Colby Holiday (known online as @worldofawanderer) is a force in the travel community. Since falling in love with international travel in 2006, Colby has made it her mission to check every item off of her travel Wanderlist, and to continually inspire travel lovers around the world with her rich storytelling and stunning photography.
Despite the online travel community continuing to be largely dominated by white voices, Black travellers and content creators are starting to get the recognition they deserve. Our mission is to connect travellers like Colby with our global audience in order to raise awareness surrounding racism in travel, and educate our community on how to fight inequality both at home and abroad. We sat down with Colby to talk about her experience as a Black woman traveller, and learn more about her unique journey and perspective.
When did you first fall in love with travel?
“I first fell in love with travel at a young age. I’m not sure I can exactly pinpoint when. My grandparents were notorious for taking long road trips (because they didn’t believe in flying haha) and everywhere they went, I went. Road trips from Georgia to Texas, to Chicago, to Minnesota, we drove everywhere and I absolutely loved it! I loved the journey, the sites, eating, sleeping and waking up in a new city.”
What was the first big trip you ever went on?
“The first big trip I ever went on, I’d have to say, was in 2006. At the age of 21, I boarded my very first flight ever and set off for Germany for three months to work as a Camp Counselor over the summer. My first flight. My first international trip. It was truly a life-changing experience. I discovered an entire new world and have had an insatiable desire to devour as much of it as I can, ever since.”
Before you travel, what kind of research do you do about a destination and the people who call it home?
“When traveling to a new destination, I always want to know how I can contribute to local communities; whether that is shopping at the local markets, eating at a local mom and pop restaurant, spending some time volunteering, etc. So, these are some of the things I always research. Aside from that, I like to read a book (typically non-fiction) based in whatever country I’m visiting before I arrive. This gives a deeper understanding of the history and a greater appreciation for the present. For example, you walk through the quarters of the annex in which Anne Frank once dwelled and you visualize the words written in her diary. You stroll down the streets of Saigon and imagine the horrors that once took place there. It gives experiences a new depth.”
Have you ever been surprised, good or bad, by an interaction you had while travelling?
“I think the thing that has surprised me most while traveling is how genuinely kind people are. There are some really crappy people in this world, we all know this; however, the vast majority of my experiences while traveling has been inherently good and I have encountered some of the kindest people ever! From the little old grandma in South Korea who saw me walking in our neighborhood and gave me a fresh picked tomato from her garden with the biggest smile. I HATE tomatoes, but the gesture was so random and kind, I kept it until it went bad hahaa. Or the woman who saw me struggling ordering my meal in Madrid and came over and helped. Once she realized I was new to the city and was looking for an apartment, she gave me her phone number and volunteered to help however she could. She even offered up her sister’s apartment until I could find something more permanent. I was like “Ummm…you don’t want to run that past your sister first?” She insisted her sister would be fine with it. I ended up finding my own place, but still, the generosity and kindness shown to complete strangers will forever warm my heart.”
What do you wish everyone could understand about your experience as a Black woman traveller?
“I wish everyone could understand about, not only my experience, but Black women traveling in general is that Black women do too. We do travel. We do adventure. We do swim, surf, pilot planes, dive, hike, bike, trek. We host television shows on your favorite travel networks and sit on boards of your favorite travel publications. Black women do too. We are solo travelers, we are luxury travelers, we are backpackers. We do all the things that our white counterparts do; however, our narratives are often minimalized. You search “travel” on Instagram or Google, you don’t see many of our faces; but, we are out there, making our marks on the world, not only for ourselves, but for the generations after us.”
What would you say to a Black woman planning for her first international trip?
“I would say to flow into whatever may come. Life is unpredictable. Anything can happen at any given moment, at any given time. Flights can be missed, plans can change, experiences can fall short of expectations, you can get lost for two hours trying to walk back to your Airbnb, all sorts of things; but, just go with it. Things will always find a way to work themselves out. The goal of my travel blog is to encourage, inspire, and show people how to step out of your comfort zones and see the wonder in wandering. That is what I would tell a Black woman planning her first international trip, enjoy the wonder in wandering and live in the magic – live in your magic.”
Have you ever experienced racism while travelling?
“The only time I can recall experiencing racism during my travels is in Morocco, Fez specifically. I was called the N word, Africa, Mama Africa and who knows what else in words that I couldn’t understand by fairer skinned Africans, as if somehow their “Africa” was different from my Africa. It was hurtful and stayed with me for quite a while, but I didn’t let that moment define my entire experience in Morocco. It is a beautiful country that I would absolutely visit again.”
What kind of anti-racist action should all travellers be taking?
“The first thing I would say is to check your privilege and biases. There is white privilege and there is American privilege, check them both at the door. When you are traveling to other countries, you are a visitor and should not expect the world to bend to your will. Also, when interacting with BIPOC people should avoid biases and microaggressions. For example, I was dining alone in one of my favorite restaurants in Mérida, Mexico and an older white man and expat began to make small talk with me. I, myself, live in Mérida as well, but his questioning made it seem as if somehow I don’t belong. He asked me “What do you do to make money?” Those were his exact words. His audacity honestly took me by surprise. I have absolutely no doubt that he would not have asked another white male what he does to make money (he may perhaps ask what he does for a living, but would not come right out and ask what do you do for money), he would simply assume that he was able to financially provide for himself. It is unacceptable. People should educate themselves on what microaggressions and implicit biases are and ensure they are not guilty of committing some of these acts.
I would also say, use your voice. If you see racist/discriminatory acts, say something. This is the best way to make immediate impact. Words have weight and whether you are in your own city or in a country halfway around the world, speaking up when you see or hear these things lets people know that racism is absolutely unacceptable. And lastly, I would say support when and where you can. When you are traveling, research and patron local BIPOC establishments.”