Teacher and World Traveler Citrina of JQAbroad talks about how religion has played a role in her travels and why its crucial for you to start your plans TODAY in this edition of Black Women in the Global Village.
Travel & Religion
At the age of ten, I knew that I wanted to travel the world. I had moved to an area where there were many military kids who had lived in countries such as Japan, Germany, and Korea. These were countries I never heard of but I knew that one day I would want to visit. By the time I reached the 6th grade, while studying world history, I wanted to visit countries such as Egypt, Greece, and England. I remember looking at the world globe and pointing to where I wanted to travel. Traveling and having an adventure was something I’ve always wanted.
After I graduated from college in 2010, I heard God’s voice telling me it was time to go. I never heard God’s voice more clearly than that. I wondered where I was going, how I was going to get there, and where the money was coming from. I even made a plan to work for two years and then move abroad, but God said “no, it’s time to go now”. I never felt so stuck in my life. I wasn’t even sure if traveling should be a priority in my life right after college. I started having doubts about my lifelong dream, but God has a way of speaking to us. One night I was surfing the internet when I came across Julia Robert’s film “Eat Pray Love”. I had no idea what the film was about nor did I know it was based on a book. Everything her character was feeling, I was feeling. Mind you it was only the trailer of the film that I saw. I remember watching the trailer repeatedly and I knew that God was serious. The film couldn’t have come out at a better time.
As I was looking around the internet for jobs abroad, a friend of mine suggested to me that I should consider teaching English, specifically in Asia. I thought about it, but I pretty much decided in my mind that Asia would be a place for me to visit, not a place for me to live. My friend kept pushing the idea to me until finally I caved in and started looking up teaching programs in Asia. I finally found a good one in Korea and with that God changed my heart. Now I was more than excited to go there. I filled out the interest form in December of 2010 and in March of 2011 I arrived in Korea.
Living in South Korea
Since I have stepped foot in this country I have been having the time of my life. There hasn’t been a dull moment since I arrived here. Not only do I teach, but I am also a missionary (another dream I had as a child). I have been able to explore this country and gain new life-long friends. Traveling has impacted my life so greatly I can barely explain it. There’s so many places that I want to travel to and God willing, I will go. Traveling has increased my self-esteem and has given me opportunities I was never given back in the states. And while we have many travel articles at our fingers tips, there’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself. Since coming to Korea, I figured if I can make it here on my own, not knowing a soul, I can make it anywhere. I can’t wait to visit the countries that I have on my wish list without worry. If you trust in God and especially yourself you can achieve just about anything. With that in mind here are my top 10 reasons why black women should travel.
Don’t just accept what someone tells you about a certain country or part of the world. Explore it for yourself. One person’s experience is different from another. It is helpful to have the travel section in our newspapers, channels on television that show us where to travel, and blogs of various people’s experiences, but you should desire more than that. Living life vicariously through others is not the same as going on your own adventures. Go and see the world God has created and enjoy every moment of it!
There’s no experience quite like traveling to a different country alone. You’ll learn more about yourself than you ever did if you stayed home. African-American women have been told so many lies about their God-given beauty it’s almost sickening. Since I’ve arrived in Korea I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called beautiful. I had an old Korean man walk up to me say “black is beautiful”. His English wasn’t all that great, but he mustard up to say that to me. Mind you this a country that believes in the beauty of white skin.
Before I came to Korea, I was shy, you couldn’t make me walk up to anyone and start a conversation. Now walking up to people has become second nature, even flirting. I find that flirting with Korean men is too cute, because they blush easily, its fun to watch and they’ll do the same in return.
I also have no problem exploring cities on my own. I’ve often hopped on trains and buses, just to see where it will take me (I have a good sense of direction anyhow). So traveling alone, going to coffee shops, or hanging out at the mall on my own isn’t as nerve wrecking as it was before.
When you experience other cultures, you become a more open-minded person. Reading about it is one thing, eating the local food and talking with the natives is another story. It’s important to understand different cultures because it allows you to understand other people besides your own. We now live in global economy so now is the time to know your neighbor from another country.
You can never have enough friends in my opinion. I really don’t know what I would do without them. I have met so many people here during my stay in Korea. These friendships I have created will last for a life time and to me they are like a new addition to my family. The friends I have made here in Korea made my stay here more enjoyable. They showed me the real Korea, not the tourist Korea. They taught me what their culture is about more than any book could.
Sometimes you do need to get away from it all and just take care of you. Figure out what you want from what you don’t want in your life. Since coming here I have been able to think more clearly what I want in my life in the next 5 years. I didn’t want to rush off to Graduate school and not have clear idea of what I wanted to do with my life, especially with outside influence such as friends and family. I wanted to make my own decision at my own discretion. Coming to Korea has allowed me to slow down and take the time to be just me.
Life maybe short but it can be long too
Today, black women have more opportunities to explore the world than ever before. There were women in the early 19th century who dreamed of venturing to countries such as France all the way to China, but due to economic hardship they couldn’t afford the luxury of traveling all over the world especially as a black woman. Today you can travel and there is no excuse not to! You can also be your own travel agent with sites such as Orbitz, Priceline, and Cheakptickets. You can sign up to see their weekly deals whether within the United States or abroad. Start planning, start budgeting and start writing the lists of places you would like to visit and get to it!
You’re young and single
It hurts my head when I hear young attractive, single black women lament the fact that they are single. There are so many advantages to being single, I almost don’t want to give up my single card any time soon. The fact that you can pack your things at a moment’s notice and not have to worry about what your significant other has to say is what I call freedom. You’re young and attractive and can be fun and flirtatious with men without second guessing yourself. It’s a great advantage. Not to mention while you’re young, you have the strength and endurance to go all over the place without health problems. Saving travel for retirement is so 90’s. Enjoy your young and single years because you won’t get it back.
Build your “life resume”
Everyone should have a life resume. Just like you have a regular resume documenting your skills on the job, your life resume should be treated the same. What languages can you speak? What types of food have you eaten outside of your culture? What countries have you traveled to? What was your best experience while traveling abroad? What was your worst experience and how have you learned from it?
Many countries don’t have an accurate image of black women due to our portrayal in the media. When they see a black woman with confidence that dispels all the stereotypes, everything they’ve ever believed in is thrown out the window. They want to get to know you.
A Gift to Yourself
You’ve dreamed of this for so long, what’s your excuse now? You don’t have to live abroad for months at a time. Even if it’s just two weeks, it’ll be the best two weeks of your life. You will feel a sense of accomplishment the minute you get on the plane; that you’ve finally set out what you’ve always wanted to do. Venturing abroad is a gift to yourself!