One of the biggest concerns for people who haven’t had the opportunity to travel abroad is that they don’t think they can afford to, and Oneika who has traveled to over 70 countries has advice that is simple: Sacrifice a few pricey items and materialistic things so that you can experience moments and memories that will last a lifetime.
Playing Mas in the Caribana parade, Toronto, Canada
My name is Oneika and my not-so-secret secret is that I’m a travel addict. At the ripe old age of 32 I have traveled to 70 countries on 6 different continents and have lived and worked in France, England, Mexico, and Hong Kong. For too long people have thought that Black folks don’t travel. We are out here! Thank you for using your platform to show our people that they can and should go out and see the world.
To be honest, the travel bug bit me a bit late. As a bookworm-ish kid growing up in Toronto, Canada, travel was the furthest thing from my mind. Not to say that I didn’t travel at all– my parents are Jamaican, so we made trips back to the island and also visited family living in various cities in the U.S. But I always felt like trips to faraway destinations like China, Argentina, and South Africa were largely out of my reach. After all, I never saw or heard of anyone who looked like me doing stuff like that, and the books I devoured in my youth rarely featured characters- never mind travelers- who were Black .
Luckily, things changed when I got to college. I remember making friends with two very nice Black girls and discovering that they were heading to Spain and Morocco for Spring Break. I was like, “What?! You can do that?” Flabbergasted, I was immediately forced to challenge my foolish subconscious belief that “we” couldn’t travel to places like that. After doing away with such a foolish notion, I applied for, and was accepted to, a year-long study abroad in Nantes, France during my junior year.
It was a life-altering experience: I met people in my dorm who came from countries I never knew existed (Comoros and Chad and Algeria– former French colonies), and backpacked in Spain and Morocco, just like my two girlfriends had done during Spring Break the year before. A seed had been planted and I was hooked on travel.
The rest, they say, is history. After my study abroad, I knew I was destined for a life on the road. I plotted and schemed and realized that I could sustain myself by teaching abroad. The first year, I moved back to France and taught English as a Foreign Language on the French Riviera; after that, I got a elementary/secondary state teaching credential that allowed me to teach high school English Lit and French in private schools in Mexico, London, England, and Hong Kong, where I am currently working and writing this email from.
Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
At the Atacama Desert in Chile
The Atacama Desert, Chile
Travel has been transformative for me and has helped me to learn so much about the world and myself. As a teacher I have over three months of paid vacation every year and I travel during every single break! I have gone on safari in Tanzania, seen the pyramids in Egypt, and taken selfies before majestic sights like Machu Picchu in Peru and the Sydney Opera House in Australia.
I have been to the Taj Mahal at dawn, eaten with locals in Guatemala, and walked along a stretch of the Great Wall of China. I’ve gone to a dancehall reggae club in Tokyo and run with the bulls in Spain; I’ve traveled with my mom to Rome and Berlin (she is always up for globetrotting with me!) and even met my husband while teaching in Hong Kong. I have also travelled solo in Chile and Mexico and Belgium, amongst other places. All in all, I have gone through 5 passports and have an infinite amount of memories (and pictures) from these years of travel.
A few of my tips:
- Prioritize your spending. You say you can’t afford to travel internationally, but those Louboutins you just bought could have scored you a plane ticket to London. That night out at the club popping bottles? Equivalent to a week of accommodation in Brazil. Point is, you probably *do* have the money for travel, you’re just spending it on other things. Monitor your outgoings and allocate savings for your dream trip.
- Travel for less and on someone else’s dime. Websites like ThePointsGuy.com help you to accrue and use air miles so you can travel smarter and cheaper. Programs like Vaughn Town and Pueblo Ingles provide free room and board in Spain in exchange for conversing in English with Spaniards eager to learn. There are many ways to make travel more affordable, you just have to look and get creative!
Hanging with Buddhist monks in Bagan, Myanmar
- Seek opportunities to live abroad. If you’re still in school, study abroad programs are a great way to facilitate your first international experience, and many of them offer scholarships. If you’re finished school, look into programs like the Peace Corps — they have 3-24 month volunteer opportunities worldwide. Need to make money? Think about getting into teaching. If you’re not already a primary or secondary teacher in the U.S., consider getting a TEFL/TESL certification that will allow you to teach English abroad. Already comfortable in your career and hate teaching? Ask your job for a short-term international transfer.
- Just go. Don’t let the opportunity to travel pass you by. Don’t wait for friends to jump on that plane, train, or automobile with you. Solo travel is sexy: you can do what you want, when you want, and on your own terms. Web-based forums like Couchsurfing have also made it easier to connect with locals when you get to your destination as well. So you’re never really alone unless you want to be.
Anyway, I’ve rambled enough. Bottom line: getting hooked on travel is hands down the best thing that ever happened to me. I can’t imagine life without it now!
Thanks again for allowing me to share my story! I’ve attached some photos of my travels. I write a blog called Oneika the Traveller (www.oneika-the-traveller.com) that chronicles my adventures abroad as well as my tips and tricks for travel. 🙂
Machu Picchu, Peru