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Embracing The World And Living Your Best Life

Derek Johnson, 40, is a black traveler with an amazing story to share. I must say his story was one of my favourite. One of the most amazing things about working on a project where you are gathering eclectic voices from black travelers across the world is you hear so many awesome stories.

Traveling & Living The Dream

Derek Johnson is a black traveler that has been everywhere. He has been a teacher for more than 10 years and fits in most of his journeys in the summer holidays when school is out. Nowadays, he travels with his husband Kinnith, and together, they have fulfilled their dreams of travelling.

While his adventures have at times been challenging, he has a positive message to share with all of us. This is his story.

A Taste For The Exotic

Many of us dream of standing before the pyramids of Egypt, gliding across the nile in a rickety old boat or standing before the majestic Taj Mahal.

Derek Johnson, a teacher from Maryland, USA, has done it all. While not many of us are afforded the luxury of travelling, making cocktails and teaching children has helped Derek to see much of the world.

He has visited South Korea, Thailand, South America, China, India, Japan, the Caribbean and much of Europe. Despite having been to an impressive list of countries, Derek is dreaming big and still plans to tick Machu Picchu and other parts of India off his bucket list.

That’s the thing about travelling – once you develop a taste for the exotic, it becomes an addiction.

His love for travel has taken him around the world, and as a black traveler that has already seen much of the world, he just loves going to places he’s never been before. Derek believes that the best encounters come from being open minded enough to vary your travel itinerary and and seek out new experiences.

He said: “Don’t keep going to the same places. I get why people love going to the same places but if you’re thinking of travelling abroad – do it and try something you’ve never tried before because you’ll learn something about yourself and the world.”

The Challenges of Being a Black Traveler

Derek Johnson, black traveler, black traveller, black backpacker

But as with anything in life, traveling comes with its up and downs and it can be challenging for a person of colour. While the vast majority of his experiences abroad have been overwhelmingly positive, unfortunately there were times when Derek was subject to racial discrimination by Western people outside of his home country, the USA.

He recounted a time in South Korea, where he was trying to flag down a taxi on Halloween. What followed next was horrific.

“As I was waiting to get a taxi, a group of white soldiers drove by in the car and shouted the N word. Even in South Korea, that’s how I was classified. It showed me how consuming white supremacy can be and there was no escaping it. It’s so sad that people hold onto those stereotypes.

“The idea of being somewhere, paying for a ticket and knowing that people may feel uncomfortable sitting next to me because of something they saw on TV and not because of a personal experience bothers me.

“But I still go out and travel because I think I deserve to go out and experience the world just like everyone else.”

While these were undoubtedly negative experiences, the truth is that racism is everywhere and although you could experience it abroad, you could also come across the same attitudes in your own country.

An Experience That Money Just Can’t Buy

For Derek, being a black traveler abroad has led to long-term friendships and experiences that money just can’t buy.

“I ended up staying for two years teaching at a school in South Korea. I created lifelong relationships with people at the school, employers, expats and local citizens. I’ve met people throughout Asia.

“I had a friend, we would meet up in other countries and hang out. It made the experience amazing for me. I was able to experience a different culture, eat different foods, as well as travel and take lots of pictures. It was great, I had all kinds of crazy experiences.”

“Live Your Best Life and Enjoy It”

black traveler, black traveller

Derek plans to travel to more places in the future, alongside his husband Kinnith who has accompanied him on many of of his travels.

He believes that the real magic happens when come you step outside of your comfort zone and try things you would not ordinarily try.

“Go out and live your best life”, he said, adding: “If you can work it out, do it. Go off and do no harm. There’s no reason why we should not be traveling. Wherever you go, embrace the entire experience. Eat things you don’t normally eat, drink things you would not normally drink.

“Go on a tour and do something you would not normally be interested in. Meet people and chat. Stay in hostels because then you get to meet some really cool people.”

But most of all Derek says: “Enjoy it”.


Follow Derek’s journey by checking out his Instagram profile, for more trips and updates!

For more tips and advice for black travelers abroad, check out the following blog: ‘First Time Backpacking Advice For The Black Explorer‘. 

If you’ve ever wanted to teach abroad and you’re wondering what to expect as a person of colour, check out the following blog: ‘Best Overseas Jobs For Black TEFL Teachers‘.

This blog is designed to inspire you and build an online community where you can get all the resources you need to travel. The Backpackers Travel Hub was created to make travelling accessible to everyone – not just the posh people! So drop by and visit the Facebook Group Backpackers Travel Hub. The group contains exclusive tips, and content designed to inspire, motivate and empower you. No sales or annoying gimmicks – just good, solid content. You can also take a peek at the JaninesJourneys Facebook page here. Happy travels!

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