Tldr; Going somewhere new alone is different when you're female and Black, a concept parts of Europe are still being introduced to.
During my time abroad, I visited over 10 countries and two of them, I traveled to by myself. It was one of my main goals while abroad. I wanted to satisfaction of going somewhere by myself, having complete control over my schedule and having no one to blame but myself in case something went wrong. To prepare myself, I looked at the solo travel student blog posts on the IES Abroad website, watched YouTube videos and everyone basically said the same thing. Take risks! Be prepared to fail! Yadda, yadda, yadda but none of these people looked like me. Their advice was great but it was lackluster as I felt like I couldn't truly follow all of it. As a Black woman, there are certain things that I experience very differently from my other friends, especially when traveling alone.
I first realized this when decided on where to go. I wanted to explore Eastern Europe but I was hesitant to do it alone. I'm not saying the region is dangerous or anything, I'm just saying that the stakes are different because I am different. Some of my friends from abroad didn't understand why I didn't jump at the opportunity to go to a few of the countries they ventured to until I expressed how different my experience would be. With this in mind, when looking for a place to go, I did my research and focused in on countries and cities that are more diverse which I hoped would also mean more tolerant and safe for me.
I started one of my solo adventures in my new favorite city, Venice. The trip was the definition of impromptu. Fall break was coming up, and I had no plans. A quick search on Skyscanner said that a flight to Venice was extremely cheap, the only caveat was that it left in two days. I booked it, found my hostel and basically winged the entire thing. My second solo adventure was a little more planned. I went to the French Riviera for a weekend, stayed in Nice and visited Eze and Monaco. I am most proud of this trip because I managed to stay under budget while doing everything that was on my list. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to venture somewhere alone. I wanted to be free to make my own schedule without coordinating with or accommodating another person. Both of my weekends were perfect but they did have a few pitfalls.
Even though I went to two diverse and integrated places in Europe, I was still reminded that I was an "other" and viewed as a representation of my race and gender. There were times when I was the only woman of color or person of color in a room and there were times when I felt eyes on me as I walked through marketplaces or took pictures of the scenery. All this without the comfort and safety that a travel companion can afford you. All in all, I never felt unsafe or threatened on any of my trips but you could argue that I was restricted in some ways. I didn't drink, I tried to be in by sun down, I paid extra to be in an all-female room in my hostel, and I didn't venture too far away just in case. This things are common sense for most people but I think it's more important for female solo travelers and especially people of color that might be targeted, whether it's for malicious or benign purposes.
Being a Black woman is a double edged sword. It's a beautiful but unfortunately, sometimes challenging life but you can make the most of it by being smart while pursuing your passions. As long as you have a plan and follow your instincts, the experiences are endless even when traveling alone.
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<p>Hi! My name is Sabrina and I'm from New Jersey but I go to Bowdoin College in Maine. I'm studying Environmental Studies and Government with a concentration in International Relations to prepare myself for a career in international diplomacy (fingers crossed!). Outside of academics, I am the president of the Caribbean Students Union (shoutout to my fellow Haitians/Guyanese!), a member of Bowdoin's Entertainment Board which coordinates concerts and activities for the student body, help low income families make their homes more energy efficient through AmeriCorps, and DJ two shows at my school's radio station. On my rare days off, I enjoy painting, binge watching rom coms on Netflix and hosting new album listening parties in my room.</p>