While I agree that travel is a personal journey for meaning, I also believe that it’s an excellent way to analyze your past and present. Black History Month has long been billed as a look back at the contributions of African Americans in the US.

As an international traveler, I find Black History Month to be a constant reminder of our community’s position globally — both positively and negatively AND in the past as well as the present.

Some aspects of travel go unnoticed by many. While the awkward stares and comments might be well known, it’s the nuance of the “black” identity and experience that makes travel so exciting, and at times, frustrating for us. So, through my work as a photographer, I’ve compiled this photo essay to give you a brief glimpse into how black history, identity, and culture shape the way the world sees us and how we see it.

 

Child Running Towards Baphuon Temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The plight of poverty in the African American community has long been a source of frustration and debate. Combine that with a system of capitalism and consumerism that promotes the pursuit of pointless things and you have a recipe for self-esteem problems and desperation. But my travels have shown me that while we may not have much, we have each other. Places like Cambodia remind me that those without much material wealth can make do with a life of purpose and love.
Les Deux Plateaux at Palais-Royal, Paris, France
While it might be known as the City of Lights, Paris has long been a beacon of hope for many African Americans yearning freedom and the ability to express themselves openly. Paris was vital to so many influential African Americans escaping racism. People like Civil Rights leader and orator James Baldwin, singer Josephine Baker, writer Richard Wright, and activist Angela Davis flourished here.
Birkenau Concentration Camp, Gates of Death, Poland
I’ve visited some of the world’s most notorious “dark tourism” sites such as Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the Killing Fields in Cambodia. What these places have made me think about is the severe lack of education we receive regarding the African Slave Trade in the US. While many nations acknowledge their past and teach about it, we’ve glossed over it or outright removed it from curriculum. A glaring hole in our pursuit of true equality.
Rua Augusta Arch, Lisbon, Portugal
Western stereotypes of African Americans that have permeated popular culture can lead to “interesting” situations, where some of us might not know how to feel. People around the world that have never met us tend to feel a familiarity with our community. From hip-hop to sports, we’re everywhere. So as time has passed I’ve become far less surprised when someone yells, “Hey my n****” with a massive smile and hug. It’s something I experienced daily here in Lisbon.
Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
While it’s common to feel stared at and the center of attention as a person of color, there are some places where you’ll easily blend in. And one of the most surprising places – Budapest! From a diversity standpoint, Budapest is lacking. But as you walk down the streets, you feel welcome and not abstract. For a white majority nation this is something special as nationalism has taken root in some other Central European nations.
Colorful Buildings at Nyhaven Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark has long been praised as the first nation to outlaw transatlantic slavery but the reminders still remain. Many of these beautiful buildings and homes along Nyhaven Strand were built from the profits of the slave trade, particularly in this area of Copenhagen. I’ve learned that sometimes the most beautiful places are built on the darkest foundations.
Interior of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Aside from people assuming I’m American, the next assumption is that I’m Muslim. The more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve realized just how diverse Islam is, where you’ll find some Muslims that look like me and some with blonde hair and blue eyes. Othering has not only become prevalent in the US, it was unfortunately a survival technique for many people of color. But through travel we quickly learn that a lot of what we’ve been told about other cultures that look like us, isn’t true at all.
Man Selling Omelets in Jakarta, Indonesia
One of the greatest motivators in my life is observation, and the more I travel, the more I observe how difficult life is and what hard work truly is. Around the world, you’ll constantly see people like this man. He spends half his day in the blazing sun of Jakarta making omelets (kerak telor) that barely costs $1.50. I think at times we forget what many must do for survival. Truly changing the world and helping others begins with empathy.
Table Mountain from Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa
This is Cape Town – a place with stunning natural beauty, high multiculturalism, and some of the best food you’ll find in the world. But it’s also a place that will shock many African Americans. Our perception of racism and xenophobia will quickly be challenged here because of the post-Apartheid class disparity between black and white South Africans as well as black-on-black conflict. What’s happening in South Africa is an interesting look at the history of another “black” community.
Vltava River Walking at Night in Prague, Czech Republic
I grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Not a place you want to stroll around with an expensive camera at night. Heck, maybe not during the day either! Something that will quickly strike many African Americans is the safety of equally sized international cities when compared to back home. We have the freedom to explore, within reason, pretty much anywhere we want without fear. It’s liberating and to be honest, some cities are better at night. Like Prague here.
Child Running Towards Baphuon Temple, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The plight of poverty in the African American community has long been a source of frustration and debate. Combine that with a system of capitalism and consumerism that promotes the pursuit of pointless things and you have a recipe for self-esteem problems and desperation. But my travels have shown me that while we may not have much, we have each other. Places like Cambodia remind me that those without much material wealth can make do with a life of purpose and love.
Child Running Towards
The plight of poverty in the Africa...
Les Deux Plateaux at Palais-Royal, Paris, France
While it might be known as the City of Lights, Paris has long been a beacon of hope for many African Americans yearning freedom and the ability to express themselves openly. Paris was vital to so many influential African Americans escaping racism. People like Civil Rights leader and orator James Baldwin, singer Josephine Baker, writer Richard Wright, and activist Angela Davis flourished here.
Les Deux Plateaux at
While it might be known as the City...
Birkenau Concentration Camp, Gates of Death, Poland
I’ve visited some of the world’s most notorious “dark tourism” sites such as Auschwitz Concentration Camp and the Killing Fields in Cambodia. What these places have made me think about is the severe lack of education we receive regarding the African Slave Trade in the US. While many nations acknowledge their past and teach about it, we’ve glossed over it or outright removed it from curriculum. A glaring hole in our pursuit of true equality.
Birkenau Concentratio
I’ve visited some of the world’...
Rua Augusta Arch, Lisbon, Portugal
Western stereotypes of African Americans that have permeated popular culture can lead to “interesting” situations, where some of us might not know how to feel. People around the world that have never met us tend to feel a familiarity with our community. From hip-hop to sports, we’re everywhere. So as time has passed I’ve become far less surprised when someone yells, “Hey my n****” with a massive smile and hug. It’s something I experienced daily here in Lisbon.
Rua Augusta Arch, Lis
Western stereotypes of African Amer...
Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, Hungary
While it’s common to feel stared at and the center of attention as a person of color, there are some places where you’ll easily blend in. And one of the most surprising places – Budapest! From a diversity standpoint, Budapest is lacking. But as you walk down the streets, you feel welcome and not abstract. For a white majority nation this is something special as nationalism has taken root in some other Central European nations.
Fisherman's Bastion i
While it’s common to feel stared ...
Colorful Buildings at Nyhaven Strand, Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark has long been praised as the first nation to outlaw transatlantic slavery but the reminders still remain. Many of these beautiful buildings and homes along Nyhaven Strand were built from the profits of the slave trade, particularly in this area of Copenhagen. I’ve learned that sometimes the most beautiful places are built on the darkest foundations.
Colorful Buildings at
Denmark has long been praised as th...
Interior of the Blue Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
Aside from people assuming I’m American, the next assumption is that I’m Muslim. The more I’ve traveled, the more I’ve realized just how diverse Islam is, where you’ll find some Muslims that look like me and some with blonde hair and blue eyes. Othering has not only become prevalent in the US, it was unfortunately a survival technique for many people of color. But through travel we quickly learn that a lot of what we’ve been told about other cultures that look like us, isn’t true at all.
Interior of the Blue
Aside from people assuming I’m Am...
Man Selling Omelets in Jakarta, Indonesia
One of the greatest motivators in my life is observation, and the more I travel, the more I observe how difficult life is and what hard work truly is. Around the world, you’ll constantly see people like this man. He spends half his day in the blazing sun of Jakarta making omelets (kerak telor) that barely costs $1.50. I think at times we forget what many must do for survival. Truly changing the world and helping others begins with empathy.
Man Selling Omelets i
One of the greatest motivators in m...
Table Mountain from Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa
This is Cape Town – a place with stunning natural beauty, high multiculturalism, and some of the best food you’ll find in the world. But it’s also a place that will shock many African Americans. Our perception of racism and xenophobia will quickly be challenged here because of the post-Apartheid class disparity between black and white South Africans as well as black-on-black conflict. What’s happening in South Africa is an interesting look at the history of another “black” community.
Table Mountain from V
This is Cape Town – a place with...
Vltava River Walking at Night in Prague, Czech Republic
I grew up on the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio. Not a place you want to stroll around with an expensive camera at night. Heck, maybe not during the day either! Something that will quickly strike many African Americans is the safety of equally sized international cities when compared to back home. We have the freedom to explore, within reason, pretty much anywhere we want without fear. It’s liberating and to be honest, some cities are better at night. Like Prague here.
Vltava River Walking
I grew up on the East Side of Cleve...

 

Erick Prince is a photographer, philanthropist, and world traveler who’s on a quest to become the first African American to visit every country in the world and he’s ticked off 93 so far! Show him some love in the comments below.

About The Author

Erick Prince

Erick Prince is a photographer, philanthropist, and world traveler. He's currently on a quest to become the first African American to visit every country in the world. You can follow his journey, with all of the amazing places he's seen and people he's met, at MinorityNomad.com.