “have fun, don’t spend all our money we got bills when you get back.” How many would have their wives experience Hawaii not once but twice in five months? And text you to remind you to celebrate hard. Even helped me countdown this last time. I simply love him. Hawaii saw me once for a family wedding and once for a girlfriend’s birthday which bookends as my birthday by the way.
As I listen to the roaring waves outside my two story rented home, I’m amazed and humbled to experience life through these eyes of mine. Being one of six Sistahs on Hawaii Air was an eye ‘popping’ opener. I had gotten up to mention something to the stewardess and before I could mention my seat number she said “Oh, I can find you when I need to.” Me-puzzled. Oh yeah… that’s right. It’s like SIX of us Blacks, all women on this flying coffin. She could point us out blindfolded in a line up if she had to. Yeah her with the waist length Sisterlocks that kept getting caught in her face under the sleep mask. Yeah that one.
I think of my mom, the traveling merchant who herself island hopped the Caribbean and Latin America searching for goods and wares to return and sell in St. Maarten. She saw a need and met it. Buying beautiful things that could only be bought if only you traveled the world to search. As I wrap up this recent trip, I question my hesitancy to share where I’m going in my travels with people. Particularly other black folks. It’s less about the “they just being nosy” but more about “oh gosh, what must they be thinking of me now.” And granted I could give ZERO cares (ya’ll know I don’t cuss–but you get the gist) I’ve been known to say “I’m going out of town” before I say I’m going to Hawaii and will be celebrating my birthday in all my cuteness in four time zones before making it back to South Florida. I hesitate to say I’ll be on a cruise celebrating another 40th in a couple of months. I’ve been mum about taking a quick jaunt to ATL not once but twice this Spring to celebrate some of my babies graduating. Or that Jamaica will see my husband and I again and this time I want to try something else that can possibly cause my death. Heck. My demise may as well be in Jamaica as anywhere else.
My next blog is going to touch on being a black traveler in foreign places but through the lense of other black traveling friends. Stay tuned for the questionnaires and phone calls wanderlusters! The perceptions of black folks on black folks who travel will also be explored. We can be some of the most savage hating meanies when it comes to celebrating each other’s ability to collect passport stamps rather than things. White man travels to Dubai. No one blinks. But let Sistah girl snap photos of her trip to the Louvre and her posts gets screen shot and shared around the world in less than sixty seconds. With words like “doing the most” and “girl bye”‘laced in the convos.