I’m one of those people who inadvertently compares her life to the people I see on social media. It happens every time I see world travelers who are carefree and fearless enough to live out of their suitcases, throwing caution to the wind and visiting the far reaches of the planet. I scroll their pictures on my phone and think to myself, “that should be me!” Then, “Why isn’t it?”
Lately, one of the Instagram travelers I’ve been watching (and getting a little envious of) is Oneika the Traveller. Oneika isn’t an Instagram vagabond just chasing likes (although she gets quite a few) — she’s taught overseas, is a full-fledged media personality, and maintains a blog about the places she goes and people she meets. While the blog has plenty of advice and wistful reflections of beautiful places, its most interesting section is titled “Travelling While Black.” In that space, Oneika talks about what it means to be a black woman traveling abroad and gives her perspective on how she’s treated as a person of color.
Honestly, after reading her first feature on UPROXX and checking out her IG posts and website, I got even more jealous of Oneika’s fabulous life. I’ve had minimal experience traveling. This isn’t a result of not wanting to travel, it’s a result of not placing as much value on it because “Hey, I got bills, am I right?” Culturally, this seems to be a shared sentiment among people of color. Perhaps it’s because, generally speaking, we weren’t afforded the easiest lives and using money to travel feels like a luxury. Or maybe it’s because we weren’t sure how we would be treated overseas, since we already had to experience prejudice and hatred at home. Either way, the face of travel is largely white, and that sucks. While there are initiatives like Hardly Home to get kids who would otherwise not be able to afford it “passport scholarships,” and there are sites like Travel Noire that show that there are, indeed, some faces of color out there traveling, you have to ask yourself why that’s necessary for our demographic.
Oneika’s blog raised all these questions for me, so I went to the source to get some answers. A Jamaican-Canadian, she already has a very different outlook on life, racial relations, and culture than me, a black American. We spoke about that dissonance, her love of travel, and why she thinks there aren’t more black faces and people of color grabbing their youth by the horns and using the opportunity to get out and see the world.
First I just wanted to talk a little bit about what your motivation for traveling is?
I’ve always been really interested in different cultures and languages. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, which is very multi-cultural and a very diverse city, so from a very early age, I was exposed to different people from different places. And so when I had the opportunity to travel in University, I was definitely really keen to do so. I also come from an immigrant family — my family is from Jamaica. I had a number of experiences traveling to and from the Caribbean to visit family. So I had a passport and I was traveling, but mostly it was due to family.
I saw that later you taught overseas?
I did, yeah! I taught in a number of different places. I’m actually a certified French Language Arts Teacher. So I taught in my home country of Canada, but I also had the opportunity to teach in Mexico, France, Hong Kong, and in England. In London, England.
Wow. Okay, so overseas, did you see a lot of American born and Canadian people of color who were traveling?