A Brother Without Borders

By: Tod Etheredge

I have been blessed with the opportunity to do a decent amount of travel throughout my life. As a child, my parents always encouraged me to see and explore the world. To date, I have been to thirty-eight states and nine countries. Since arriving to college, I have traveled to China, Israel, South Korea, Japan, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Strategically, I chose to travel to places that are very different than the United States. Throughout my travels, being black has made for unique experiences.  Although these experiences vary, traveling while black has generally worked in my favor. In my travels, I am often one’s first taste of African American identity. As a result, people have gravitated to me.

I have never felt defined by my race. In fact, I have never felt defined by anything external. However, I understand that race does play a part in how people perceive me, which has always encouraged me to seek to be a good representation of my race. Being black is an experience that varies from person to person. For me, it is a beautiful journey full of life, rhythm, and richness. Rarely, do I feel being black inhibits me both domestically or abroad. I have always enjoyed being black, thus I have always sought to share my black experience with others. In my travels abroad, I have adopted a few principles to help me further understand my own identity, while also consuming local culture.

Principle 1: Always maintain confidence and dignity.

In almost all of the countries I have visited, with the exception of those in Africa, people often have preconceived, negative notions of black people. These notions consist of, but are not limited to, laziness, ineptness, and lecherousness. Knowing none of these stereotypes are true, I actively carry myself in a proud and dignified way. Dignity and high self-esteem are important because it demonstrates your strength and confidence to those foreign to your identity.

Principle 2: Treat others as you want to be treated.

Like at home, treat people with respect abroad. It can only work in your favor.

Principle 3: Be flexible and open-minded.

Always be willing to listen and consider ideas. Never have too much pride to learn a lesson. When abroad, there will be a lot of unknowns.  Humility and flexibility are keys to your enjoyment.

Principle 4: Sharpen your wit.

Always be aware in a foreign country. In foreign countries, locals can easily spot a foreigner. For black people, this especially holds true. Therefore, use wisdom and discernment in all environments. If something seems suspicious, avoid it.

Principle 5: Explore.

Always seek to learn and do more. There is so much to see and do abroad.

Being black while abroad is an enriching experience. It gives me insight into the thoughts and motivations of different people. Some may feel that being black while abroad is a limitation, but I would argue that it only makes the travel experience more unique. In my life, I hope to both bridge gaps that divide humanity, and help all people self-actualize. Traveling abroad helps me to better understand those individuals who I want to impact.

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