Melanin Vegans Who Travel

I can’t pinpoint an exact time where I realized that traveling was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It could have been my first airplane ride when I was 5, visiting family in Trinidad & Tobago, cruising through the exhilarating streets, bursting with colour during carnival. Or, possibly the paradise that is Jamaica; when I was 8, exploring my dad’s old stomping grounds, and realizing that not every country has to deal with stifling cold for half the year. Perhaps it could have even been very early adulthood, seeing how un-nervewracking solo travel actually was, while taking on new adventures of my own. Or maybe it was that every single time I found myself getting too comfortable, in a city, I’d begin to notice something wasn’t right. I wasn’t growing, expanding my horizons, seeing what I aught to be seeing. There was more to the world, I just wasn’t exposing myself to the beauty she offered.

I am so excited to share this new project that I’ve been working on with you all. If any of you have been following me through my YouTube Channel, you may know that I left college in order to travel the world, give me a different perspective which strayed away from my public school teachings; learning more first-hand knowledge of different cultures, and to also establish my own business, is what I needed to do for myself. From the moment I completed my first year of college, I decided to leave for California.

Before I really started traveling, it was just the routine, visiting family in the Caribbean (which I do absolutely love, and am grateful for every second of), but we never really used to expand too much away from just that. I knew there was more to traveling, but it was a matter of getting someone to go with me, to venture out into the beyond that I struggled with.

Eventually, I just said, screw it. This is my time, and my money, let’s make the most of it and go where I want. And thus began my solo traveling.

I love solo travel. And, to be quite honest, I want to spend as many years as I can, taking on the challenges the world of exploring throws at me. But, I want to see more of us taking on the world together, too. When nobody in your life travels the way you want to, it’s hard to picture yourself doing it, but at the same time, it gives me such a strong push to change the narrative.

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La Jolla Coves, San Diego, CA

To see a few of my Travel Vlogs, check out my YouTube Channel Herbivore Beauty, here.

The first time I ever travelled out of the country on my own was to San Diego, California. I later took the bus to Los Angeles to check out Vegfest LA and meet up with my internet friends… We’ll discuss this later.

The feeling of solo traveling, not just as a woman, but a melanin person is so liberating– freeing to know that there is an entire planet out here for discovery, and I’ve been wasting most of it going to the same places, consistently. I feel like I have done more to embrace my independence in this past year, than I have in my entire life.

Being able to go anywhere you want, when you want, is definitely exciting, but you’re also able to think and also attract things on another level. When you approach the journey as another exciting adventure to take on, it’s mind-blowing how many incredible situations you’re able to manifest for yourself. For example, what are the odds that my AirBnb hosts in San Diego are not only the most lovely people I have ever met, but also vegans, and super health conscious and flowing with beautiful energy? Okay, maybe it’s a given that most hosts should probably be half-decent people, but for them to be my age, and this well-rounded? I guess it could have been a coincidence, but I like to think that it was because I was on the right path.

To see a few of my Travel Vlogs, check out my YouTube Channel Herbivore Beauty, here.

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My second solo trip was to Costa Rica. I escaped the Canadian winters of -40C (yes, you read that correctly), in order to embark on this new and exciting journey of further self discovery, and engulfing myself into this brand new culture. Although I spent the majority of my trip in Puerto Viejo, which has a very steady population of Jamaican descents (we’re everywhere apparently), the small beach town is a mix of predominantly English &/or Patois and Spanish speakers. I lived in the middle of the jungle. No, seriously.

Being immersed in unspoiled nature, seeing the lush, green, never-ending rainforests, and waking up to the peaceful sounds of exotic birds, monkeys, and sloths (which can surprisingly be quite noisy), was such a surreal experience. Being able to feel the suns warmth on my skin, or spend all day lounging on the beach, encompassed by the sea and a good book, with no other commitments, and a backpack full of fresh fruit— this is a feeling I want everyone to have at least once in their life.

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Manzanillo National Park, Costa Rica

So, anyway. What’s this big, exciting project I’ve been working on? A Vegan Travel Club. Similar to a meet-up, but this will take place internationally! This is definitely not the first time I’ve gotten together with friends I’ve connected with on the internet to meet-up in another country (hence my meet-up with my vegan friends in LA), and it certainly will not be the last! Since I will be heading to Thailand for a month this summer, I thought about how much fun it would be to experience the trip with people I’m able to relate to on a similar level; provide a way to connect, which is not always available to many of us- at least where we live. To feel even more empowered, knowing that we’re not alone in this lack of representation, by our beautiful, travel-hungry, melanin, vegan community.

But, why a melanated vegans travel group? Empowerment, representation,  inspiration, a sense of belonging. Growing up in an area where I could count the number of people I personally knew, with melanin skin, on one hand, often times I felt so out of place. After going on my second full-fledged adventure, I was in the Air Canada line, returning home from my travels. As I looked around to the sea of people waiting in that same line– hundreds of vacationers, there was only one person with brown skin. Me. It was just an odd feeling, not seeing others who looked like me, especially since I had just returned from traveling, feeling so at home with the diversity that surrounded me.

But the thing is, it’s not that we aren’t traveling at all. I know we are. If I search hard enough, I know we’re there. I know we’re growing, too. What doesn’t help, is that there is not much of the media even documenting that we are here to stay, and will continue to rapidly grow as travellers, every single year. It’s time to break the stigma that we don’t, can’t or won’t travel.

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At the Cuban Vegan, Los Angeles, CA with my vegan friends

So, I decided that I wanted to do something about it– another “trial” run if you will, seeing how many of us would actually be able to come together on this adventure.

I have created a Facebook Group which will help us all communicate with each other in the months leading up to the kick-off for these meet-ups beginning in Thailand, and continuing on through Brooklyn, NY for Afro Punk Fest for another veggie meet-up! This  will give so many, an opportunity to network with each other, build strong connections and relationships with people, which may not have otherwise been possible under different circumstances. Create a safe space for Melanin Vegans everywhere!

Too often, I have my fellow vegans message me on social media, saying that they feel so out of place, or lonely in a world which doesn’t always display much of who they are, and if it does, it’s certainly not always in the most positive light. People constantly want to push the same narrative over and over, that the plant-based community lacks diversity (which it doesn’t), and that it’s only built to suit one group of people- which it’s not.

Day after day hearing, that it’s disrespectful to promote veganism because,

“blacks can’t afford to go vegan..”

Huh?

Or the, “isn’t that a rich, white people thing?”

What is? Our health, or having compassion for animals?

Or, one of my favourites, “you can’t be (Caribbean, African, etc.) and be vegan, it’s erasing your culture”.

All of this nonsense for simply changing our perspective on what we think about the world and animal exploitation. Then, there is the very recognizable discrediting of anything successful just based off of the colour of our skin. And finally, we have the lack of representation of us traveling, which automatically deems any exploration of any kind, outside of our own bubble, inaccessible to our communities.

The thing about veganism and culture, is that the delicious, plant-based, cultural food was actually one of the major motivators contributing to my vegan travel journey. To think that being compassionate towards animals, can in some way erase our ethnicity or our culture, is as crazy an idea as it sounds.

As you’ll see on my YouTube Channel, vegan cuisine from around the world is an absolute GAME CHANGER. So many unique flavours and dishes, and variety of high quality exotic fruit that I would never be able to find in Canada– summer or not! Had to show y’all two pics of the same dish because DAMN, is Ital ever delicious.

This is from a Soda (little local restaurant) in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica called “Ghetto Girl

It’s amazing how far seeing people who look like us, doing what we want to do, can go in terms of inspiration for travel. With the lack of diversity being portrayed in the media, I think it’s safe to say that when there is less representation, there’s little interest in going out to the unknown, especially alone/ with people you are unable to resonate with.

So, I created this group, not for the purpose of discriminating or excluding other members of the vegan community, but to uplift the people that often are erased, and to advocate for the diversity within our circle of youth passionate about veganism and travel.

To keep up with us and our project, make sure to stay connected through my website, Twitter, Instagram, and the Facebook Group: Melanin Vegans Who Travel!

 

 

 

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5 Comments

  1. Such a beautiful post. One of my biggest goals is to be able to travel the world, on my own, and really connect with nature. I am acyually born and raised in Trinidad!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hi Ashley,

    Interesting blog. Melanin Vegans need to travel with pride, but also be prepared in case the countries that they are visiting can’t accommodate them. I also love solo travel and most, if not all my travels have been solo. it’s beyond liberating. Wonderful pictures.

    I will also check out your Youtube channel.

    Fiona

    Like

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