I grew up in a predominantly white, rural town. Some people identified as Latino or Hispanic, but in every single class that I was in, whether it be dance, school, gymnastics, or karate, I was always the darkest one. There would be another Black person occasionally, and it wouldn’t be until I was able to explore more around town that I finally saw the rest of the community. The ones with darker skin like mine were, quite literally, segregated on the other side of town. None of the people I hung out with even knew about it. My classmates would even freak out when we got another Black boy in class.
“Do you like him?” They would ask. They assumed that I did because I was Black, but I had to say yes at the time because I actually identified as a lesbian at that time, but that’s an entirely different story for another time.
I would eventually venture out of the incredibly small town that I had been hoping to leave all my life, not because I hated it, but because I wanted to see Black people. I hadn’t seen too many other Black people outside of my family. I wanted to be in an environment where I didn’t have to worry about people running their sandy hands in my hair or say they could never date me because I was Black. I had grown used to it, but I was tired of it.
I saw a little more diversity in high school and a lot more in college and was extremely privileged to travel and experience even more. When I knew that traveling could also be done in my own, I did so with the privilege of having managed my anxiety and being financially stable enough to do so. This is why I often “kidnapped” people and made them travel with me. I would give them no choice in the matter, and just picked them up and took them somewhere. Especially, the friends who came from that tiny rural town.
I always knew how beneficial traveling was for me and how it opened my eyes to new possibilities. It forced my mind to expand when I actually got to know people outside of the community genuinely. I would never fully understand their experiences, but I would learn how I could help them share their stories with others. I thought that if people who never left their bubble heard from people other than those just like them that they would have their minds opened as well. It turns out that it didn’t work with every friend.
I still want to continue traveling (after the pandemic) to add even more stories to the collective autobiography of the world for the people that it will help. I can’t take everyone around the world with me, but I can share what I learn and gather from others.