Backpacking as a person of color

In the scheme of things, being a person of color with an upbringing from a superpower like the United States means having to put things into perspective.

We’re not in a country that refuses to talk about race, but as a backpacker of color you can never get rest from Eurocentric points of view. I know haters will immediately tell me that traveling the world is a privilege—and I know it is. But this is about more than traveling the world, this is about traveling the world and realizing white supremacy and the privileges bestowed on people of European descent will always follow you.

First off, I’m a freelance writer and wherever I go, I have to work so I can keep moving. Once in a while, you meet a European person or an American/Canadian/Australian who does the same, but they seem a lot less stressed out about a lot of things. I notice a lot of these things while traveling, and they wear me out.

  • The dreaded where are you really from? I never realized the toll of microaggressions until other travelers started asking me this on a daily basis. This is simply a sugar-coated version of why is a brown person in my white hostel in the middle of Perú, Chile, etc.
  • People interrupt me constantly asking their questions as if I’m a receptionist. I now make it clear that I don’t work at whatever establishment I’m at. I don’t have the answers to your questions. I’m also ignorant about the salt flats in Bolivia. I don’t know any words in Quechua, though I wish I did.
  • I get a lot of compliments on my “tan.” It’s not a tan, it’s my color. End of story.
  • People consistently want to pick my brain about how I became a remote worker/freelancer, but they never want to pay me a consultation fee or even offer to cough up cash for a coffee. Headhunters charge. So do I. I’m backpacking too and deserve periods of rest.
  • I get a lot of compliments on my English. A lifetime spent living in the U.S. and studying in its schools will certainly acquaint you with the English language. And I spent a lot of time in Argentina with British expats. I get U.K. slang too. Do you fancy a cuppa tea or should I tell you to piss off? I could.

I do my best, but right now I plan on being antisocial. I owe people no explanations for my humanity and people who leave their first world countries to travel around parts of the world made up majority of people of color need to seriously learn how to have manners.

I plan to speak sarcasm throughout the world whenever I find myself in these situations. In the meantime, I also realize why I should get my YouTube channel up. People really need to know brown folks are no monolith, and we can cover Pearl Jam songs too.

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