BLACK FEMALE SOLO TRAVELER IN HK, SEOUL, and Tokyo
Date: April 9th, 2019
Not everyone is accustomed to solo travel and not everyone enjoys it. Therefore I only recommend you try traveling solo if it is something you are genuinely interested in. Particularly for women and women of color, the thought of traveling solo can be daunting. There are continuous news stories of solo and even paired women travelers that were raped, kidnapped or murdered. This news can be very discouraging and succeed in preventing women from opting to travel solo.
With that in mind you are probably thinking, how are you not discouraged and afraid of the possible dangers of traveling solo as a black woman? Furthermore, what inspired you to travel East Asia solo as opposed to choosing a more conventional destination such as Europe? How was your experience traveling East Asia solo as a black woman?
I have been fortunate to have been traveling and being put in unfamiliar situations since I was a child (around the age of 5 or 6). It is interesting because you would think that traveling at such a young age and as an unaccompanied minor, would cause a child to get scared. However, there is not a moment during the travel or in the new country where I remember being scared. To be honest I was also a very chill child, who took action easily rather than dwelling on the limitations. I think I get more anxious as an adult thinking of traveling to unconventional places (HAA) because you consider all the negatives and endless possibilities.
However, the way I summon courage to embark on solo travel is by imagining the benefits I could gain, such as:
- Getting on the ground experience
- Opportunity to learn about history, culture, and way of life from locals
- Possibility to build relationships with locals or other fellow travelers
- Opportunity to try new activities and try new foods
- Witness wonders of the world
In general my experience in each location was enjoyable. Although I stood out, I did not feel unsafe. Here is my experience in each location:
Hong Kong: Hk island is very populated and there is a major international crowd, however I did not come across black people.
Seoul: Seoul is also populated but there is more land. In my experience I felt that people were more welcoming and helpful, particularly when I could not communicate due to the language. In my time there I came across 4 women black travelers. 2 were sisters traveling together, they were initially from Somalia but lived in the USA, 1 was a middle aged woman initially from Senegal who lived in the USA, and the fourth was German and was traveling with her husband and friends. We had the chance to talk in German, which was delightful. With every black woman I came across in Seoul, I made the effort to speak with them, in order to learn about their experience in Seoul. I would ask if they were living there? What had brought them there? How their experience had been? The conversations were insightful and it was great to bond over shared experiences or challenges we faced while traveling as a black woman in East Asia.
Tokyo: Tokyo is large and heavily populated. In my experience, I felt that Tokyo could be overwhelming at times and I am not the one to be easily overwhelmed by new spaces. However I enjoyed the challenge of navigating a new space and did not feel unsafe as a woman or black traveler. I came across a lot of Africans and black travelers in the X region.
There truly are dangers in the world and we may not know how fortunate we are to be protected or shielded from them. There is no doubt that any form of travel poses its risk, especially for women and women of color. Depending on the region of the world, the treatment of women and perception of women’s rights differ. Especially as a woman and woman of color traveling solo, it is easy to stick out.