Growing up as a multi-racial woman and the daughter of two immigrant parents, I never felt like I belonged to one community. Yet travelling has made me feel like I have a home in every corner of the world. I have spent time in classrooms learning about society, but no textbook teaches you that you might have more in common with strangers in a European piazza than you do with people you've known your whole life back at home. There have been times when strangers in foreign places have shown me more kindness than familiar faces. Who knew that I'd find such a sense of belonging and acceptance in the far-flung coordinates of a map? Without travelling, I'd have never experienced this.
My home soil - the so-called "American dream" - never fulfilled me, and for this reason, I sought refuge in different places. The wave of positivity I have experienced travelling as a person of colour has empowered me to use this privilege to my advantage as much as I can, because not everyone has the luxury to travel. The good I have seen and felt in new destinations has helped me view the world through a kaleidoscope of colour. Shining a light on my positive experiences isn't about undermining another traveller's story; we can learn from each other.
My travelling tales are not remembered in days, but moments. Often these are the moments that remind me why I travelled so far from home, to meet people who were never fixated around the question of "what are you?", referring to my skin as if it was all of me. I've met people who opened their home to me; we created art and sculpted our ideas through clay in a cottage hidden in the Tuscan hills. Stumbling across language barriers, I had a conversation on a napkin in a bar down a quiet street in Florence. Remembering these moments, I revel in the mixture of races that I am and watch as they blend into different places and occasions, be it the mountaintops of South America or set among ancient architecture.
It's not that my home has been a cruel place for me, but it has never given me the experience of picking fresh fruit from a person's garden before musing over a glass of wine. On home soil, I never found the meaningful experiences that I was seeking; for me, it barely scratched the surface of what true human connection can do for a person. When I reflect on my moments abroad, it reminds me why I choose to travel and why I have never settled for one label to describe me as a person. Travelling has always made me feel like more than something that can be put in one box: "check one below for race/ ethnicity."
When I step onto unfamiliar land, my soul attaches to the unknown, leaving pieces of myself in that place. I latch onto a simple smile from an old lady in Corfu selling handcrafted jewellery in a tiny shop, or a taxi driver who lets me in on the beaches only locals know about. When sailing the Balearic Sea, a captain's wife - without even knowing me - learned to cook a vegan meal so I could enjoy lunch with friends. Through strangers' acts of kindness, I have found an eternal home around the world. It might not be a home of permanent residency, but it's one to which I can always return.
The souvenirs I collect when I travel are lessons; each place teaches me something different. I have found the meaning of kindness in strangers as a lone traveller lost in a busy Manchester Airport. I learned how to enjoy the little things in life as I watched the people of Paris by the Seine experience life like an endless vacation. As I made my way up into the mountain in Colombia, new-found friends who led me there taught me that family isn't always the one you are born into. When I return home, I feel as if a different person, someone who has grown and changed through positive experiences.
Travelling is my sanctuary. It is an escape from my own realities, and a chance to connect with people such as backpackers in Italy and tour guides who show me cities in a new light. I have found places where I feel accepted by a community of people who only see one race: the human one.
My parents taught me about a saying they had in Jamaica: "out of many, one people." Despite our differences, we together, as humans, are so much more than what separates us. Even in the most unfamiliar places, we can find common ground. I take these words with me wherever I go.