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From Kuwait to Cape Town: Bridging Gaps as a Black Traveller

Steven Luke is a black traveller who has taken on the world. The media tells us so much about gang violence, racism and stereotypes, but what we don’t hear are the stories of those who have left their home countries to start a new life elsewhere. Steven Luke has done it all – from flying on planes in Afghanistan to having week-long parties in Cape Town. This is his story.

Steven Luke is no stranger to travelling. So far he has lived in 5 different countries, and visited countless others, but he shows no sign of slowing down yet.

Aside from the US, he has lived in Qatar, Kuwait, and Germany. He also lived in Afghanistan during his time in the military.

Originally from New Orleans, Steven now works as a project manager in Germany, which he has been doing since 2017.

Travel is nothing new to him and he has also travelled extensively across Africa, much of Europe and India. A random conversation with a friend also inspired him to take a spontaneous trip to Sri Lanka which he booked after getting home from work one day.

I guess you could say that travel is in his blood. It is part of the fabric of who he is.

He said: “It is hardcoded in my DNA. My first flight was when I was 8 years old and my dad put me on a plane with my grandmother to Nebraska and that was my first ever flight. There is a history of travelling in my family. My granddad was a sea man. My dad did the same thing. Once I became old enough to travel, I just wanted to explore the world.”

According to Steven, enjoying a week long party in Cape Town, South Africa was the highlight of his experience.

He said: “It was pretty amazing. I had a week-long birthday party. I loved having conversations with local people. One of the things I like doing is getting out there to mingle. Some people just enjoy being a tourist and taking pictures. But I prefer the local bars and hanging out with the people who live there.”


Bridging Gaps as a Black Traveller

One of the things that stood out the most, according to Steven was the hospitality of the local people. But even in Africa, it was hard for him to escape the stereotypes associated with being an African-American.

But part of the beauty of travelling is that it gives you the opportunity to combat those stereotypes and have an honest and open dialogue about racial relations in America and indeed the world.

“People were just really open and friendly. For example, I went out to a bar one night with a bunch of friends and there were only two or three people in there. One guy came over after hearing our American accents and we ended up having a really honest conversation about the perception of black Americans versus people on the continent.

“Their frame of reference on American black people is skewed based upon what they see on television and the same thing is true of black Americans living in Africa, because you don’t really get to see one another. The only way to bridge that gap is for you to visit one another.

“There was one particular time in Johannesburg when I was at breakfast with a friend and a gentleman walked by and spoke to us after having hearing our American accents and said: ‘welcome home’. It was a great feeling just to be there. I’ve had similar situations in Ghana.”

Steven also recounted an experience he had in Germany a couple of years back when he was subjected to racist taunts on the subway. However, while negative experiences like this can discolour the experiences of black travellers abroad, Steven never let this discourage him from travelling to Germany. In fact, he lives there no.

A Unique Approach to Travelling

But what really intrigued me about Steven was his unique approach to getting around. Most travellers like to take tours and organized excursions. While Steven is no different, he would often approach local people and pay them to show him the local area. This has allowed him to immerse himself in the authentic experiences of other cultures.

Another unique approach he has to travelling is to use organized tours and excursions as a way to get a general overview of the available destinations in an area and use that as a way of deciding which places he’d like to go next.

He also carries a journal. So when he meets someone interesting he’ll ask them to write something about themselves in that journal. So then he has a memento about the people he met during his travels.

Finding His Tribe as a Black Traveller

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Steven is also a member of the Nomadness travel tribe. Nomadness is a travel group pioneered by Evita “Evie” Turquoise Robinson, a black traveller, who was one of the influencers that helped to kickstart the urban travel movement.

Nomadness is a group of black travellers across the world who meet up in various places across the globe.The aim is to meet and mingle and empower people who are traditionally underrepresented in today’s travel media.

 Steven said: “I’m a member of Nomadness. In 2014, we had this thing called Nomadness blackout. So basically there were a bunch of glitch fares to Dubai that people from our group brought before meeting up in the country. We had copious amounts of alcohol and made lifelong friends. Some of the people that I met on that particular trip, I’m still friends with now.

“We meet up all over the world. You basically have this new community outside of your own blood family that live and work around each other and basically become your family. They are your constant social network in an international sense.

“So I have a friend in London who will visit me in Germany or I’ll go meet someone else in another country. I have another friend who is an engineer that regularly flies into Germany and we’ll meet up, smoke hookah and drink copious amounts of alcohol and just have a grand old time.”

Future Travel Plans

Unlike most other explorers, Steven doesn’t have a grand plan as such. His plan is see as many places as he can. He said: “My only plan is to see how many countries I can hit until I can’t travel anymore. The only two continents that I haven’t yet been to that I’d like to go to is Oceania, Australia and Antarctica.


The Ups & Downs of Life as a Black Traveller

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But travelling isn’t always a smooth process. There are bumps in the road and problems that crop up from time-to-time. For Steven, it was ending up on the wrong plane in Afghanistan. In that country, carrier planes were a little bit like buses.

You wait, you load onto the plane. And then you fly. It was some time before they realised they had a stowaway – and that was Steven. Then there was another time when he lost his passport at the checking office in Mumbai. He recalled how he was invited into the backroom, where he was greeted with a gigantic pile of passports.

He found his eventually, after sifting through thousands with one of the staff members. But while there may be things that go wrong abroad, just as they do at home, he refused to let it ruin his enjoyment of travel. After all, the whole point of adventure is to go along for the ride, even if it is bumpy at times.

There were just so many quirky things that happened while I was travelling,” he said: “There will be challenging things that happen in your travels but you can’t let them discourage you. Some of the things that happen are life lessons, while others are just experiences. So just enjoy them.”

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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