Salut, and welcome to UrbanTravelGirl, a blog featuring my thoughts on black women living globally through international travel. I’m a passionate believer in the ability of travel to not only transform the way we see the world, but ourselves. As an African-American woman, I’ve developed an even stronger sense of who I am by visiting nearly 35 countries and territories — and by living outside the United States. I spent nearly one year working as a freelance writer in Florence, Italy and most recently lived in the charming French village of Samois-sur-Seine, a 40-minute train ride south of Paris. I don’t believe in letting other folks define ME — and you shouldn’t, either!
I hope to spark conversation among African-American women who love (or WANT) to travel abroad, who are never happier than when we’re in new and challenging foreign environments. I want to hear your comments about my trips – and I want to hear about yours. Wondering whether it’s cool to travel solo to Paris, or how you’d be received as a black woman in Rome? Put it out here and we UrbanTravelGirls will jump in and give you the scoop. Looking for some fab, locals-only restaurants and boutiques in Florence, Barcelona or Buenos Aires? I’ll dish about it and hope other chicas visiting here will also share.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there, hit the road, discover your own global bliss — and let’s chat about it!
June 1, 2014
Many of us living here in Chicago were thrilled to wake up this morning and learn that President Barack Obama confirmed that he will INDEED be making that Air Force One flight to Copenhagen, Denmark, later this week to help his adopted hometown of Chicago secure the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.
UrbanTravelGirl readers know I have much love for our American commander-in-chief, as well as for First Lady Michelle and their two adorable daughters Malia and Sasha. I’m beyond proud to have this beautiful black family representing what’s RIGHT about America – its opportunity and its promise. So the fact that the Chicago 2016 Olympic team is counting on Brother Barack as the “closer,” to bring home the Olympic gold to Sweet Home Chicago, is almost too much for this South Side native….
Continue September 28, 2009
Think back: Have you ever taken a trip that literally changed the trajectory of your life? Or even one that permanently altered the way you think about yourself as an African-American woman–or the world?
Besides UrbanTravelGirl, I also write a blog for Today’s Chicago Woman, a monthly magazine for smart, professional women that’s very well-known to those of us living in the Windy City. In my recent “TCW Travel Connection” post, I write about “Travel as a life-changer,” or the ways in which trips—both here in the United States and abroad—led me to make self-affirming and enriching choices. As I say in the post, “Far from being a ‘luxury,’ travel is often what we need to become more of who we really are.”
I’d love to hear from you: How has travel inspired you to make big or small changes that you know will last a lifetime?
Continue September 5, 2009
Don’t know if any of you caught this on PBS stations in the United States last night, but a FABULOUS documentary highlighting called “Harlem in Montmartre” walked viewers through the roots of African-American jazz in Paris and the forces that shaped this incredible musical genre. As many of you know, Paris is my favorite city in the world, the one place I’d choose if told I could never leave. And when there, I love to stroll around the colorful 18th arrondisement where Montmartre, the city quarter spotlighted in the film, is located.
As the documentary showed, this was where black American musicians, artists and writers often settled when they arrived in the City of Light between the First and Second World Wars. There were nightclubs owned and run by black folks – even strong African-American women like Ada “Bricktop” Smith, whose club was the place to be. It was here that jazz greats like New Orleans native Sidney Bechet earned their fame; where entertainers like the beloved Josephine Baker (whose do-it-your-own-way life story never ceases to amaze and inspire me) performed and hung out. This was no small thing, as these black Americans found a personal and creative freedom they were denied back “home” in the United States. The French embraced them, and African-Americans in Paris embraced them right back….
Continue August 27, 2009
Over the years, I’ve visited nearly 30 countries in North America, South America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and Europe (where I’ve traveled so many times I’ve completely lost count).
But I’ve never been to Africa. And as an African-American, that sounds pretty pathetic.
Places on the continent are always on my mental “to-do” list, West African countries like Senegal and North African ones like Egypt and Morocco. But I haven’t made it there yet.
I started thinking about this during President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Ghana….
Continue July 16, 2009
As has everyone I know, I’ve been obsessively tuning into print, TV and Internet coverage of the horribly tragic, sad and untimely death of pop icon Michael Jackson. Back in the day, I was a huge Michael fan (before he morphed into someone unrecognizable). I still love his songs, and have found myself mindlessly humming and singing along with “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “The Lady in My Life,” and the telling “Black or White.”
But being a journalist who’s always searching for the sociological meaning and truth behind current events—and goodness knows this is the biggest global one since Barack Obama was elected president of the United States—I see Michael far beyond the off-the-charts performances, fantastically creative music and videos, and even the eccentricities that defined his later years.
Over the past few days, I’ve heard it stated by everyone from the Rev. Al Sharpton to former “CBS Evening News” anchor Dan Rather that Michael Jackson’s most lasting legacy to the world just might be the fact that he was the first African-American artist to achieve true global superstardom without constantly reminding folks he was black. These social critics—and I concur—changed the world by paving the way for global audiences to embrace and accept Chicago Bulls basketball phenom Michael Jordan, multimedia mogul Oprah Winfrey, golf genius Tiger Woods, and President Obama, who has ignited the world’s imagination in a way unlike any politician in my 40-year-old lifetime.
Now you say, what does this have to do with international travel? I say it has EVERYTHING to do with it ….
Continue June 28, 2009
I was thrilled to read last week that adorable young Malia and Sasha Obama would be joining President Barack and First Lady Michelle (and of course, First Granny Marian) in Paris and later London for their first European trip. It did my heart a world of good to know that these charming mesdemoiselles would be serving as America’s junior ambassadors to a continent obsessed with their glamorous parents—and one thrilled to see our formerly “you’re-either-with-us-or-against-us” nation back in the global mix.
But politics aside, I was thrilled for these two African-American girls, ages 8 and 10, both getting a chance to experience what life is like outside the prism of the United States. Granted, these are kids of privilege. Even if their dad wasn’t the leader of the free world, they’re the children of extremely well-educated and worldly parents and had a chance to travel to Africa back in 2006. But as I’ve found over the years, there is NOTHING like foreign travel to open your eyes to the realities of your own country. I just wish I’d had the chance to discover this way earlier in life rather than starting in my 20s. I’ve certainly tried to make up for lost time, visiting nearly 30 countries since then!
Just imagine how different we Americans would be if we started engaging the world as kids the Obamas’ age….
Continue June 10, 2009
“Obama: Savior of the world… and America?” So read the translation from a recent front-page story on a French publication during my time in Paris, the second half of my solo 40th birthday adventure.
This headline may be taking the “hope” message to an extreme, but what a wonderful time to be an American abroad again.
And what a great time to be an AFRICAN-AMERICAN out in the world.
Since the election of Barack Obama, who’ll be the United States’ first president of acknowledged African descent, folks all over the globe certainly see America in a brand-new light. FINALLY, by electing this black man, we lived up to the platitudes and ideals the nation had been claiming for more than 200 years.
Continue January 14, 2009