It’s totally okay to admit that you have an Instagram obsession. Sometimes you find an account that interests you and excites you in a different way than any of the others. Every time you see a new picture posted, your thumb double taps it at the speed of light. Well, this is pretty much what happened when I found the Travel Noire page on Instagram. Officially, Travel Noire is much more than just an Instagram account — it’s an entire online brand that is dedicated to “savvy black travelers.” It’s a platform that works to provide traveling tips, tricks and deals for anyone that is planning a trip to a new and exciting location. Many people share their stories about their adventurous, relaxing or educational trips that they’ve taken in every continent. Established by Zim Ugochukwu, Travel Noire is a multimedia source that truly highlights young, black people who are passionate about travel, and the experiences that can be gained from it.
When I first saw the Travel Noire Instagram page, I truly loved how astounding some of the photos were. Where else can you see someone perched atop an elephant, a couple conquering The Great Wall of China, and fraternity brothers bonding in front of Egyptian pyramids? Especially all through one platform? It erases the horrible stereotype that black people never go abroad, but most of all, the account reminded me of the life altering experience I had while studying abroad.
My freshman year, I went on a three week trip to Turkey with a group of students that I barely knew. If you had told me just a few months before that I would be traveling halfway across the world, I would’ve said, “You’re absolutely crazy!” And maybe I was a little crazy to go on that trip when it was only my freshman year in college. Yet, I finally decided to go through with it (and convinced my parents to let me go) for two main reasons: One, the trip was discounted because of an academic program that I’m in and two, I had no real good answer to the question, “why not?” Before I even started college, I told myself that I really needed to try hard to step out of my comfort zone. So, traveling to a country that I had no prior knowledge of and could barely locate on a map was definitely a way to do it.
When I think back on my trip to Turkey, the most valuable thing that I took away from it was a lesson about being uncomfortable. Never before had I eaten so much rice and meat. Never before had I woken up to the call to prayer at sunrise, blaring through the speakers of any nearby mosque. Never before had I seen so many women in veil. Never before had I been singled out so much by vendors because I was obviously American.
All of these experiences were so puzzling at first, and sometimes hard to understand. What you don’t see through those pictures on Travel Noire is that being abroad isn’t always glamorous. But even though I was uncomfortable, that lesson of learning about a lifestyle and culture different than mine was the best lesson I learned from that entire academic year. You can’t experience true immersion into a culture within the confines of a classroom. You also won’t be able to eat authentic baklava, see whirling dervishes, and tour ancient biblical cities on your college campus.
When I see the pure joy on some people’s faces in the pictures posted by Travel Noire, I think of the fulfillment that comes from seeing the world. If you ever get the chance, go abroad. Whether it’s through school, a family vacation, a job experience, anything. Not everything will be sunshine and roses. However, the act of breaking down your boundaries of comfort, while opening your mind and heart to something different is what will change you forever.
Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. – Mary Ritter Beard