UrbanTravelGirl talks about being a sister living abroad on “The Traveling Eye” radio show

October 15, 2010

Standing in front of Rome's famed Trevi Fountain is my brother-in-law Dave and fellow former Italian expat friend and now-best-selling New York Times author Kelly E. Carter. This February 2005 photo is from my living-in-Italy days, during Dave's and my sister Monetta's visit.

Standing in front of Rome's famed Trevi Fountain is my brother-in-law Dave and fellow former Italian expat friend and now-best-selling New York Times author Kelly E. Carter. This February 2005 photo is from my living-in-Italy days, during Dave's and my sister Monetta's visit.

There’s nothing like reliving old memories—especially those that have shaped you into the person you are today. And last week, thanks to a fabulous Chicago-based Travel radio show, I got the chance to reminisce about my sistagirl-living-abroad-in-Italy experience from five years ago!

The hour-long show, which airs from 11 a.m.-noon U.S. Central time on Fridays, is called The Traveling Eye, and its programming is especially designed to appeal to upscale African-American consumers and travelers. It’s hosted by two dynamic sisters: my Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., soror and Chicago radio legend Bonnie DeShong and travel specialist and Advantage International President and Founder Ja’Vonne Harley. Listen to THEIR show and before it’s over, you’ll want to be online or on the phone booking some fabulous getaway. And some advertisers don’t believe that black folks travel—and travel in style? Along with WHUR-FM in Washington, D.C., Bonnie and Ja’Vonne are leading a tour of nearly 100 folks to Egypt and Dubai in February—and this nearly two-week trip is SOLD OUT!

During last week’s show, Bonnie and fill-in host Gene Harley asked me and a super-bad American expat sister named Tiffany Zunker who’s lived abroad for half her life to share thoughts on why we first got interested in living abroad. (In my case, listening to tales from my world-traveling aunt Sophenia and visiting my friend Javan on a U.S. Army base in Germany during grad school.) What I felt when I first stepped off the plane in Florence, Italy, as a new resident and not just a tourist. (Totally excited and ready for the adventure!) Whether I ever felt lonely. (Now that’s hard to do in Italy unless you turn yourself into a recluse, as family-oriented Italians will embrace you and often treat you like an extended member of the family!)

How I dealt with my hair (got my two-strand twists hooked up regularly in Florence by a sweet Nigerian stylist in the back of her brother’s barber shop) and (far more of it in Florence than in the States, that’s for sure!). As I joked, sisters often head to Italy believing the adage that “Italian men LOVE them some black women!” The reality is that Italian men adore women period—which is a way-welcoming thing to black women, who don’t always feel celebrated in American culture.

Want to hear the whole show? Click here! (Skip the lead-in newscast and start listening at about 3:15.)

Dishing about my fabulous adventure made me homesick for Italy, and longing for another live-abroad experience. You know me—have passport, will travel!

If you want to catch TODAY’s “Traveling Eye,” listen to it live on Fridays from 11 a.m.-noon U.S. Central time on the WVON/1690 AM The Talk of Chicago” website and click the flashing “Listen Live” icon.

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27 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Kelly  |  October 15, 2010 at 1:00 pm


    Such fond memories just reading your post and of course seeing the photo. Those were the good days of la bella vita.

    Thanks for letting me know about the show. How fabulous what soror Bonnie and Ja’Vonne are doing.

    And thanks for letting me live in Roma on eternity on your blog.

  • 2. urbantravelgirl  |  October 15, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    Ciao, Kelly — and thank YOU for letting me post this photo!

    Don’t know if you remember, but THIS was the night you, Dave, my friend Elyssa and I wandered around the dark, wet streets of Rome for AN HOUR looking for that fabulous Obika Mozzarella Bar!! And was it DELICIOUS or what? I have YET to find another cheese haven that great.

    YES — “The Traveling Eye” is an incredible show, and definitely worth listening to each week. Bonnie and Ja’Vonne are such inspirations — LOVE that they’re encouraging us to get out there and experience the world!


  • 3. Jean Williams  |  October 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Wow, I can’t believe it was five years ago that you lived in Italy. Time flies, no matter how we try to clip its big wings! I would love to at least visit Italy–and plenty of other overseas places. Who knows, maybe I’d get bitten by the expat bug. Okay, enough with the insect references, lol! I’ll have to check out Bonnie and Ja’Vonne’s show.

  • 4. urbantravelgirl  |  October 16, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Ciao, Jean –
    YES, girl — the whole Italy experience feels like a LIFETIME ago! I know you’ll fall in love with Italia once you get there… and who knows? Like me, you might never want to come back!

    But in the meantime, DEFINITELY get and stay inspired by tuning into “The Traveling Eye!” I’m just glad that since I no longer have a full-time “day job,” I can actually tune in and catch the show on WVON.com. It’s a lovely thing!


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  • 6. Veronica  |  October 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    –Love your Blog, Urban Travel Girl….
    I plan to check out the radio show…you said it catered to upscale travelers and consumers. So many African Americans allow money (the lack of it) to prevent them from traveling. I might also add, I believe people who don’t have a lot of resources are the ones that REALLY need to get out of this country. It’s paradoxical. I remember my first trip to Paris. I was determined to go, but I hadn’t a clue about how I’d finance it. I believe deciding to go set things in motion on the spiritual side. A series of circumstances, beginning with the airline having an incredible round trip ticket sale, and my getting connected with people in Paris who help me find cheap places to stay—just one minor miracle after another!–The trip changed my life forever!!! For the first time I felt the physical weight of racism, which I hadn’t realized existed, lift from my shoulders. I saw myself as truly creative being as opposed to my usual role in the U.S. which was steeling myself, on a daily basis, to deal with racism, subtle and or obvious that was sure to come my way.
    When I returned from my trip, I felt more empowered than I had ever felt before!!! I wanted to have the financial resources to take entire PLANE LOADS of brothers and sistahs out of the country so they could experience for themselves what I felt in Paris.
    I fell in love with the “ME” I met getting away from the only “truth” I’d known about me all my life. From that point, I became clear that racism in the form of negative statistics about African Americans do not define us as people–our creativity, intellectual capacity and resilience is boundless!

  • 7. urbantravelgirl  |  October 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Salut, Veronica — and thanks both for visiting AND for your sweet words about my blog!! LOVE, love, love your post. And you’re spot on — those folks with the fewest resources are probably those who MOST need a trip outside America. When you have no other frame of reference, it’s easy to believe that all black folks do is commit crime and take government resources… but get out from under the constant yet often subsconscious strain of racism American-style and you start to breathe free. NOT, of course, that Paris or Europe or other places are completely free from prejudice. But for black Americans, there’s truly a liberation that comes from leaving the 50 states — even “on holiday.”

    I also love your statement that “our creativity, intellectual capacity and resilience is boundless” — and it is! Nothing like realizing that when you’re on the other side of the world!


  • 8. Ann  |  October 27, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Hi Urbantravelgirl – enjoyed your post. We travelled to Italy 10 years ago for our honeymoon – Rome, Florence and Venice. We are off to London and Paris this spring with our 9 and 7 year old children.
    Have you travelled to Tuscany. I will be going there for the first time with three girlfriends next fall. We would appreciate any and all advice!
    If you have a chance please check out my blog site!

  • 9. Robin  |  October 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    This has been my life long dream of mine to travel to Paris and London for as long as I can for at least a month or two to experience the true freedom some of you have expressed and for the moment I can only wish to consider moving to Europe. But now that the immigration laws are stricter and slow economy in Europe it is much more difficult to get a visa and work permit being a working class person in america to make the transition to become a european citizen I may not qualify under the new system of tier1 or tier 2 only if there is a shortest of positions which are nursing and engineering shortest which I don;t qualify for either profession . I have also tried to meet european men on certain dating websites but most men on these sites are very interested in black women but prefer black women already living in europe. Any advise from anyone who knows any black women who may have met a European man and relocated to Europe?

  • 10. argisla otonda  |  November 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks a million. This was interesting hearing

  • 11. Randall  |  November 11, 2010 at 10:15 am

    I have never experienced living abroad but it sure sounds interesting to me. Reading your article sure sounds that you’ve really enjoyed it and is missing it. I sure hope I’ll get my first living abroad experience soon. Wish me luck!

  • 12. Sophie  |  November 14, 2010 at 12:04 am

    I also like that Robin. Traveling is always my passion but I never been to Paris and London. Such a great place to travel indeed according to my readings and I can’t wait to find it out my self.

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  • 14. Dyahanne  |  February 26, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    Wow, your article brings back memories! I lived and worked in Budapest in 2008 as a consultant and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life! I wholeheartedly encourage sisters to grab their passports and do something–anything–out of the US for an eye-opening experience. I would say hold off on Hungary and a couple of Eastern European locations, but I made friends, saw incredible sights, and there was so much beauty, history…PLEASE GRAB YOUR PASSPORT AND GET GOING!

  • 15. urbantravelgirl  |  February 26, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Hello, Dyahanne — and thanks for visiting my blog!
    Of all the places I’ve been, I haven’t been anywhere in Eastern Europe and have hear wonderful things about it, from Hungary to Croatia and beyond. And many of these have been from sisters like you who’ve explored it.

    THANK YOU for reiterating my constant mantra — get out there and experience the world, ladies!!

    Happy Travels,

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  • 17. Manhattan Girl  |  March 30, 2011 at 9:31 pm

    I am just so curious as to how that Feb 2011 Egypt trip turned out for those DC folks referenced in your article?

  • 18. urbantravelgirl  |  March 31, 2011 at 7:10 am

    HELLO there, Manhattan Girl –
    I BELIEVE everyone got home safely, but I’m not sure. I know there was a fairly large contingent from Chicago, and I remember reading that they arrived back home OK. I guess that’s the thing about travel — and LIFE in general — you just never know what’s going to happen!

    That’s another reason why it’s important to register with the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveller Enrollment Program (https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/), which will allow the U.S. government to find and assist you in the case of an emergency. You NEVER know when civil war might break out, or an earthquake/tsunami might occur when you’re traveling. ALWAYS better safe than sorry, ladies!!

    Happy Travels,

  • 19. Manhattan Girl  |  March 31, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Thanks for the swift reply. I hope all went well for those travelers! Great idea to register.

    BTW, I just returned from a quick trip to Mexico City and we experienced nothing but sunny skies, friendly people, wonderful culture and great food at very good prices.

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