Selfies & passport stamps: is travel the new stunt?

 

Hashtags, selfies, turn ups, glamour: is that all there is to travel anymore? Introducing #BeyondSelfies

I got my first passport ever in life while in college for Study Abroad. In 2008, I was plopped down in the middle of Salvador, Brazil. The port city serving as the initial point of entry for all Portuguese cargo ships, which for centuries were sailing a direct route west from Angola with the most precious cargo of its time — slaves. But for the cultivation of sugarcane and other crops, the Brazilian state of Bahia is known as the most African place outside of any country in Africa. 3/4 of all slaves kidnapped and taken from their homeland during the Atlantic Slave Trade found themselves in Brazil, and Salvador would be their first stop.

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A roadside photo of a hillside favela in Salvador, Bahia

2008 was before Instagram, before selfie sticks, before hashtags, and Facebook was still new. And because this was a study abroad trip, I was privileged to have a very well-planned and educationally rich experience. There were plenty of caipirinhas, playing capoeira, and hanging out at the Pelourhino; but there was also a lot of conversation happening in my head. None of which a hashtag, or a photo (with the best filter) could ever convey. The internal dialogue about my own Blackness, my Americaness, the entangled history of colonialism, brutality, and subjugation was far too complex than I could capture in a quick photo of myself against any landscape or colorful house. This is the stuff of the stories I tell about my trips, the complex internal dialogue, and the transformation that occurs when you allow yourself to venture deep beyond your comfort zone. Into the zone of uncertainty, where curiosity becomes your compass and inquiry your weapon. Why? Who? When? But why? No, really? I’m uncomfortable? Why? You want to touch my hair? You think I’m from here? You didn’t know people like me were American? This sucks. Lost my bag. I hate this place? I want to go home. Do I really though? I love my life. Who am I?

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A former slave holding area underneath the historic Supermercado in Bahia. Slaves were auctioned off at this market and kept in these dungeons below

The questions you get are endless. The questions you ask are endless. This is exactly why I created The Road Less Inquired. The privilege of traveling has nothing to do with selfies, turn ups, and IG hashtags. Those are ancillary benefits of having the resources to commit to moving through space and time as you wish. It is my contention that the privilege of traveling is in the opportunity to peer into the monotony of other worlds and challenge the very core of who you think you are and what you think you can handle. To be introspective, to go inside yourself, and dig deep for new revelations about life as we know it. Wielding a passport that allows you access to other worlds is not anything to take lightly and with the advent of a newer globetrotting American generation, I’d like to create a space where people can access the stories between the lines of crazy parties and beautifully perfect selfies. I want to amplify the voices of those who dare to tell about the personal revelations they have away from home because those are just as important as all else that gets shared.

I’d like to introduce you to my new Facebook series –> #BeyondSelfies where I highlight humble human reflections from people courageous enough to leave their comfort zone; who discovered something about themselves abroad; who have a story to tell that might not be as glamorous as that perfectly picturesque Travel Noire IG shot, but it is human, deliberative, nuanced, and transformative. If you come back the same after you venture beyond your comfort zone, you’ve got more work to do. And just because you leave home doesn’t mean you left your comfort zone. Life is short yo, question errythang. Check the Facebook group page for featured stories!

2 Comments

  • comment-avatar
    Tiffany L. Hendrix April 14, 2016 (12:03 am)

    Great post! I love study abroad and want to work as an advisor (I’m almost 39 and still haven’t found my post :/). I studied in France in 1998 and spent about half the time partying and the other half reflecting. I have plenty of selfies (on print film, the vintage selfie) along with notebooks and papers. It was before the turn of the century, and I remember our advisors complaining that we wouldn’t learn anything from our experience like they had learned from theirs. After all, we had EMAIL and were obsessed with computers! Now I see my international students constantly kiking and snapchatting, and I have no doubt that there is a real need for a group like the one you’ve created.

    • comment-avatar
      Tiffany Em April 14, 2016 (12:26 am)

      Thanks for commenting! I totally agree with you that every generation has their own bias and attachment to ‘the way things were’ when they traveled, let’s say. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances online who are exploring the world for the first time in the era of social media. I just want to create a space for people to connect with others through their stories of self-reflection and transformation, not only through post likes. It’s so important!

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