Op-Ed: My Family Crowdfunded My Trip To Amsterdam And Gave Me The Travel Push I Needed To Do It Alone

Opinion, Black girls travel, Amsterdam

Op-Ed: My Family Crowdfunded My Trip To Amsterdam And Gave Me The Travel Push I Needed To Do It Alone

Here’s my unofficial Black girl’s guide to travel abroad.

Published May 27, 2019

Written by Diasia Robinson

I was first bit by the travel bug when my best friend suggested that we go to Amsterdam as a gift to ourselves weeks after high school graduation. She made it sound so easy and simple, offering that we could stay with her aunt who lived there. I, on the other hand, was terrified and had roughly one thousand concerns running through my head. Are there Black people in Amsterdam? Literally where is that? Do people there speak English? How am I going to pay for a flight without a job? I can’t go to Amsterdam! I was lucky enough to get 10-15 family members to donate $50-$100 towards my trip to Amsterdam as a graduation present. I then somehow booked a flight on British Airways and was on my way to Europe for the very first time at 16 years old. I soon fell in love with not only the city, but also the idea of going to a place I had never been to before. Before that trip I had only been to Florida, and even that was a big deal for me. This, however, was the start of a love affair with traveling around the world.

Now I constantly have the desire to book a trip abroad. It’s something I can’t tame, and usually after seeing a flight within my budget (less than $300 round trip,) I pretty much make up in my mind that I am going. My flight to Barcelona was $278, and I found that on the Skyscanner app, which I highly recommend! With a price like that, the opportunity to go to Spain from New York was just too good to pass up. I decided I had to go alone because I was tired of asking my friends to travel with me and I wanted to challenge myself with an exciting experience. I bravely booked this trip, hoping to meet interesting people from around the world, try amazing food that I had never been exposed to and gaze at views from places like Park Guell. I wanted a solo trip because I know how to have fun by myself and knew that I didn’t really need anyone else to have a life-changing adventure but me.

If you tell someone about your burning desire for solo travel and they respond with but have you seen "Taken"?, please know that they are a hater. While safety is my number-one priority, and probably yours too, the fear of being kidnapped or taken should not prevent you from traveling alone. Traveling solo is one of the most rewarding experiences a young Black woman could ever gift herself.

Recently I made it all the way from Brooklyn to Spain and here’s how I did it:

PRE-DEPARTURE:

  • Save and be consistent: I am a big believer in saving money in advance for travel, even without a destination in mind. $150-$200 goes into my travel fund from every paycheck, and I am pretty consistent with that. Then once I hit $600, I know it’s time for a trip. First, I look for the cheapest flight available, book that, and then I’ll proceed to look for where I am staying. Maybe the amount that goes into your travel fund every paycheck looks lower than $150 or even higher than $200, and that is fine, as long as you are consistent.  
  • Cheap flights: My favorite app right now for cheap flights is Skyscanner, because there is an option where you can look at the cheapest flights for the year for anywhere in the world. So even if you aren’t sure when you want to travel or where, you can be guided by cost alone, which is the primary deciding factor when I decide to book a trip. Below is a screenshot of my favorite travel apps other than Skyscanner that I have downloaded. For websites, cheapoair.com and justfly.com are my absolute favorites.
  • Do some light research: Once you have a destination, watch YouTube videos about your upcoming trip. This is important especially if you are going to a place that has a different native language than yours. Learn how to say common phrases like hello, bye, bathroom, thank you and please. Also, use Instagram’s hashtag feature to get an idea of activities and sightseeing spots.
  • The rule of twos: Plan to go to at least two cities or neighborhoods so that you can get a feel of the place you are going to. Going to both Barcelona and Madrid allowed me to compare and contrast different parts of Spain. I learned that Barcelona’s unique neighborhoods with cultural undertones was more of my vibe than Madrid, which offers travelers Metropolitan chic.    
  • Pack a smart day-to-day bag while abroad: Separate from your luggage, this would be a smaller bag that should include a water bottle, a blanket light enough to double as a wrap when you get cold or go to the beach (think the blanket that they give you on an airplane), and a small umbrella. I carried around a tote from one of my favorite travel sites, Shut Up and Go, that I highly recommend. It’s big, so I stuffed it to the max and used it as my in-flight carry-on, but later used it as my day-to-day tote and packed it only with essentials like the ones just described.
  • Find your local embassy beforehand: Write down the full address and telephone number, just in case your phone dies or you lose it for some reason. Most countries have international schools/universities as well, so learn the location of at least one of those just in case you need a home base. Most likely, you will find English speakers there and people ages 18-24.

ARRIVAL:

  • Be nice to your waiter so that you can get the tea on the local spots. They can help you with clubs to go to, places to eat at, and non-touristy things to do if that’s not your vibe. An excellent resource.
  • Softly plan instead of making a rigid itinerary: Pick 1-2 things to do every day and then leave room for spontaneity. You are bound to meet people who will inspire you to go somewhere that wasn’t on your itinerary. Leave room in your day for that.
  • Tackle your fear of boredom by packing a travel journal, where you can reflect and document your experiences, and a book that you are excited about. My travel journal is gold, and the color alone is so bomb, which makes me eager to write in it every chance I get. Make sure your journal inspires you as well. The best time to journal is at the park, or over coffee or lunch.
  • Night out: Go out! Don’t be afraid to have a night out past 12 a.m. I went out every night in Barcelona and sometimes stayed out until 6 a.m. Call an Uber to your destination and back. Also, pregame by buying cheap wine from a local supermarket (if available) beforehand so a weirdo doesn’t convince you to let them by you a drink.
  • My advice on photos: I typically have a stranger take my picture. Usually a woman, because I trust women. I know this sounds scary, but feel this one out. I look for people who are taking selfies in front of touristy locations, and if they’re struggling to take a photo, I then offer to take a photo of them. Then I kindly ask them to repay the favor! Works every time. TRUST. You can also just take a good ole fashioned selfie or use the self-timer feature.

This is one fear that needs to be tackled head on. It takes courage, savings and the right mindset to take a solo trip. So take my advice and treat yourself!

 

Diasia Robinson is a journalist, travel writer, and content creator from Brooklyn, New York. You can keep up with her at DiasiaGlobal.com

(Photo: Getty Images)

COMMENTS

Latest in style