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black traveler, guest blog, adriana smith

Pushing Boundaries and Borders With Compassionate Journeys

Adriana Smith is a black traveler who has helped people all over the world through her volunteering initiatives. She is an inspirational entrepreneur who has got her sights set on the world. This blog is about her compassionate journeys overseas.

Never allow fear to hold you back.

That’s the main message from Adriana Smith, an educator, explorer and entrepreneur who currently resides in South Carolina.

She has seen many countries over the last ten years and has always harboured a passion for travel.

But for Adriana, traveling isn’t just about getting new experiences and meeting people.

Travelling is also an opportunity to help those around the world who are less fortunate.

As a teacher and black traveler, Adriana has volunteered and taught in institutions overseas, and in turn she has learned so much about appreciating the blessings she has in life. Through her journeys and her narrative, she has been empowered to make positive changes in the lives of others.

“Leaving my teaching job was a blessing in disguise because I would have walked down a path of unfulfillment rather than passion. So I vowed to follow my heart and I started working for non-profit organizations. I was also able to encourage other minority students to travel and see the world outside of their own communities.

“It has given me a platform and a space to encourage and advocate for others. I started my brand Travepreneur which talks about traveling, but also the community aspect of traveling and the social impact of exploring the world.

“We focus on how to do good in the world through travel. I’ve done that through my own job and through my brand, Travepreneur.

Over the last ten years, Adriana has worked and studied abroad in countries such as Spain. She has also travelled to several countries across Europe, as well as Barbados, Ghana, Egypt and Nepal.

No Ordinary Black Traveler

However, Adriana is no ordinary traveler. Rather than simply enjoying the sights and sounds of a country, or immersing herself in the tourist attractions, she uses her journeys as an opportunity to learn, volunteer, study or get acquainted with the culture.

In many ways, this gets to the heart of what traveling is all about: getting to experience the real side of as country, in an empathetic and authentic way. Adriana believes that traveling in this way, can help us to form important and lasting connections with others.

“The main social benefit of traveling is opening your mind and your heart to other people,” she added. “That’s what we struggle to do as a country and as a people in the US. Before we can help others and using our skills to volunteer in our community, it’s about developing the mindset to help others.

“So many people in the US have never considered offering a hand to help someone that is different from them. Moreover, the majority of people in the US don’t have a passport. Socially I think we have to open our minds first before we can even think about moving internationally.”

Why Compassion & Volunteering Must Include Understanding

Volunteering means a lot of different things to different people. While it is mostly rooted in empathy, for Adriana, the importance of being non-judgemental and open minded about foreign cultures and environments before volunteering time and energy is equally important.

Many of us have heard the horror stories of some well-meaning Western volunteers traveling to other countries and offering a helping hand, while remaining strongly rooted in their own superiority and dominance of Western values.

Indeed, as a fellow, black traveler, I’ve met these types of people myself. For example, I’ve met European travelers who have done some great work in Africa, while dismissing their culture or religion.

However, what Adriana does is radically different. While she recognises the Western advantages that she has, she is well aware of the role she can take in helping from a non-judgemental and understanding perspective.

Indeed, one of the most powerful experiences for Adriana was working with children in Quito, Ecuador. She spent two weeks getting acquainted with these children and simply allowing them to be themselves, without dismissing their own experiences or culture.

She volunteered with the UBECI Foundation, a non profit NGO and charity in Ecuador which provides educational, medical and emotional support and services to vulnerable children.

The Street Market Children of Quito

black traveler, street market children Ecuador, schools

Adriana was part of a team of volunteers that helps children, youth and adults living on the streets of Quito by teaching them new skills. She also used her knowledge and expertise to empower these children.

She said: “I volunteered with street-market children in Ecuador. Some of the children are very young – there was even a baby on the markets with their parents. So I’d sit with children for 4 hours on these markets and teach them things that I had learned as a child, such as learning about different colours. I also showed them how to paint and how to read.

“So while these children didn’t know they were lacking, it is about using my privilege as someone educated in America to help empower these children.”

However, for Adriana, it was equally important to respect and honour the life journey of these children and where it had led them so far.

She added: “While I would never seek to take away their life experiences, and I do not consider myself to be superior, I appreciated being in the moment and helping these children.

“They loved being around the volunteers because they had a moment of satisfaction where they could just be children instead of an employee. They don’t know that the rest of the world sees them as poor, so they appreciate a lot.

“Experiences like these taught me about the importance of opening your mind up to other communities and knowing how we can assist and help others. My community is not just the US or in Miami Florida, my community is the world.

“Traveling helps us to open our minds to different communities and others that come from different backgrounds. Empathy is so important.”

Volunteering in this way has helped Adriana to touch the lives of many people across the world. For her, being a black traveler is not just about visiting tourist attractions overseas. It is about giving back and helping those less fortunate than herself. Another country she volunteered in was Nepal, where she worked with the Dalits, who are considered to be ‘untouchable’.

black traveler, black travelers,

The Dalits of Nepal

black traveler, black travelers,

Unfortunately, like some other Asian countries such as India, there is a caste system. In Nepal, it is not necessarily just based upon skin colour, but also last name. People who are considered ‘Dalits’ are often heavily discriminated against within the Hindu caste system, and may be denied entry to housing, areas of worship and employment.

Organisations in Nepal such as the Hands On Institute are actively working to change this. During her stay in Nepal, Adriana travelled with these organisations to different villages within the country to spend time with Dalit families.

This trip however was more about learning from these communities, understanding them and participating in traditional crafts and workshops organised by the Dalits.

Volunteers typically embark upon homestays and participate in things such as making mud ornaments, cooking, growing food or learning to play instruments.

Adriana said: “I spent time with this family. As a group we learned to cook from natural plants and vegetation. We learned about sustainable practices in this village. What I took from that experience was an appreciation for nature and the fact that like everyone, Dalits simply want to be accepted by society and that they have a lot to offer.

“They didn’t really have a lot of confidence in themselves because of societal stereotypes. They are everyday people. They learn from each other, care for each other and they are keen to share what they have with the world. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, so they offer a lot and they appreciate many things in these types of communities.

“Even on this trip I was fearful as a lone black traveler exploring the world. But I didn’t allow fear to hold me back. Fear can hold you back from doing the simplest things.”

Overcome Fear As a Black Traveler

black traveler, guest blog, adriana smith

For Adriana, the key to getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing new things is to take baby steps. Once you realise how far you’ve come, then making further progress becomes much easier.

Adriana said: “Overcome that fear by taking one step at a time. So if you fear traveling internationally, then travel domestically. If you change your mind, you can always fly or drive back. Push the boundaries little by little, rather than trying to take on everything, because you will look back and realise how much you have accomplished.”

Pushing the boundaries, and overcoming fear has taken Adriana around the world and she certainly shows no sign of slowing down yet. On the night that I spoke to her, she was due to fly to Egypt the very next day. Armed with empathy, the willingness to connect with diverse communities and help in whatever way possible, she has carved out a future where being a black traveler and volunteer isn’t just a mere pipe dream, but a way of life.

It is just so humbling to know that in going after her passion and overcoming fear, she has not only elevated herself, but communities across the world.

You can find out more about Adriana and follow her journey, by visiting her blog Travepreneur, where she documents her travels and shares her wisdom with others.

Now It’s Over to You

black traveler, guest blog, adriana smith

Are you a black traveler with your own story to tell? If so, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you and we can feature your journeys and website on JaninesJourneys.com.

Read more about planning a solo trip abroad or travelling as a solo female in our hyperlinked blogs.

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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