As a child, I always loved traveling and all the hustle and bustle that comes with it. Whether it was overseas or exploring another neighborhood in my hometown, the adventure of meeting new people and trying new things excited me. Up until my first trip to Europe, I participated in 2 mission trips to Haiti, roads trips with my mom (in the US & Canada), and, what developed my love of traveling, biweekly visits to my dad in upstate NY. Every other weekend my dad would either pick us up in Brooklyn and drive upstate for about 6 hours, or purchase Amtrak tickets for my brother and I to meet him halfway. Though the visits would come at an inopportune time, I didn’t realize how much I needed that getaway until I actually got away. Leaving my hometown every now and then was not only a perfect time to experience new things, but also a great stress reliever. When I began to feel overwhelmed at home, whether it was my social anxiety, school, or family stress, the drives or Amtrak rides upstate to see my dad put life into perspective for me every time. It’s a constant reminder that my current situation is not my permanent situation.
When the opportunity to explore several countries in Eastern Europe for 2 weeks fell in my lap, there was no way I could pass up this opportunity. At the time, I was a 17 year old girl who didn’t fully appreciate her blackness. Why? Well, I grew up around a lot of ignorant kids who also weren’t aware of how precious their blackness was. All I ever heard was “you’re pretty for a darkskin girl’ or “you would look better with a perm.” I can go on and on with these backhanded compliments that contributed to my self-hate. Then my first trip to Europe reversed all of that.
My first stop was in Berlin, Germany. Every corner I saw a biracial couple — dark-skin black woman and white man. I was beyond confused because up until that point I was under the impression the darker you are, the uglier, but not in Western Germany. Everywhere I went men, women, and children stared at me in what I thought, was amazement.
My next stop was in Prague, Czech Republic and they were even more fascinated with me. Not only did they stare, they tried to touch. Oddly enough, I wasn’t offended by this because I pitied their ignorance. They were genuinely curious as to why my skin is the shade it is and how my hair is able to do the things it does. This one lady I came across in a public bathroom used google translate to ask me how I did my hair and if she could touch it. I was flattered because I knew she meant no harm. The same friendly exchange of stares and questions took place in the following countries I visited (Hungary, Austria, and Poland). I was welcomed with open arms into their country and felt a sense of appreciation for being who I am. They didn’t look at me with disgust or hatred like I’ve experienced back home. They accepted me!
When I returned to the states, I was a new person with a different mindset. My first trip to Europe taught me 3 things:
1- my black is beautiful,
2- beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and
3- my current situation isn’t my permanent situation.
My eyes were opened to the beauty of being black. I learned to love my skin and my kinks. I felt more connected to my roots more than ever which prompted this surge of self discovery. I started to obsess over my history and what my people endured in order to know what my purpose in life is. This quest for self discovery inspired me to travel to other countries and see how my blackness would be received. However, this time around, I’m sure of who I am and the thoughts of others will not change that.
*Fast forwarding to last year around this time*
I came across another opportunity to study abroad for Spring of 2017 in three countries in Western Europe and of course, I said yes.
Now and for the next 5 months, I’ll be roaming the streets of Western Europe more “woke” than ever.
I started my journey in Rome, Italy, the land of love or, in my opinion, lust. The men here unhealthily worship the ground I walk on because of the stigma around black women in Italy. Today, 1 in 2 prostitutes in Italy are Nigerian. That’s 50%! And that doesn’t even include the prostitutes from other African countries. Black women are fetishized and seen as sex objects in this country, nothing more, nothing less. Men have tried to kiss me WITHOUT my consent at clubs, I’ve been called “coco-bella” (beautiful chocolate) and I’ve been offered “gifts” in exchange for my company. If I didn’t know any better or came two years ago when I was looking for acceptance, I would blindly think that Italy is where I belong. The unfortunate reality is black women aren’t genuinely loved here, we are lusted after.
Aside from the mindset of Italians, I personally had the time of my life exploring the city, trying new foods, and interacting with locals. Italy is a beautiful country, rich in history.
My next stop is Seville, Spain then Paris, France where I will continue my journey not as a naive Black girl looking for acceptance, but as a woke Black queen embracing all the world has to offer.
Keep up with my travels and experiences on
my personal instagram page: @g.jeannot
Black Community Blog: @melanatedtraveldiary – Website Coming Soon!