My fitness journey has grown on such an extraordinary level. Through running and obstacle course races, I’ve traveled several parts of the United States and even outside of the country. Since 2013, my friends and family traveled with me less than a handful of times. People expressed an extreme amount of fear for me for a multitude of reasons. And in ways, I cannot say that some of these things are irrational. Reading this post, you may not be able to place yourself into any of these categories -- that’s actually fine. Perhaps this will help a loved one or even you - a curious reader - understand why I find joy and a bit of hesitance as I travel while under one of these categories.
Traveling While Woman
I’ve gone to a number of states throughout the United States alone and know absolutely nobody. These days since going viral, I’ve met up with Instagram and Facebook followers who proved to me over time that they’re not on the cuckoo bus. If you find yourself as an explorer and adventurer like me, I’m certain that the first thing thrown your direction when doing such things is being reminded that you’re a woman.
Frankly, I had a vagina since the day that I was born - and this is certainly not a shot at anyone - but some people treat me as if I don’t know the stereotypes of being a woman with a vagina walking around in a city that is unfamiliar to me. I’d be damned if being a woman will be associated with being naive, requiring the escort of a man or limiting the things that I enjoy and would like to venture off to just because I’m a woman.
And yes, I’m not oblivious some areas run rampant with high statistics of sexually related offenses and crimes -- but this can happen absolutely ANYWHERE. Instead, I prefer to be aware of my surroundings, study the areas beforehand and this may mean, talking with some people who visited or a few locals. The latter part is something that I would suggest taking with a grain of salt. What one’s experience is doesn’t necessarily dictate another. Nevertheless, grab your crown and travel the globe. And yeah… your male bestie doesn’t have to be your security guard if you don’t want him there. Don’t believe the hype. In most cases, I am the person who is side by side with my male counterparts kicking ass.
Traveling While Black (or as a Person of Color)
Ah yes… racism and bigotry warms my heart like spoiled milk sitting on a counter for five days. It’s rancid, raw and deliberately designed to make you feel less than another group or particular person.
While in Chicago for the Chicago Marathon last week, I was delayed at the O’Hare International airport thanks to engine failure. Since I was departing super late at night, I was limited to two options:
I chose the latter version and in ways, it bit me in the ass. After standing outside for 30 plus minutes, I worried that I missed my hotel shuttle. I started talking with others, inquiring if they were waiting for the same shuttle as me. I asked an older ‘gentleman’ who was roughly in his 60s or 70s and you would’ve thought that I asked him about stealing his organs. Initially he called me a bitch -- a friendly word that I hear a lot as a woman because clearly I bark like his tonsil aerobics practicing mama - and then he graduated to calling me the N - word (and no, not neurotic). Can you say baffled and pissed? I tried to keep my composure and even asked what provoked this commentary. He continue to speak ill exceptionally loudly and nobody said NOTHING. They watched us like a Pay-Per-View special until I raised my voice.
As an African American woman, I’m always nervous about being perceived as the angry black woman -- a vicious stereotype that assumes that black women are ‘sassy,’ ‘filled with attitude’ and lack respect who always desire to be loud and obnoxious. On this particular night, after this man invaded my personal space, I started yelling back. And then someone grew ‘concerned’ and called the police. In 2018, it is the modern day version of ‘calm the fuck down’ and sip on this muzzle. Please entertain me with ridiculous stances like ‘you have nothing to fear if you did nothing wrong.’ Let’s just say that I picked up D.L. Hughley’s How to Not Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People after that trip. I’ll even wait for someone to tell me their argument about how not all of us are like that or even accuse me of being racist/bigot for making such a statement -- I’ve already received the emails. Living here in America, turn on any news channel and you can see how desensitized some of us already became about watching people of color get harassed and the police used as pawns to commit crimes -- assuming that they weren’t corrupt from the start.
So back to the story: I spoke to the police and thankfully everything mellowed out. This same person jumped into the same hotel transport van as me. I tried checking in without problems and this man stirred the pot once again by talking shit about me while in line to a group of people who told me to:
Here I am, watching a group of people, laugh and belittle my experience of being racially discriminated in a place that I don’t view as home. Before this experience, I used to love Chicago. Calling home was the most hurtful part of the experience. I had to tell my husband and mother at 12 - 1AM EST that I was called a ‘coon’, ‘nigger’ and ‘nappy headed bitch’ simply for asking a question. And can you BELIEVE he muttered an apology:
“Sorry if you feel offended…”
My response verbatim: “Go take that apology, fold it into a small airplane and fly it completely up your asshole.”
In the morning, he waved goodbye by taking pictures of me as I went to the breakfast buffet.
After explaining these series of events while showing his face to the Internet, I had a mixture of apologies, a partial audience who told me “welcome to the MidWest racism”, a small group of people who either didn’t believe me or asked in the most passive aggressive way of what “REALLY” happened, some who feared for me and others who completely went into defense mode to tell me that not all _______ people act this way.
NEWSFLASH: I already know. Assholes are everywhere.
In the end, it made my mother and several other people terrified about me traveling in the next few weeks because clearly, if it’s not a major city, I will be in danger. Here’s the deal: Racism, sexism and bigotry is everywhere. I cannot and will not limit my experiences by living in fear. I’m sorry mom, sister, friend, follower and family member, I’ll be traveling a lot more. Although some places will make me more paranoid than others, it will not stop me from exploring the world without the incessant need of a chaperone. Will I take my family with me to some places? If I so desire to. Will I reduce my days in places like this? Quite frankly, yeah. Until Chicago and several other places regain my trust, I’m truly not interested in staying for a long time.
Traveling While Broke, Suffering Identity Theft or Stranded
Last year, I traveled to four states in two weeks. If I can help it, never again. Ironically, it was my second time in Chicago - which was amazing on that trip - and then I skipped over to Las Vegas to celebrate my best friend’s wedding (and her anniversary is today). While going on a day trip to Arizona, my account went from a thousand to under 100 bucks. Now that I think about it...happy anniversary. This actually happened today at this exact moment last year -- purely coincidental. Imagine sitting at Route 66 after getting off of a pony, holding a shotgun and a bag of souvenirs to realize someone’s got you for over 500.00.
I panicked and have a full blown anxiety attack in one of the most beautiful places in America -- The Grand Canyon. I cried in front of 40 plus strangers who tried to console me and were actually scared that I was going to lose my shit on a bus. A married couple talked with me for 45 minutes and even tried to help me through this situation. Did I mention that I had only one bank account with all of my money in this institution AND it was a Sunday -- a day that they weren't’ operating. If I shut off my account and report it in as fraud, essentially I screwed myself over.
I came to terms that I was flat broke and would have to spend a full five days in California with no money of my own. So what happened?
Thankfully in this situation, I had to cry to my best friend about this situation. She and her mother helped me with a few bucks, called home and explained the situation and emptied out the rest of my checking account before this asshat took anymore of my money. Thankfully my friend in California told me to calm the fuck down - his exact words - and we enjoyed our time together. As far as being in the Grand Canyon: I came to terms that nothing would change the situation at the moment.
So kiddies… what lesson did I learn?
Traveling While LGBTQ
Here’s a little secret that’s not a secret about me: I happily identify as a bisexual woman. I’m sure someone will side eye this and honestly IDGAF. Perhaps there’s something that I’m oblivious from seeing but some people like to say that they can tell that I’m bisexual. ::commence eye roll:: If you happen to be one of those people, please keep your commentary to yourself because unless I told you, don’t assume shit to me out loud and tell me a bunch of stereotypes. I will admit that I do have a fascination with what people would classify as “90 Lesbian Flannel.”
While in one state, a lady assumed that an interaction with a buddy was clearly us flirting with each other and acting ‘homosexual.’ She offered to pay for our meals so we could not offend her child with our ‘gay propaganda.’ This makes me cackle. And so I ordered half of the menu and then left because I don’t want to piss your off in the middle of your grits and cheese.
This situation surely could have been way worse: Hate crimes are very real. People have been viciously physically attacked, sexually assaulted, robbed and tortured just because of sexual identity. Did I mention that this was in a red state? Please remind me again about how not all ____ people are like this. I. ALREADY. KNOW… (but you sound paranoid.)
Whenever I can help it, especially when I have friends who wear their rainbow flags boldly, I revert to similar tactics that I do traveling (or simply living) while woman:
Here’s the last one….
Traveling While Adventurous
Why adventurous? Because your adventure is someone else’s nightmare or closed mindedness. I get so many people who love telling me things like:
The list goes on and I’m sure each and every person heard this in their lifetime… and probably from a loved one. Sometimes their projected fears come from a good place in their heart and other times, acknowledge it as the shady bullshit that it is. Some people aren’t happy unless you are stagnant or failing at life. I lost plenty of friends who called me selfish for my lifestyle change. And hey-- I’ll admit that sometimes I HAVE to be selfish for my self-preservation.
Every person deserves a break.
At one point, I was a housewife thanks to my medical condition. I was happy to spend time with my child and provide for my family but at times, I was really depressed. Guys-- I’m an introverted extrovert. Keep me alone for too long in one place and I go cat piss crazy. Essentially all of my friends had days jobs and television was really shitty. When I went back to to work, I had people who tried to shame me for not being a ‘good wife and mother,’ despite my husband not feeling this way.
We have to learn how to live for ourselves -- even if you have a family or a shit load of obligations. I am by no means telling you to neglect your obligations or responsibilities. Don’t forward me your pink slips seeking unemployment on my part. You’re on your own. What I would suggest is to learn how to be comfortable in your own skin and know when to give yourself a break.
When people remind me that they’re broke, I tell them “ME TOO” (and I’m not lying). I had bill collectors calling my house like a Christmas Welfare Carol. It’s not fun. But here’s how I found ways around this: I prioritize my happiness. When I want to work out, it’s a part of my to - do list. Instead of wasting my money on a cup of Starbucks coffee, it goes into my savings for a trip. I explore the world by having a budget. Some days I go out to dope spots and other days I try to do an AirBnB because it has a kitchen that I can cook in and store groceries. To be extra ghetto on you, on one of my Spartan races, I carried a hot plate to cook food because none of the restaurants were going to be open at the hour of the morning that I was leaving out. (Don’t tell anyone I told you this.)
What I’m suggesting is to find a way to make your happy and travel vicariously without all of these stigmas and fears.
Yes, there’s a legitimate reason to be fearful but there’s a legitimate reason to travel as well. Fill in your own blanks on traveling while ______ and find a way to navigate around it.