How Facing My Fear Taught Me That Black Women Should Not Be Scared To Travel Alone
I have become a strong opponent of women doing activities alone – at least once in their lives.
There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing anything by myself. Even the thought of dining alone at a fast food restaurant used to generate anxiety within me. Like what would people think? Who would I talk too? Who would tell me if I have ketchup on my face? This fear of being alone in public was a major factor in why I went everywhere with my friends and family: to clubs; to dinner and on vacation. Most times, their company was good but sometimes I felt a ting of claustrophobia, especially those times when my itinerary was dictated by group consensus, or at least by the one whiny friend, who would wait until we were all enjoying ourselves before she would announce that she was not feeling well/forgot something/was tired, etc…
However, as fate would have it, my friends began to scatter around the country, settling into their families, husbands, careers and lives. Invitations to weekend getaways or vacations to far away destinations were usually met with, “I wish I could but I don’t have anyone to watch Lil’ JoJo,” or “My husband doesn’t feel comfortable with me traveling without him.” At the risk of self-inflicted solitary confinement, I was forced to consider the option of going out into the world solo.
I took baby steps. I made a mental reservation at a restaurant for one and dined alone at the bar. It wasn’t that bad. I brought a book with me with the intention of hiding myself in the pages to skive off any questioning eyes and pass the time. However, I could barely get past the last line of page one when an older gentlemen sat next to me and decided to strike up a conversation. He told me about his wife, his sons and his grandkids. I told him about my cat and my job.
Thinking that his conversation was out of some pittance for me, I clumsily explained why I was eating alone. He shrugged, “I love my family but sometimes you got to enjoy the quiet moments.” He ended up paying for my meal. Soon I was going other places by myself; to night clubs, concerts and movies – even on Friday night – and was surprised at how not only sociable but encouraging folks were when they found out I was there alone. Or maybe it was me, who without the assistance of my friends, was forced to be good company?
However, that enthusiasm for my newfound independence ended when I decided that I would take a trip by myself. Amsterdam in The Netherlands was my destination of choice. My best friend and I, who spent the first half of our twenties mimicking Redman and Method Man in How High, vowed to make this our spiritual pilgrimage. However four kids and two husbands later, it would be up to me to make this maiden voyage alone.
My grandmother thought I was crazy. My hairdresser told me horrible tales about women targeted by rapists and creeps, disappearing in strange lands, never to be seen or heard from again. My father forbade it. However when I told him that I was grown, which meant I had my own job and my own money for me to purchase tickets and hotel rooms and that he would have to kidnap me to keep me from embarking on this trip, he came around. But he left me with note of caution, “Please don’t go wandering off.” I promised him I wouldn’t.