An Australian women with a sweet tooth for chocolate couldn’t tell the difference between Carlton Banks and Snoop Dogg. When it comes to showing brothas some love, the women in Oz see black and they attack. It doesn’t matter if you’re a corny brotha from Bel Air who dresses like a Brooks Brothers mannequin or a gangsta from Long Beach. Travelling while black is a unique experience.
Yet, the lack of black travellers in many major international cities, as well as a small fraction of black expats, makes it hard for the black male traveller to find basic information that will make his trip even better. I took the time to talk to my fellow brothas in international travel and here are the things we felt were hardest to find while travelling abroad.
5. Where can I get a fade?
Highly important question for the man who values his appearance. Rarely do I see black male travellers comfortable with the European/Australian backpacker look. You know, unshaven, hair unkempt or dreadlocks that should be out naught. Whether we have a skin tight, Caesar, ‘fro or dreads, one thing is clear, we like our hair to look clean and sharp. Finding a barbershop that caters to our style needs though can be very difficult.
In most cases, I’ve opted to shave my head bald when I know I will be traveling for longer than a week. At least with a baldie, I know my head won’t look a wreck and I won’t be forced to wear a bowl fade. Although a lot of major international cities have high concentrations of Africans and West Indians, there hair game isn’t the same. Help a brother out, let us know quickly where to get the best haircuts around the world.
4. Where can I buy some J’s?
I’m a sneakerhead. I grew up at the height of the sneaker culture and I continue to collect and rock the flyest kicks. Being a child of the 80′s, I have an affinity for Jordans. Many of my friends who travel can, like myself, switch from tracksuits to suits like Clark Kent in a phone booth. Thus, you’ll more than likely see brothers wearing fly kicks when we travel and are doing some sight seeing. Getting that exclusive Paris, Berlin, Tokyo or Singaporean release is always a must for the travelling sneakerhead.
Online resources can be great, but it’s good to have people in the know in the cities you go that can tell you where to cop the illest kicks and hard to find releases.
Another question I get asked often is about suit buying and the best tailor shops abroad. Having an online resource for this would be phenomenal. Buying a suit is a great experience, especially when that purchase comes with tales of exotic travel.
3. Where’s your hood at?
Not that we want to go to a hood. Yet, it’s good to know where the ‘hood is in the city you visit. Why? Many of us have probably escaped neighborhoods where crime and violence are prevalent, so the last thing we want to do is get off on the wrong train or bus stop. Knowing how friendly or unfriendly your host city is to black travellers is a must.
Countries like Spain, Croatia, Russia, Serbia, Poland and Australia are high on the black travellers lists. But these are also countries where xenophobia and right-wing rhetoric, especially among the youth, are high. If you’re away from the tourist areas, you can find yourself in a bad situation, in particular if you’re travelling solo. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings, seek hotels/hostels near tourist areas, watch out for football hooligans and keep your same street smarts.
2. They play hip-hop here?
From Rome to Sydney, Sydney to Bangkok, it’s the question we’ll all ask. It’s cool to want to seek out your comfort zone and one of the things that puts a person more at ease is music. In many major tourists destinations, it isn’t hard to find establishments that play hip-hop music. It might be harder though for those of us who seek the more under the mainstream, b-boy type of club.
I always recommend getting out of your comfort zone when it comes to the international club scene. I may not like techno or house, but I have the best times in those kind of clubs. Still, it’s nice to know in advance which clubs are poppin and make the decision from there.
1. Where the white women at?
One of the first questions I get asked when people find out I travel is, “What are the women like?” If a brotha is asking me that, what he really wants to know is how much do they love brothas. The answer is, they love us every where.
I started the blog talking about Australia because, well, aside from Canada, Oz is probably the most talked about place among black travelers when the discussion is women who love chocolate. Tim Tams aren’t Australia’s favorite chocolate, the American black man is.
When we are single and we’re traveling, we want to know whether we get love and more often than not, we can play upon the novelty factor, as well as our “mystique.” We definitely want to know where the love is and we pretty much know the answer by the first day.
Not every European backpacker grows ridiculous facial hair; not every Australian traveller drinks like crazy and tries screwing in their hostel dormitory; and not every black American traveller will be rocking fly kicks and bedding every 9 or 10 that gives him a smile. We are all different and can’t be lumped into a group. Yet, the black American male traveller is still a rarity and that makes us unique. Thus, our needs aren’t always met when we travel. It would be nice to know where to go in Paris for a fade or where in Madrid you can get some soul food. The future will see more and more black Americans travelling beyond the Caribbean, so catering to their needs will only enhance their travel experiences and your bottom line.