Why I wish more (Black) Americans would travel adventurously

The end of a rural hike in Laos

The rewarding viewpoint after a “messy” hike in Laos after one leg of a motorcycle ride through Asia. We hadn’t seen Americans (or westerners) in 4 days. I hadn’t seen another black person in about 4 weeks. This experience was one of the best experiences of my life.

Why I wish more (Black) Americans would travel adventurously

One of my favorite treats of travel is the learning and growth that comes from exploring the not so visited places throughout the globe.  Each leg of my adventures presents different opportunities to witness something new, find something valuable, and incorporate the lesson into how I exist.  Opportunities to learn about hidden histories, about the world and why it is the way it is today, and about the forgotten or misunderstood people and cultures that comprise the patchwork of our global community.

But there is also immense opportunity to learn about and improve ourselves.  From learning how to reprogram our own habits, cultures, and traditions in positive ways, to learning new ways to live in our communities in a way that enhances our own lives and the lives of others.  Personally, traveling has helped me understand history, and my place in it, in a whole new light.  As a result, I’ve absorbed new habits and traditions that have ultimately made all areas of my life more satisfying and productive.  I believe this learning, augmenting, and reprogramming of habits, traditions, and culture takes place for most travelers whether or not they realize it and is one of the most valuable outcomes from hitting the road.

I also think everyone can benefit in similar ways, which is why I encourage everyone to travel.  Let me be clear though.  I don’t just encourage people to travel, I encourage them to travel “adventurously.”

 

Not just travel…adventurous travel that pushes you beyond what you know and what is comfortable

Go to places where people don’t look like you, talk like you, or even think like you.  Go to places that are difficult to get to…because these are less likely to be touched by the influence of “your people”.  Go to places where you are not served and catered to.  Go to places where getting around requires a few words in the local language and understanding a few more local customs than you currently know.  Go to a place that pushes you to the edge, and beyond, your comfort zone.

But why?

Because in these places, you will see who you really are, sometimes by seeing what you’re not, and you will question what you really know gaining self-awareness along the way.  At some point, the structure and uncompromising rigidity you know from daily life and who you are, what you eat, how you relate to people, what you deem as valuable in life will come into question as you navigate your adventure.  In some areas you will compromise, and in other areas you will understand that you believed more than you thought possible.  You will learn that “disgusting” is extremely relative, history is written by the victors (and in their language), and from Vietnam to Ghana to Iraq to Kentucky we have more commonalities than differences.  Yes, it requires more flexibility and adaptability than you may have now, but you will cultivate these over time and these newfound traits are valuable on their own.

Just another brother at the footsteps of Mount Everest. In an entire week of hiking, I saw one other brother on the trail. He was having the time of his life, laughing up a storm! We made eye contact. We fist bumped. We did the nod. And we kept walking. A great place to see another brother

Just another brother at the footsteps of Mount Everest. In an entire week of hiking, I saw one other brother on the trail. He was having the time of his life, laughing up a storm! We made eye contact. We fist bumped. We did the nod. And we kept walking. A great place to see another brother

 

Now, you might call out, the title of this post is “Why I wish more black Americans would travel adventurously”, isn’t it? Yes it is.  Let me explain…

 

What makes adventurous travel particularly worthwhile for Black Americans?

I believe that traveling offers the opportunity to take the best habits, traditions, and ideas from each culture visited.  Cultures that have existed continuously for hundreds and thousands of years.

Put simply, black American culture arguably dates back about 150 years, to the abolition of slavery in the US. Prior to that, the ancestors of many black Americans were delivered to the shores of the US, cutoff from family, traditions, and culture.  During the period of slavery in the US, productive, healthy, and forward thinking traditions and habits were heavily suppressed.  In short, black Americans had the disadvantage of being sterilized of hundreds to thousands of years of their culture, history, and traditions, in a way that could paralyze any person’s development.  Being detached from everything they knew forced black Americans to start from scratch in foreign, unaccepting culture and exist in subjugated role in society that only prospered if black Americans didn’t progress or grow, but maintained drone-like habits on plantations.  This lack of history, culture, and tradition left the surviving slaves hundreds to thousands of years behind everyone else.

…but…

Fast forward to today.

Black Americans have a potential tool for growth: a passport from the most powerful nation on the planet and the opportunities that come with it.

Many of the black Americans I know are strong, resilient, charming, and talented.  Raw potential.  If only there was a way for black Americans to catapult themselves forward by standing on the shoulders of giants, re-learning and replacing the lost lessons with knowledge from people and cultures that have been around for thousands of years.  The kinds of lessons normally passed subconsciously from generation to generation via uninhibited existence & robust traditions.

Yes, the United States offers a top notch education system where one could learn virtually anything, but, some argue that the American education system is biased against certain people. My answer: look elsewhere for an empowering “education”. Or better yet, augment the traditional education with practical, real world lessons…

What if there was a real world school, an unstructured school of hard knocks that could provide anything from undergraduate to postgraduate education in the lessons one needs to have a fulfilled existence and live their best life?  What if it provided the education at every level, and whenever you were ready?  What if those lessons were naturally selected by cultures that have evolved over hundreds and thousands of years?  And what if, like a buffet you could sift through them all selectively and choose whichever ideas could catapult you towards the best version of you, for you?

Welcome to the world of travel.  This is why I wish more black people traveled adventurously.

Adventurous travel has the potential to expose a person to hundreds and thousands of culture and knowledge.  In my opinion, travel is an opportunity for black Americans to replace thousands of years of lost culture, giving them the perspectives, skills, and ideas to realize the raw potential I see.

 

Four days of Meditation in the hills of Thailand. An irreplaceable experience that taught me patience, control, and strength in a way I never would have predicted

Four days of silence and meditation in the hills of Thailand. An irreplaceable experience that undid years of scars and taught me patience, control, and strength in a way I never would have predicted

Now…for the long version…

Why I wish more black people would travel adventurously

 

No culture is perfect and there is a possibility that most traditions may not even be right (by your standards) in how to approach life, but by observing and experiencing even the traditions and practices to be discarded there is a chance to take positive lessons to add to your own life, your family’s traditions, and your community’s way of living.

 

The black dilemma: centuries of culture stripped, and a vulnerable vacuum in its place

At the risk of turning this into a discussion about society, I’ll bring up the elephant in the room

Most black Americans in the US are descendants of slaves brought over to the United States 200-400 years ago.  In the process of transitioning into slavery, many of them were stripped of their culture, traditions, family members and accompanying family structure, social support networks, and all of the other empowering elements that “tribes” and communities provide.  I, personally, couldn’t tell you my family lineage on the African side of my family beyond 3 generations back. Not only were slaves detached from their culture, they were prevented from practicing and maintaining the traditions that kept families and communities healthy, well organized, and functioning smoothly. In place of these valued (and healthy) traditions and missing loved ones, slaves’ lives were filled by toxic interactions with profit focused slave owners and a racist populace that saw them as unequal and subhuman.

I assume, that in the face of this situation – missing loved ones, missing community structure, and subjugation, it would be difficult to maintain any kind of healthy or productive culture.

Fast forward to the abolition of slavery.  Releasing slaves from their chains left most black Americans “free” but unable to move, maybe due to lack of resources, maybe due to fear and reluctance.  The result: being “free” but still living in the same place, stewing in the same communities filled with racist ideologies and hatred and the “black Americans” still being detached from the culture and traditions of their heritage and motherland.  In “societal soil” like this, good things don’t commonly grow.  Mega-entrepreneurs don’t naturally grow.  Easy lives don’t grow.  Tranquil, well rounded, healthy families with stability just don’t “grow” naturally out of these conditions.  Yes, these things do (and did) grow out of these communities, but at a far lower rate than in other “healthy communities” where the population was homogenous and power brokers saw other inhabitants as equals.

Think of the “successful” people you know.  Doctors. Lawyers.  Accountants.  Teachers.  When did the majority of these people start on their current path? Was it the day they graduated?  Was it when they started school for their chosen profession.  I would argue no, their paths started with conversations around a kitchen table as a child or watching their mother/father get ready for work each day.  They started with reminders of why good grades and studying hard was important.  For most of these “successful” people’s paths started as seeds planted early on in life, that grew into the paths they currently excel on.

Now, for these freed black Americans and former slaves…what seeds do you think were planted between the time they arrived in the Americas and the time they received their “freedom”.  What opportunities could those “seeds” have possibly grown into?  The seed of subjugation.  The seed of illiteracy and avoiding knowledge.  The seed that only the strongest are of value.  The seed to not question authority, because authority will always win.  The seed of violence and force as the answer to most issues.  What could these seeds have possibly grown into once they were planted into that vacuum that once held family structure, society preserving tradition, and social standards intended for the community’s survival.

My belief: nothing good.

I believe that over time and exposure to other positive stimuli, those seeds and what they grew into slowly died, leaving the opportunity to replace them.  Raw soil.  Raw potential.  Rich soil where anything can be planted.

The point is, the thousands of years of culture and tradition that have been stripped can’t be “handed back” in a heartbeat or regrow within the span of a couple isolated generations.  A situation like this could naturally leave most people aimless and vulnerable to absorbing the habits and traditions of the toxic community they’re entrenched in.  If the community is a haven of bigotry, racist ideologies, and violence to maintain positions of power – exposure to such conditions without the grounding of tradition, rock solid culture, and heritage could be disastrous. But, if the community of any person has an equitable approach to life and willingness to include and give a fair chance to all, such a chance at “freedom” could be an amazing opportunity.

 


Why is having healthy culture and tradition so valuable?

 

I’ve realized, in my travels, that traditions as simple as weekly family dinners, contacting family members on a daily basis, siestas, and the structure/standards of accountability in a community are small things that can have intense effects on a community or society as a whole.  They’re the glue that hold communities together in a healthy way through the mundane routines of daily life, and ensure the social mechanisms are lubricated and ready for times of crisis.  These traditions also encourage that every member is included, pursuing a worthwhile cause (for the community and themselves).

Black American culture has seen prolific figures that have risen powerfully despite the toxic conditions that surrounded it, like Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Malcom X, Harriet Tubman, Robert Smith, and the list continues – but I would argue that these people weren’t completely created by the situations they lived in, or the knowledge they were exposed to in daily routine.  The situations in their communities weren’t their only sources of stimulation.  They augmented their daily lives with ideas and culture beyond their own.  They did not accept the situation as it was presented to them – they reached beyond the situation to find better answers, and to fill in the gaps in their culture, in black American culture, to answer the questions of “who are we”, “what do we want to be in this world”, and “what is worth doing with our lives.”

I do love Black American culture and the black American spirit…but, with literally thousands of years of culture and tradition missing, understandably there is room for improvement.  There are many potential approaches, and many are working very well.  From successful entrepreneurs and businessmen that incorporate themselves into corporate America, to a former president who arguably (despite your political leanings) just kept trying to do the right thing and be a good person (read: maintain a happy healthy marriage, be a good father to his daughters, avoid moral compromise, etc.), to community leaders focused on giving back instead of taking and billionaire philanthropists that fly under the radar like Robert Smith.

Today.  I believe that we, as Black Americans, don’t have any reasonable excuses to halt our movement forward – and many of the hurdles faced by past generations have been replaced by opportunities for us.  Opportunities to move where we please, to educate ourselves however we choose, to establish and maintain relationships without judgment, and to adopt any habit or tradition we may choose.  For the successful black Americans that I’ve listed, they are rebuilding and bolstering our culture by taking full advantage of these opportunities.

And to anyone who is not black, but still reading this, don’t take this writing as an “us vs. them” piece of writing, because it is not.  First, we’ll gladly accept anyone as honorary members.  Just email me and we’ll send you the application.   Second, this is merely about understanding and building our identities, which helps us live productive lives as valuable contributors to the communities and larger society we live in.  There is a great quote from Sun Tzu “…know yourself and you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”  Being a good, productive person every day in the world we live in is a battle.  To win that battle, we as black Americans (individually and collectively) need to understand, rebuild (if necessary), and bolster our identity and who we are to win that battle.  That is why the conversation about black American culture is so important to me.

And that is why I believe travel is an untapped treasure trove for Black America.

Travel as a tool to augment culture and traditions

Black Americans are unique people with visible success under our belts, but tons of untapped potential. We live in a country filled with as much opportunity as we are willing to take advantage of.  No, the opportunity is not necessarily handed to us, but worthwhile opportunities are rarely handed to anyone.  I believe as our traditions and culture become more robust, we will more instinctively use our gifts, talents, and strength towards achieving greater successes on a wider scale.  Not just in the arts and entertainment (as we’ve been renowned for in the past) but in the sciences, in business, and in society as irreplaceable contributors and leaders.

I think there are many potential paths to this state of contributing to society in a way that leaves a lasting positive impact and results in a satisfying, fulfilling life.  My path is the path of exploring and absorbing the best of all cultures through travel, incorporating them into my best life, and sharing the stories…

…what’s yours?

 


 

Interested but not sure where to start or if its even possible for you?  Email Carlos@ABrotherAbroad.com with the headline “No idea where to start…”.  I’ll be happy to get you on the road to your own path…

 

 


 

Top Standards I’ve Taken from Other Cultures that Black Americans (and all Americans) could benefit from

 

  1. Iraq: Accountability to family
  2. Italy: Quality over quantity in everything
  3. Greece and Italy: Live for interaction
  4. France: Ugly is pretty (self-acceptance)
  5. Vietnam: Excuse-free, dedicated hustle
  6. Vietnam: contribute to something that will last 1000 years
  7. Thailand: Just breathe
  8. Patagonia: Always return to the land and you will return to the essence of you
  9. Portugal/Turkey: Anti-consumerism (just be here)
  10. Brazil, Colombia: The connection between soulful cultures, love yourself and do you
  11. Uruguay/Argentina/Cambodia/Myanmar: Atroicities have happened all over the world.  Know about them so you can see them coming.  When you see them coming, do something meaningful
  12. America: No country is perfect, no place is perfect, but there is always an opportunity
  13. Japan: There is no reason not to strive for pure excellence in everything

 

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