Posted on December 1, 2020

I’m a Black American. Here Is How I Used Solo Travel to Escape My Racist Country.

Diane Wesh, HuffPost, November 30, 2020

In bell hooks’ 1995 biography “Killing Rage: Ending Racism,” she makes an indisputable claim, stating that all Black people in America — regardless of class, status or politics — live with the possibility of being terrorized by whites.

As a child, the terrors of racism plagued me, from insults to slurs. Nothing could shield me from racism. When I reached adulthood, I was exhausted.

Being Black in America impacted my stress level. The pressures under which I had to live were inhumane:


Although navigating racism was the norm throughout my life in America, I never imagined that surviving racism at work would lead me to planning my desperate escape.

In 2016, I worked as an employee for the City of Virginia Beach. During my tenure, behind closed doors, I experienced and witnessed embedded institutionalized racism.

Day after day, my colleagues and myself endured relentless racial harassment—from being denied promotions (confined to menial jobs), to racially charged attacks of verbal abuse, to being made fun of because of our ethnic hairstyles. Exhausted by the injustice of it all, I demanded an internal investigation regarding the racist structure of the workplace. Meanwhile, the toxic work environment and ongoing racial abuse forced me to “get out.”

In May 2017, using my remaining PTO, I booked a one-way ticket to Europe. I needed a respite from reality, if only for a moment — and anywhere was better than America. {snip}


Although racism certainly exists in these countries, all I experienced were a few curious stares and people wanting to take pictures with me. In contrast to my experience abroad, America’s brand of racism is relentless; I always felt the fear of violence, anger toward the white supremacy woven into its very history and structure, and the weariness of trying to be both hopeful and resilient. My first solo experience out of America allowed me to experience a new form of liberation.


In October 2019, I bid farewell to my parents and said good riddance to my racist country. Prior to heading to New Zealand, I traveled for a month through various parts of Asia, enjoying my own version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat Pray Love.”


From my personal experience as a Black, female solo traveler, nowhere, it seems, is immune to racism. However — and I acknowledge this is not the case for everyone — the nature of racism I experienced overseas was subtle in nature compared to the overt racism I lived through and witnessed in America. In most of the countries I visited, the people were kind, accepting and hospitable.

Perhaps more important, the autonomy and freedom of solo travel itself allowed me to decolonize my mind, divorce myself from America’s white supremacist beliefs and experience a fulfilled, nourished life.

I finally moved to Auckland, New Zealand, where I still am today, one year later. I escaped, rediscovering my identity, my sole purpose.

Once I got settled into my new environment, I quickly immersed myself in Black Creatives Aotearoa, a growing community for Black creatives, to connect, create and collaborate. Today, I harness the pain from my past to empower and encourage the local Black diaspora and the global Black consciousness.

Solo traveling helped me to escape the scene of my traumatization and discover new worlds. It granted me breathing room to heal and raise myself up, abstaining from being marked by victimization. Navigating foreign environments alone further stripped my familiarity away, allowing me to immerse and integrate into different cultures. I achieved self-actualization when I moved to New Zealand and connected with the Black diaspora. Through the union of art and community, they enabled me to overcome my racist trauma.