Candid Conversation About Diversity & Travel
One of the things I love most about travel is the opportunity to experience diversity. I have learned the most in my life through travel. It has taught me to listen, learn, be open to, and sympathize with another person's experience. I have brought this home with me to listen openly to other's points of view.
I believe that everyone who desires travel in their life should have it so they can have similar experiences. I believe travel creates a level of understanding and compassion for differences in one another, if we all gain this experience a ripple effect of kindness will spread.
I recently was asked by a curious traveler if the trip I'm hosting to Costa Rica is LGBTQ+ friendly. My immediate response was "of course!". Cherish's trips welcome women of all walks of life to join us. It wasn't until later that I reminded myself that I have privilege because I do not need to reconsider a destination because of who I love or the color of my skin.
It is still very present in our world today that many travelers reconsider their destination based on these factors. And it isn't unwarranted. Thankfully, Costa Rica is both welcoming to people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
I'm here to talk about these concerns. Let's have a conversation.
Keep reading for continued discussion.
The world is home to 7.8 billion people. Each of which is incredibly diverse. Humans are unique in their personal backgrounds, languages, race, customs, religions, and more. In my opinion, it is our differences that make exploring the world so interesting. There are great learnings you can gain from the places you visit and people who are different that you.
A badass woman I have recently been introduced to taught me that we all have the opportunity to expand our consciousness. I believe if we keep an open heart and mind, and truly listen to other's experiences we can grow in many ways.
But I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room. There are places in the world that still hold biases towards people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. People will stare, acts of violence still occur and in some places, expressions of love can get you arrested.
One of my main goals with Cherish is to make the world more accessible for women to travel. A big part of that is having candid conversations so that I can provide trips that welcome women of all walks of life on vacations where they can feel safe and heard.
I personally have felt singled out and uncomfortable in my own skin while traveling. I would like to share some of those stories with you to open the door to having the conversation.
Story 1 -
While touring Mumbai, I had blue hair and very pale skin. Our tour guide insisted that I carry the red umbrella she brought with her to protect my skin from the sun. Rather than arguing, I walked around the city with a red umbrella high above my head. While at the Gateway of India, I could not make it 10 steps without a group of rural women asking to either take a photo of me or with me. The first few groups I found the experience quite humorous, but as I continued to walk around I could not enjoy the site on my own. It put me in an uncomfortable position because I did not want to be outwardly rude to the women requesting my photo.
I learned that expressing your boundaries is not rude. There are ways to respect the interest people are having while protecting yourself and your experience.
I visited Oman with my mom a few years ago. Oman is 87% Muslim and the laws and government are in alignment with Islam religion. We hired a local cab driver for the day to show us around their capital, Muscat. My mom at one point while exploring the city suggested that I would honeymoon here one day in the future. Muscat is probably in the top 3 of the most beautiful cities I've ever been to, it would be a gorgeous setting for a honeymoon. Upon making this suggestion our cab driver clarified with us that while honeymooners do come to Muscat, it is illegal to express any public displays of affection. You could be arrested for hugging your partner in public, even if you are married.
I learned that while traveling it is always good to know about the culture of a place you are visiting. You can respect the laws and beliefs of a place without letting it taint your own enjoyment of your visit. Muscat is a place I would highly recommend going to, but maybe not for a honeymoon.
I had a Pretty Woman experience while shopping for designer purses in Las Vegas. Do you remember the scene where Julia Roberts walks into a shop on Rodeo Drive and the nasty saleswomen ask her to leave? She later comes back with lots of shopping bags and tells the saleswomen they made a big mistake. Well... I was shocked that even in Las Vegas I could have a similar experience. I walked into the designer store looking for a new handbag, each person who had walked in ahead of me was greeted by a sales rep and shown around the store. I was ignored for the entirety of my time in the store. I make up that it was because I had purple hair. When I realized that I was being singled out, I moved onto the next designer store and bought a purse there instead.
I learned I am in control of my response to someone's behavior towards me. Be Julia Roberts and prove their predetermined judgments wrong. You are more than someone's split-second judgment, keep being authentically you. It is the person's mistake to have passed the judgment without knowing your full story.
I visited Cape Town on a tour through South Africa. South Africa has a really difficult history. Apartheid was a system of institutionalized racial segregation that existed in South Africa that did not end until 1994. There is still a large presence of racial discrimination in South Africa, especially in large cities like Cape Town. Townships were formed originally during apartheid for "non-white" individuals to live. Townships are still around today, they are underdeveloped communities that still house mostly people of color. One of our guides on our trip had told us that we should not associate or hang out with servers, bartenders, hotel staff, etc. because they more than likely come from Townships. There was a legitimate fear in his voice when he communicated this.
This one is tough for me. I was raised to respect all people, including staff that may be working for you at a restaurant, hotel, or otherwise. Through travel, I have learned to not fear differences but to embrace them and learn from them. This experience taught me that I can bring a part of my beliefs wherever I go. I believe asking staff their name and being respectful to them not only creates a better experience for you but you may be an example to them of your own culture. I want to be a good example of American travelers regardless of the prejudice ingrained in certain people you may meet while traveling.
While biases still exist in many places, many opportunities to travel safely still exist. Do you have any experiences similar to the stories I've shared? Are there any concerns of being profiled that hold you back from traveling?
Please feel free to share your own stories in the comments or privately with me. I am here to encourage every woman to travel widely while considering and listening to any of their concerns.