Go Vote

I have sat here for 30 minutes trying to think of a way to introduce today’s post, but considering it won’t be long, I will just get straight into the facts. We all know how important it is to vote and to exercise that right as American citizens. We also see that there are arguably many plausible reasons to not vote depending on how you grew up and/or your demographic in this country. As someone who is a part of two major marginalized groups–being black and being a woman–I am here to tell you that I understand why you may think it’s pointless to vote. We see the way certain people are treated in society, regardless of who’s in the White House, and we ask ourselves, “How is a vote for one person going to erase or change the history that has laid the groundwork for the continued ill treatment of anyone that’s not a straight white man?” The short answer is one vote will not change that. It is important to grasp, however, that voting goes beyond the person in the White House that we elect every four years. We need to do the work to start electing people from the top in D.C. to the ground floor of our local counties that we feel best represents our interests at the time of an election.

Obviously we cannot go back in time and redo anything, but here is what I have come to learn. There are so, so many resources to break down politics for those who either do not understand it or get overwhelmed by it. A lot of people have spent time creating infographics and slides on social media to break down basic concepts; from there, you can do further personal research about candidates or policies that you would like to better understand. Growing up, I was absolutely overwhelmed by politics and, quite frankly, I still am. How can we trust individual people to represent multitudes of diverse, independently-thinking people? We know people are motivated by greed, so we hope for changes that logically benefit more people than not and when those changes don’t happen, we know it’s because there are handshakes and threats taking place behind closed doors (thank you, Shonda Rhimes). The system is broken, corrupt, outdated, you name it. How can anyone remain hopeful? It is extremely difficult. But after I realized that every decision I make and my pure existence as a black woman in this country is political, it clicked that I have a responsibility to people like me that have come before me with far less freedoms than I have, and to be a part of the change to benefit those that will come after me. This is why it is important to find a way to better learn this information for ourselves and for future generations so we can shake up history instead of allowing it to be cyclic. Before you say, “Why do I need to think of future generations if I may not get to see the change myself,” well, 1. I sure wish someone thought of my generation before I became part of the voting demographic, and 2. I don’t know how to tell you you should care about other people. There is nothing wrong with being realistic, but cynicism has never benefitted anyone.

For my Texans, TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY TO REGISTER TO VOTE!!!!!!!!! Please do not register to vote through social media. Visit Vote Texas for all information on the voting process. If you are confident you are already registered to vote, check again as acts of voter suppression are already in full effect. Verify that your address matches what is on your voter registration card or driver’s license; if it does not, change it ASAP or be prepared to go vote in the area that is listed.
Early voting by personal appearance (in-person) in Texas begins October 13th and ends October 30th. Speaking of voter suppression, it is important to note two major changes that can 100% discourage people from hitting the polls:
1. Absentee ballot voting locations/drop-offs have been limited to one per county. Y’all know how big Texas is… some of these locations can be up to 50 miles away from where you live and if you are an elderly person, a person of any age with a disability, or someone who works around the clock to support your family, this may be impossible;
2. Straight-ticket voting has been eliminated. Previously, you could select a political party and it would automatically place a vote for anyone at any level of administration that is in the same party. Now, you will have to individually elect each person and I already know how many people are thinking, “I’m expected to stand in a long line, wearing a mask, and then have to go through a long ballot? I’ll sit this one out.”

Both of these changes are reasons why you should take advantage of early voting!! Go get tested for COVID, carpool with someone else who has also tested negative for COVID, and make a day out of going to vote. Go vote on your lunch break at a less-populated polling location. If you feel safe to do so, volunteer at a polling location. If you are not an American citizen, be a ride for someone that could be impacted by these voting changes. If you live in a non-English-speaking household, be sure that older family members are obtaining their election information from more than one source. On the Vote Texas website, early voting sites will be updated a few days before early voting begins. We have 18 DAYS to vote early–let’s do this!!

If you are not a Texan and early voting hasn’t taken place in your state yet, get familiar with your early voting dates and local resources. Every election at every level impacts us all in great and small ways. Exercise your right as an American to vote as many Americans did not obtain the right to vote until 1965…55 years ago…when my parents were children. Do your part.
xx, AE

Places I Hope to See in 2021

It’s pretty safe to say I have no intention of hopping on an airplane in the year 2020, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent my fair share of time making a list (and checking it twice) for hopeful trips in 2021. Obviously, this is all contingent upon the status of the virus next year, but I already have some places mapped out:

Arizona
One of my oldest friends, Blake, is getting married!! His wedding will be in Arizona which I have never visited before. I cannot wait to explore the natural beauty of the desert and finally do a canyon hike. It’s going to be even better to have local guides as my boyfriend’s friends (recently featured in my vlog!) live there. There’s no telling how long I would be there, but I’m hoping to at least see Papago Park or Desert Botanical Garden.
papago
desert botanical
Continue reading “Places I Hope to See in 2021”

“Using Your Niche to Build an Engaged Community,” a Webinar by Black Travel Alliance (Review)

This past weekend, I attended the first webinar hosted by the Black Travel Alliance. If you’ve never heard of Black Travel Alliance, here’s a little background from their website:

Black Travel Alliance is a new group of Black Travel Content Creators from across the globe. Our three pillars of the community are alliance, amplification, and accountability. As travel authors, bloggers, broadcasters, journalists, photographers, podcasters, social media influencers, and vloggers, we unify to amplify. We also aim to provide training and business support to our members, as well as hold destinations and travel brands accountable on the issue of diversity in travel marketing and storytelling.”

Black Travel Alliance launched in early June which was, in my opinion, such perfect timing. Though travel has not been an overwhelming priority for most people, it did not diminish the call to action for travel companies, agencies, businesses in aviation, etc. to confront the lack of diversity and inclusivity of people of color, especially black people, in their demographics. Because traveling is both for leisure and business, we need that representation on the other end of the phone or that email chain, or leading our tours, or owning our hostels, Airbnbs, and other accommodations. We need people who understand what it is like to travel the world with a built-in disadvantage; not just for people of color, but for disabled people, fat people, people whose first language isn’t English, and so on. They started a hashtag, #pullupfortravel, that gave specific companies 72 hours to respond with their demographic make up within their companies. They got a lot of responses and I genuinely think it’s because their activism went beyond social media. Black Travel Alliance aims to really enact change, so it was a no-brainer for me to support this cause.
I wanted to include all of this background because it is extremely important to note not only why I follow them, but why you should be following them too. It’s one thing to create a space for black travelers, content creators, and their allies to form an alliance, but it’s another to come out of the gate with an immediate call to action and actually seek change. Yes, you did read that right–you can be an ally and still join the Black Travel Alliance. This is a mission I could get behind and one you should too. Be sure to follow their Instagram (linked at the beginning) to learn more!

Their first webinar was called “Using Your Niche to Build an Engaged Community” and the presenter was Gabby Beckford of http://www.packslight.com. Gabby is 25 and her niche is Gen Z travel. She talked about how when she first started, nobody was interested in hearing from the perspective of Gen Z because they are young, they haven’t experienced a lot, and they don’t have their own money to ultimately contribute to the industries that were initially ignoring them. However, I think we have all seen with the boom of the influencer and the rise of TikTok that the Gen Z voice is HIGH in demand. So if the interest in Gen Z is so in demand and saturated, how does Gabby effectively use this as a niche? She would tell you by being specific, consistent, and committed. When you go to her Instagram, it’s in her name and bio that she is a resource for Gen Z travel. When you go to her website, it is in her mission statement and further supported by the content on her page. If you want to know about what Gen Z is doing in the travel industry, you go to Gabby, and that’s the whole point and advantage of establishing a niche.

Continue reading ““Using Your Niche to Build an Engaged Community,” a Webinar by Black Travel Alliance (Review)”

Black Travel Summit x The Hostel Healer (Recap)

This past weekend, Black Travel Summit hosted another Instagram Live as part of their “BTS Travel Indoors” series. This episode featured Reis Armstrong, a.k.a. The Hostel Healer, who shared his journey to becoming a black expat in Melbourne, Australia. Though he is currently based in L.A. due to COVID, he has called Melbourne home for the last year and is looking forward to returning in January 2021. Reis’ story is a very relatable one rooted in his growing spiritual detachment from life here in the U.S. and desire to see and learn more abroad. He has been able to travel to many countries due to the affordability of hostels which has doubled as an opportunity to meet some of the most interesting people he’s ever met and establishing lifelong friendships. He even got his name, The Hostel Healer, from a British friend due to his offering of tarot card readings in these hostels as Reis is a psychic medium. Of all the great anecdotes he shared, I found it most important to share today the myths that he and the host, Anita, debunked about traveling and staying in hostels, especially for black people.
reis blog
I’ll start with hostels. Reis’ primary source for hostels is a site called HostelWorld which I have mentioned a couple of times here on the blog. HostelWorld is, as he described, the Yelp for finding hostels. It’s a database of hostels around the world complete with photos, amenities, dorming options, as well as an incredibly reliable rating system. I was first introduced to HostelWorld in 2017 when I traveled to Cabo. I have used it ever since and even used it in London in 2018 where I found an extremely affordable, clean, and centrally-located hostel–literally right next to the Tower of London. I wrote about the accommodation more in-depth in that trip’s blog post, but it was easily one of the best experiences I have had while traveling. Ultimately I was able to find it by not compromising the rating of the hostel. Though my Cabo trip wasn’t my first time staying in a hostel, I had heard first-person horror stories of hostels that were worse than anything I’d seen on TV due to choosing whatever was cheapest. But the good news is, hostels are not always what they are portrayed to be, and I think as traveling becomes more ‘mainstream’, more people are discovering that they are great options for accommodations. Here are some tips Reis had for first-timers:

  1. You get what you pay for: If you think “it can’t be that bad,” it’s probably worse.
  2. Never go under 7 stars: Reis himself doesn’t like to go below a 9 (8 for me), but obviously people have different priorities when they travel. It’s just better not to take the risk if you can afford it which you should definitely be able to if you’re choosing a hostel to begin with.
  3. Read the reviews: This I can personally attest to. To use London as an example again, I originally was tempted to go with a hostel in Shoreditch, a popular area for nightlife with a younger demographic. Seeing as it was my friend’s first time in London, I wanted her to be in the heart of everything, but an overwhelming amount of reviews about no hot water, dirty beds and showers, and thin walls reminded me to trust my gut. The HostelWorld reviews are truly honest.
  4. BRING SHOWER SANDALS: If you have attended any kind of camp or college, you know how important it is to have shower sandals. Under NO circumstances should you be traveling without them, especially in a hostel. Period.
  5. Try it AT LEAST once: Plain and simple, don’t knock hostels until you try them. I think this is generally a good attitude to have when approaching most things when traveling. 🙂
  6. *Bonus* Ladies, if you cannot afford a private room or just prefer to be around others, there is always an option for all-female dorms instead of mixed dorms.

A final note that both Reis and Anita talked about was how more people of color, especially black people, need to travel more. Representation is key when it comes to traveling because it can greatly alter our experiences. Obviously, traveling is a privilege. I have written and said this many times because traveling is an expense no matter which way you cut it. But if you want to, you can absolutely make traveling a possibility. Something he pointed out that I, too, first recognized when I stayed in a hostel was the abundance of young (18-19 year old) white people that are traveling. Sometimes it’s due to being on gap year and other times, it’s just because their parents sent them/allowed them to go with their friends. I was in total agreement that both of these options are things we should be encouraging with future generations/our own children, especially within communities of color.
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