What feels like many moons ago —reality has us at almost a year since I shared my perspective on COVID, ignorance, and privilege. You should definitely have a read if you haven’t already to be prepared for my perspective. Here we are, STILL dealing with this panorama (as I’ve seen it comically called on the innanets) and it took me a while to formulate my thoughts on the most recent glaring case of “What in the traveldacity?!”
*Traveldacity = travel audacity/nerve/gall. . . trademark pending, just saying!
Back in January, a certain Mrs. Kristen Gray was deported from Bali, after naming the Indonesian island as “queer-friendly;” monetizing an e-book product “Our Bali Life is Yours” that sold people on the idea of moving to Bali to live and work; and encouraging travel to Bali during the pandemic. The Balinese immigration officials operated like some smooth operators with the deportation, and news broke fast and wide when it first dropped.
As my mother often says: “Americans have bad short-term memory and it shows.” While life has gone on, outside of the public eye for the couple. . . I’m still here... ruminating, SMH, and betting on me even more. Shooooottt. The thought I just can’t shake as a Black woman who has been traveling well before it was all over your feeds is. . . We’ve been victims of the oppressor—but man we picked up some of dem ways...for real!
In unpacking this debacle, so many guffaws that just shouldn’t happen came to mind. . . If I could have sat down with this couple I would have had my own version of the Gayle R.Kelly interview that reflected the messiness of it all!
I would come with my best suit, and some lukewarm tea that I could sip every time I sensed BULLSHIT at the following glaringly important omitted questions that these two tried to gloss over:
So, we didn’t know the dominant religion of where we are going?
On top of that It. IS. COVID.
3. So you felt it made sense to promote MOVING to this country to others in the midst of a panorama where folks were actively being told to SHELTER IN PLACE— AND Ain’t NO COUNTRY want NUFFIN’ to do wit our triflin’, can’t follow a simple rule to save others, American privileged asses. . .(peep how we STILL can’t enter many parts of the world even with the vaccine, they see us)
[Also, I had to go with the colloquial speak for this lawd cuz I STILL need SOMEONE to MAKE IT MAKE SENSE!] And while I get that a lot of people moved with the flexibility remote work provided—which I am all for, as I think most of us needed to the pandemic to break free— BUT, most of the people who relocated/moved were NOT inviting others to come, make money, and Not. Pay. Taxes. While flexing in a $400 cabin… on Clubhouse with an entire audience. . . and this what you doing??
It’s the LACK OF cultural, local, and situational awareness for ME…Like this influencer shit has its limits for me . . .
What in the TRAVEL GENTRIFICATION? People would rather sell you on something they don’t even know, because the OPTICS is IN?! You will definitely miss me with all that. . .
In fact, the entire situation even brought to light the sentiments of native Balinese and Indonesian social media airwaves. They were on fire with very valid sentiments that you can entertain yourself with here, and that summarily stated
"NOPE! Americans swear this is their playground while we can’t earn decent wages" I share tips on how to travel like a pro because on so many levels this is what you want to avoid. . .at all costs. While I am speaking on this months later—this idea of optics and how as a people we rely on that above all else is an ongoing problem with far-reaching effects. While we tend to rely moreso on the optics—we can’t actually afford to partake in influencer culture as much as we do! Today’s travel consumption, and a lot of the “Black Travel Movement” is about the visual though. I literally watched Netflix’s documentary on the Fyre Festival and was in a constant state of shaking my damn head at the ridiculousness of it all in the name of clout. The optics draw the appeal which pairs travel down to popularity. Why is that an issue you may ask? Well, when you’re talking about a place that has its own culture, norms, values, and beauty beyond being a cheap playground where we as Americans escape to, popularity is one of the saddest and most basic approaches to travel. #Sorrynotsorry. . . Everyone goes to what they see the most, and costs the least often, hence why Bali blew up with those floating fruit trays in pools having people lose their minds. . . Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame anyone for following what is popular—I believe exposure is important. BUT—what happened to knowing something more about a place before arrival?
What struck a chord with me as Black Americans who face systemic oppression daily here in the US is, it is often hard to see ourselves as privileged. However, when it comes to travel and the behavior we sometimes enact, we often assume the persona of the colonizer we love to hate.
It’s some real Columbus shit to pull up in a country and SELL FOLKS ON IT like you discovered something. It’s privileged to be of the mindset that one can go somewhere without knowing their laws/customs/beliefs and try to use that place as a come up, to others who equally don’t know and are relying on whatever you say. Especially when you don’t know shit. . . (see earlier in regards to my disdain for lack of knowledge).
As Black Americans, travel allows us to reclaim many freedoms that historically we didn’t have—but the American identity that lies within us often takes over in overseas contexts.
We expect convenience, demand others move at a faster pace in service of said convenience, don’t know anything about the local language, and expect people to bend to the will of our dollars (when dollars are hard to exchange for folks when you leave touristy areas). Don’t let me suggest paying someone to arrange travel, while teaching something! Everyone wants to Facebook question their way into a country as if professionals don’t exist and Google isn’t a resource. We have to do better. . . Now, really, I don't see myself in this collective “we” when it comes to this behavior. I mean, I’m out here giving free game and trying to save those who hear and see me less the ass shots soooooo ummm yeah. . . To be honest, if folks would consider alternatives to the optics, and peel back at least 1-2 layers it would be clear that substance is lacking in many cases. However, because I genuinely believe in experiencing culture, I do this work. In all things, the value of education is paramount to our success and to wander responsibly. I can only hope that more people are willing to ride that wave, instead of the bandwagon to Tulum.