Monday, February 7, 2011

Explore! Dream! Discover!

April D. Thompson

1. What message do have for students who want to travel?  

Go for it!  It's an amazing addition to your formal education in the US and can make you a more marketable for jobs once you graduate.  I made a last minute decision to travel to South Africa for 6 weeks during graduate school (engineering) to do independent research on educational disparities that existed post-apartheid and programs in place to fix it.  The program was intended for undergraduates studying education and was a rigorous 6 weeks of structured lectures.  I created a proposal highlighting why I should be allowed to attend and despite much criticism, was approved! I also used my proposal to secure funding from local and campus organizations to cover almost all of my trip expenses!  The icing on the cake was being able to present my work at the 50th Annual Comparative and International Education Society's conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, all expenses paid.  
My words of advice: Never take no as your final answer and don't let money be a deciding factor in your decision to go or not. 

Vote for April Wyndam Local Nation Contest Entry

2. What are your childhood memories of travel ? 

I remember loading up in the car or renting a mini man with my cousins and god siblings for the beach, the amusement parks in Florida or other destinations.  I hated the long drives in the car, but I loved spending time with my family and friends and getting away from home and school even if we didn't go far.

3. Where did you dream of traveling when you were a child?   

My dad was in the Air Force and would bring home souvenirs from the places he traveled for work.  I was look at his international collection of knick knacks and wonder what life was like in Korea, Germany and Saudi Arabia.

4. Did you travel as a child?  

My family spent 3 years living in the Philippines on military orders and a year in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  Most of my childhood was spent in Valdosta, GA and included road trips to the beach, amusement parks and relatives around the southeast.

MangoWalk Montego Bay Jamaica

5. What did you learn as a child about the expectation for black people to travel?
As child, there was no expectation to go anywhere.  I was just happy and appreciative when the opportunity did arise.

6. Did you admire or know of any Black people that traveled when you were a child? 

I admired my Uncle Herbert who would pack up in family in their huge van and travel all over the country.  He always had the best stories!

7. Why should Black people travel? 

 "Studying abroad isn’t just an important part of a well-rounded educational experience. It’s also becoming increasingly important for success in the modern global economy. Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom. It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders—with people, and languages, and cultures that are very different from our own."  I agree with Michelle Obama's thoughts on travel/studying abroad when addressing students at Howard University.  In addition, outside of the work place, travel gives us a great opportunity to see and experience what our ancestors have contributed to the world! 

8. What was your first trip?

My first international trip as an adult was 6 weeks in South Africa for independent research.

9. How did you plan for it? 

 I'm not a planner, so luckily the school handled all of the travel and lodging logistics and I just paid for it.  I did some research on the different areas and reached out to students, faculty and staff as a part of my research who in turn were gracious enough to show me around as well.

Rastas in Bogota Colombia

10. What was your experience there? 

 I toured the country for 6 weeks visiting Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and many places in between.  I spent my time learning about the educational system, primary to tertiary, and visited various schools in addition to exploring the cities during my free time.  I had a mix of home, hotel and hostel stays, met some amazing people and learned a ton about the country, its people and myself.

a) positive experience - Everything!  Hanging out with the cast of African Footprint, a personal tour of Robben Island and dinner with political prisoner Eddie Daniels, canopy tours in Tsitsikamma, a night in Addo Elephant Park and all of the amazing people I met! 

b) negative experience- Having to leave to start a research project in San Diego, CA.

11. Was your travel experience what you expected?   

The trip exceeded all of my expectations!

12. How is your travel experience as a Black traveler different from what you perceive as a White traveler?  

As a black traveler, it is easy to fit in to so many different places and be mistaken for a local (until I start talking of course).  We may not be everywhere, but pretty darn close.  On the flip side, the stares and sometimes lewd and racists comments can be annoying, but hey it still happens in the US, so no big deal.  All in all, I think everyone's experiences will have its up and downs depending on where you are from, what you look like and how well you get along with others.  If nothing else, travel is a great lesson in cross-cultural learning and acceptance.

Rio Brazil Atop Seleron Steps

13. What is your voice as a Black travel blogger?

I write for anyone who wants to hear about my journey and learn something new about the world or themselves along the way.  It is my hope that I encourage people to travel anywhere and everywhere and not just for the nightlife. I want people to see how safe and affordable world travel can be and all of the amazing contributions Blacks have made to the world. I especially want everyone to inspired to make their own way.  There's nothing wrong with going a bit off the beaten path and following your dreams.

14. Where do you dream of traveling now? Why?   

I recently received my National Geographic Genographic Study results which traced my ancestors back to Central Africa and migratory patters to North Africa, South Eastern Africa and the Middle East. There's even an individual from Sierra Leone with listed with DNA match.  I love to explore this further and these locations to my travel bucket list.

Rio Brazil Birth of Samba

15. Anything else you would like to add?  

For all of you that don't have a passport, get one now.  Mark Twain said it best "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover