Dear Travelers...You Can Decolonize Travel, Too -- Here are 16 Ways

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

Dear Traveler,

I write this long letter to you amidst a turning point in race relations in this country as well as a turning point in the travel industry. Lately, there has been a lot of energy -- and rightfully so -- to push the travel industry to make systemic change to decolonize the travel industry. For example, the Black Travel Alliance has been urging the accountability of travel brands and tourism boards through their #pullupfortravel campaign, urging companies to reveal concrete data showing where companies are in terms of representation; demanding actionable steps to improve such representation. 

However, change also falls on the traveler too…yeah, that is YOU! We are not exempt from this problem, especially considering that there are 1.4 BILLION international travelers and growing as of 2018, globally.  No matter your racial background, you have an obligation to act accordingly to help decolonize travel too. 

What does it mean to decolonize something -- particularly travel, you might ask? I decided to ask travelers from various races and ethnicities their perspectives on decolonizing travel in order to help educate you on this topic, amplify underrepresented voices, and inspire YOU to take concrete steps towards decolonizing travel! It started with me wondering how can I, as an individual traveler and blogger, take small steps that can lead up to big changes both in the Black Lives Matter movement as well as in decolonizing travel. 

To break it down further, I asked: 

  • What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

  • What are you currently doing as an <insert race> allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

  • What active steps can other <insert race> allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

As you read the open and honest responses from various travelers from a diversity of races, know that the work of the #BlackLivesMatter movement looks different for every group and for every person. However, this movement is truly the sum of all its parts!

Below you will find the voices of women (often underrepresented in travel) who identify as Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, white, and Black. DISCLAIMER: This is a long read but a very worthy one.


The Perspectives of Latinx-Allied Travelers

Where’s the Latinx community? No, but really, you may be wondering this considering that they have been very underrepresented in the travel industry. When traveling, I also take mental note of the fact that I do not typically come across Latinx travelers. However, they are out THERE and they are HERE to stay! 

You may have already known that the Latinx and Hispanic communities are one of the largest growing communities in the United States. Specifically, between 2010 and 2019, the Latinx demographic accounted for about half (52%) of all U.S. population growth and they currently make up 1 in 6 Americans. WOW!

However, did you know that Hispanic and Latinx travel has brought in more than $56 billion in travel tourism annually? If that is not enough to convince you why we need to be paying attention to our Latinx-Allied travelers, let’s look at these stats:

  • U.S. Hispanics travel more, taking an average of two more trips than non-Hispanics.

  • When they travel, Hispanics spend more MONEY! They actually outspend non-Hispanics by an average of $300. 

  • They are more likely to travel in larger groups -- 31% traveling in a group of four or more people, which is more than the average of non -Hispanics at 25%. 

  • They are more likely to travel with children, which also means spending more money! 

As a result, it is super important that we not only bring representation of Latinx travelers to the traveling space but also recognize their power in allyship in the Black Lives Matter movement as well as in decolonizing travel.  Check out the thoughts of three Latinx-allied travelers below! 

Flavia from @Latinatraveler

Connect with Flavia: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Flavia identifies as a Latina traveler with Indigenous background 

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

For me, the phrase decolonize travel means to include more BIPOC in the travel space whether its influencers on main travel accounts, magazines, guidebooks, ads. Anything related to travel which includes Tourism Boards and on Behind the Scenes ventures, making travel conferences happen and that they are being paid fairly and equally for their services. 

What are you currently doing as a Latinx-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

As a Latinx-allied traveler, I have been going through the accounts I follow to unfollow ones that I see haven’t and aren’t supporting BLM as well as finding more Black accounts to follow instead. In other words, I’m diversifying my feed to reflect the people I see in real life and not just cookie-cutter images. 

What active steps can other Latinx-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

Latinx-allows travelers can do the same things as I have been doing, such as diversifying their feeds. They can also collaborate on Lives or other projects/events with Black influencers in order to uplift each other and give more of a voice and space to creators that deserve it. 


Ivonne from @latinachictravels

Connect with Ivonne: Instagram | Facebook |Blog | Twitter | Pinterest

Ivonne identifies as Mexican-American. She was born and raised in NYC, parents both were born and raised in Mexico, Puebla and migrated to NY 29 years ago. 

What does the phrase "decolonize travel" mean to you?

Decolonizing travel to me is a topic that I am still learning. However, I would say that the term to me means, "Change your travel experience or the way you are vacationing by being a better guest in someone else's homeland."

What are you currently doing as a Latinx-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel?

I first started in my household because, as a daughter of immigrant parents, we've seen severe issues with racism within our own culture growing up from television to magazines to who we look up to for entertainment. We have talked about what BLM is, why it is a movement and why we need to first see the types of racism within our culture in order to understand why this country is dealing with racism right now. It’s been a struggle not only for me, but I’m sure for many Latinx as well. However, I know that when I say that I am an ally,  I am committed to not stop sharing why we need to change. 

My family had a different history class than me. Therefore, I had to go back and read up on my history here in the US and try to educate myself before even talking or speaking up with family.

Social Media - I try to share as many resources as I can with my Latinx community.  Travel has been a privilege, and I recently realized it as a non-black traveler. Therefore, sharing the same conversations I am listening to is how I am engaging in the movement with my audience. 

What active steps can Latinx-allied travelers take to decolonize travel?

I would say to study the country you are going to see if you can by reading up on their history. I went to Peru last year and worked with a tour company for collaboration. They took me to a small community as part of their tour. There, they talked about their culture and how it is a big part of their lifestyle - from how they dye their fabric and wash their fabric with natural resources to the way they still dress. I felt like this specific tour was so different from any other trip I've been on while traveling because I learned about their culture and experienced it. I also had the opportunity to buy products from them and help their communities.

I shared my experience during this tour via my social platforms, wrote a blog post, and provided a guide for my Cusco trip. I feel this was the best way to educate my followers and share my travel experience in hopes of inspiring them to visit in the same way I did, which was appreciating their homeland and culture. 


Gerry from @dominicanabroad

Connect with Gerry: Instagram | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Gerry identifies as tri-racial, half-ish mulatta, half-ish mestiza. Dominican-American of Indigenous American (20%), West African (30%), and Iberian descent (40%) with faint traces of Arab, Anatolian, and Jewish heritage. Not at all an uncommon sancocho/soup joumou ancestry for many of us Latino/Caribbean folks. 

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

The term "decolonize" is a heavy one to unpack because from a socio-cultural perspective, it goes pretty deep from our concept of religion to marriage, gender, economics, collective/individualistic values, medicine, education, politics and so much more. Hence, to me, the phrase "decolonizing travel" in itself can be a mind field. However, for the sake of general simplicity, I would start with the following:

Traveling with a more educated, diverse (less Euro-centric), socially conscious, and mindful approach that incorporates ethical travel practices. 

What are you currently doing as a Latinx-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

Educating myself, educating others, putting my money where my mouth is (supporting minority-owned small businesses, boycotting problematic businesses, and donating to certain people and causes), supporting/joining protests, attending other related events, extending my platform to amplify and support local voices, promoting events by locals to promote BLM-related awareness/education and creating heritage tours on the Hispaniola island that encourage the education and preservation of our Afro-heritage, and more.

What active steps can other Latinx- allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

  • Approaching the way we experience travel by reading up on a destination beforehand and educating themselves from a non-western/non-eurocentric perspective

  • Engaging in mindful, cross-cultural interactions. For example: letting go of the assumption that our views are correct because we are from a more "developed" or "western" country as well as not falling into the white savior complex (which some POC can also be guilty of, too)

  • Being intentionally mindful about the way we visit a destination and asking ourselves whether or not  we are causing more harm than good in the things we do as tourists.

  • Supporting sustainable tourism

  • Engaging in ethical travel practices such as supporting local small businesses, obtaining consent before taking someone’s picture, not exocitizing a culture/people, portraying the entire picture of a country by not simply focusing on the “exotic poverty”, and more.

  • Recognizing the nuanced complexities and effects of cultural imperialism (usually that of the western Anglo-Saxon capitalist culture due to the last 500+ years of colonization)

  • Attending decolonized heritage tours (day tours or full educational tours) especially by local POC and especially if they have educational on Afro/indigenous non-Eurocentric themes

  • Recognizing our privilege, not just because of our currency/money and passport, but because often, the reason why we westerners enjoy a "higher standard of living" is because our country of origin greatly benefited from colonizing, invading and imperializing the country we are visiting. 

  • NOT supporting or joining religious missionaries (this was the proclaimed driving force of colonization and nobody should be entering a different country with the intent of imposing their religion over the native peoples!) .

  • On that same note, not seeing local religions (vodou or santeria) as being “lesser than” 

  • Having empathy AND compassion. 

  • Reading up on the writings (specifically on the topic of “decolonizing travel”) by Bani Amor, Mechi Estevez, and the “Decolonize Travel” zine by Muchacha Shop.


The Perspectives of Asian-Allied Travelers

When I think of top travel blogger lists, I almost rarely see an Asian on that list! When I do, it is sadly not a darker-skinned Asian which hits close to home as a Black bi-racial woman with Indian heritage. If we want to truly be representative of the growing American population, then their voice needs to be included! Did you know that the U.S. Asian population grew 72% between 2000 and 2015 (from 11.9 million to 20.4 million), being the fastest growth rate of any major racial or ethnic group surpassing Hispanic population growth, which increased 60% during the same period?

It boggles my mind that Asian American traveler bloggers are not given more shine considering that Asian-Americans are 43% more likely than the general population to travel abroad in their leisure time! 

Other worthy stats to know are the following: 

  • 57% of Asian Americans have taken a trip outside the continental United States during the past three years

  • 51% of Asian Americans have taken a domestic plane trip in the past 12 months

  • Asian Americans are at least 1.2 times more likely than the general population to go on domestic cruises and visit theme parks

  • 46% of Asians Americans are more likely to have traveled in first class on foreign trips

I present these stats to say that when thinking about decolonizing travel, we need to change our mindset around the Asian American travel blogger. As a result, I thought it was important for their voice to be included as well when thinking about decolonizing travel and the Black Lives Matter movement. Again, in order for this movement to be successful, we need allyship from all of our POCs (or BAME or BIPOC as everyone has a different term they prefer to use).

Debbi from @mydebstinations

Connect with Debbi: Instagram | Facebook  |  Blog  |  TwitterPinterest

Debbi identifies as Japanese American

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

To me, decolonizing travel has to do with critically analyzing travel + tourism and its relation to both past and present imperialism and colonialism. It seems like an open dialogue that needs to happen in regards to how communities also relate to culture. How does this affect people of color who not only travel but who also depend on tourism for work?

What are you currently doing as an Asian-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

I’ve been doing a lot of self-education and trying to share any helpful resources that I’ve come across. “So You Want to Talk About Race?” is a really insightful book that I’m trying to finish right now. Additionally, I’ve tried to change up my posts and stories on IG to be more centered on COMMUNITY and EMPOWERING all women, rather than just focused on MY travels and myself. I’ve listened to several podcasts as I’ve come across them, and @kelleesetgo runs a FAB one partnered with @travelandleisure.

What active steps can other Asian-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

Asian-allied travelers can actively share resources through stories, tweets, posts, articles, etc. Our voice is the most powerful resource, so if we use it to impact and change (rather than stay timid), it’ll help to change the course of the travel industry for the better. I used to try and promote fellow Asian female travel bloggers when I was first starting out, but now, I realize how close-minded that was. We should be promoting each other, regardless of race, but ESPECIALLY Black content creators because of the impact of this movement.

We consistently need to strive to build each other up, serve as each other’s lights, and hope that our goodwill encourages others to share and do the same.

Reesa from @reesarei

Connect with Reesa: Instagram | FacebookBlog  | Twitter  |Pinterest 

Reesa identifies as Asian American with background in the Philippines 

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

Decolonizing travel means understanding the "why." How does our cultural background and ethical values make us favor certain types of travel and places to visit? By gaining awareness of how this impacts our travels, we will be able to make it a more inclusive industry for all.

What are you currently doing as an Asian-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

As an Asian ally to the Black Lives Matter Movement, I have been actively listening to my black friends and trying to uplift their voices - especially outside of social media. I have been signing petitions, donating, and buying products and services from black-owned businesses. I also try to recognize that our power lies in how we vote, so I have encouraged my followers to register voting so their voices can be heard, too. 

What active steps can other Asian-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

I think it's important to recognize that every step, no matter how big or small, can be impactful to others. I also recognize that there is a small percentage of Asian Americans who travel solo and/or have the financial means to do so. Sharing my stories and my life is how I can help break barriers and racial stereotypes. Also, I think it's more important than ever to support travel brands and businesses that debunk the old ways of travel and give back to local communities.


Milette from @thenextsomewhere

Connect with Milette: Instagram | FacebookBlog  |  YouTube 

Milette identifies as Filipino-American/Pinayx and Asian

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

Decolonizing travel means making travel inclusive of ALL folks. We need accountability and acknowledgment that travel has been largely controlled by white voices. Simple but effective ways we can achieve this goal is by changing the way we market certain destinations and inviting diverse voices to take up space in the travel industry.  Travel as we know it is seen through a Western lens. Why is it that guidebooks claim 80% of the world’s art can be found in Italy, neglecting and dismissing the impressive art from Africa, Asia, and South America? Why is it that the large majority of travel media experts are white males who have more authority about a given destination than people from that country/culture? Why is it that when visiting countries with brown/black majorities, blog posts are quick to bring up safety and crime but fail to address safety concerns when writing about Western destinations? When I was in Croatia, a group of locals followed me and my sisters to a bathroom and locked the door behind them in a rather aggressive, and frightening, attempt to flirt. It’s important to know WHO is distributing the designations of “dangerous,” “dirty,” and “poor,” and address why these unsavory labels are only attached to non-Western locations.

Bottom line: As much as we want to ignore this hard truth, the origins of modern-day travel are rooted in imperialism. The Age of Exploration, a term coined by white historians, was a period of oppression, annihilation, and exploitation of people of color at the hands of white conquerors. We are complicit in the racist structures of travel whether we refuse to believe it or not!

What are you currently doing as an Asian-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

In the failings of our government, social media has become a platform for educating folks and this is where I’ve been able to help further the cause the most. In light of the protests, I did an immediate evaluation of the media I was consuming and learned that my social feed was made up of 75% white travel influencers! I quickly sought to diversify my feed and created a blog post of 20 BIPOC travel bloggers you should follow to act as a living resource for other travelers, and also as a way to amplify melanated voices. I’ve also followed accounts like @theblacktravelclub and @travelnoire to expose myself to more Black travelers, and @theblacktravelalliance, to learn more about how to achieve equal opportunity in the travel space for the Black community. 

What active steps can Asian-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

Posting a black square is not the same as active allyship. Being engaged is ongoing heart/hard work and I’m calling out members of the Asian-American and larger Asian communities who have only done performative work or worse: stood by in silence because they don’t think this movement applies to them. I think the best thing Asian-allied travelers can do right now to decolonize travel is to 

  1. Educate themselves on their misgivings about the Black community and

  2. Become potential travelers to Black-majority countries. It’s a generalization, but a lot of Asian travelers place an emphasis on visiting Western nations and regions, like the USA or Europe. Their unfamiliarity with destinations in Africa or in the Caribbean is a direct result of Anti-Black sentiments that are prevalent in Asian cultures. 

But as the BLM movement is breaking down barriers and forcing us to look inwards, Asians are opening up more and more. I am currently putting together a travel reading list about stories set in African and Caribbean countries, written by Black authors so that Asian travelers can correct their assumptions about traveling to African and Caribbean nations.

As important as it is to educate ourselves on the history of a Black person’s trauma, it’s my personal belief that I can better move the needle of understanding and empathy by also highlighting Black excellence. 

The Perspective of Indigenous-Allied Travelers

When I think of the most underrepresented voice in the travel industry, the indigenous population comes to mind. Did you know that there are nearly 500 million Indigenous peoples worldwide and nearly 7 million Indigenous people (2%) in the United States with 573 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and villages.-- many of who are undercounted? Yet, there are no stats (at least that I can find) about Indigenous travelers. Instead, there is article after article discussing non-Native Americans “experiencing” Native culture or “Indian communities are among the most popular tourist attractions” rather than Indigenous people being on the forefront as the traveler. I find that completely disheartening. When creating this post, I wanted to make sure that their voices were especially heard. I will admit, I had not known of any indigenous travelers, but thanks to Instagram, I am also diversifying my own feed by following and engaging with some Indigenous travelers as well. Here are the opinions from three of those travelers and their role in decolonizing travel and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Jordan from @nativein_la

Connect with Jordan: Instagram

Jordan identifies as Kul Wičasa Lakota, citizen of Kul Wičasa Oyaté, also known as the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe as it's federally known.

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

Decolonizing travel, for me, means to be independent and self-sufficient. It means to be disconnected from modern-day colonization and tuning in with yourself, your surroundings and actively doing the work and understanding to know the Indigenous lands and places of where you travel and its history. It’s about making travel accessible for everyone. Being able to travel for many is a privilege. It’s about ensuring the safety of those traveling too. 

What are you currently doing as an Indigenous-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

I’m doing my part as an Indigenous woman to continue my education. I don’t know all the answers nor can I assume I know. I’m learning from Black folx, listening to them, reading what they have to say and actively uplifting them.

As an Indigenous woman and relative, I’ve been able to see that the struggles and injustices Indigenous communities have experienced and do experience intersects with the Black communities. Our injustices and why we fight, are rooted in white supremacy, oppression, and systemic racism.

So for me, to travel is to advocate and be inclusive of our Black relatives. It’s the sharing of knowledge between our communities to have a better understanding. It’s about ensuring the safety of our relatives, especially when we travel.

What active steps can other Indigenous-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

See my response to question 1. Decolonizing travel and the steps one can take involves finding the true history when traveling - not the glorified and inaccurate creation of the United States or whatever country you are traveling in. It’s about the community. It’s meeting other folx. It’s learning from them. Not just the typical picture with monuments or visits to museums that often do not include the truth.


Nicholet from @redstreakgirl

Connect with Nicholet: Instagram | FacebookBlog | YouTube | Pinterest | Twitter

Nicholet identifies as American Indian: Standing Rock Sioux & Navajo (Diné)

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

Decolonization can have a trendy kind of feel to it. People can decolonize their diets, fashion, and travel. However, decolonization should not be viewed as a trend that is “in” one day and then “out” the next or limited to one interest in life.

Rather, decolonization is a process and should be a commitment to becoming aware of the power issues that came from the colonization of Indigenous peoples and then challenging those colonial structures.

In this way, decolonizing travel then means to become aware of how travel was and still is used to colonize as well as oppress Indigenous peoples and then taking actions to challenge those travel practices in order to help transform those practices and liberate Indigenous peoples. 

When thinking of colonization, most immediately think of the historical exploration that has come at the expense of Indigenous peoples whose homelands and cultures were stolen as well as African peoples who were stolen and forced into slavery. Travel and exploration were acts of colonization because these are practices that colonizers and settlers exerted their power to in order to consume the land, people, and labor for profit. While traveling is not necessarily seen today as an act of claiming a continent for themselves (or for their country) in the way that we think of historical colonizers (like Columbus), those colonial structures still exist in the form of capitalism. In today’s colonial and capitalist system, travel is about power, a financial power that affords certain people the ability to visit other places, in which the traveler’s needs are met and accommodated in exchange for money. 

For me, decolonizing travel would mean that our Indigenous peoples, cultures, and communities would not be exploited to tourist industries and that Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods would not be dependent on tourism. Decolonizing travel would also mean that Indigenous allies support advocacy efforts to give the land back to Indigenous peoples.

What are you currently doing as an Indigenous- allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

Decolonization is an active pursuit to resist oppression and to challenge it – the Black Lives Matter movement is doing just that within many areas of life, including travel.

Part of my decolonizing journey to become a more socially conscious traveler who challenges the status quo within the travel industry includes supporting Black people in their efforts to stop the exploitation of and racism and violence against Black people. This includes supporting efforts to hold companies accountable to their claims in order to increase the representation of Black people in executive decision-making roles and marketing content (see Sharon Chuter’s Pull Up or Shut Up!), as well as supporting calls for Black people to be paid for their physical and mental labor in order to create content and share their knowledge (see Influencer Pay Gap and Open Fohr). Being an ally also involves supporting Black travelers (see Annette Richmond, creator of Fat Girls Traveling) so they can create and strengthen their own travel industry (see Jessica Nabongo of Catch Me If You Can and her boutique luxury travel firm Jet Black) – one that doesn’t rely on an industry that excludes Black people. 

What active steps can other Indigenous allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

Decolonization is not just a mindset, it is also action-based. There are beginning discussions travelers can engage in to shift their attitudes about traveling and to check their travel privilege. These beginning discussions should lead to individuals reevaluating and changing their travel practices.

Some of these questions include asking why one is traveling and what they are taking from others that make it possible for them to have that travel experience. This is especially so when traveling to Indigenous communities as in some cases those communities are often structured in ways that make them reliant on tourism and create a never-ending loop where Indigenous peoples are exploited for someone’s travel experience. For example, in the current COVID-19 pandemic, some American Indian Tribes are closed to tourism and visitors. Since March 19th, 2020, the Navajo Nation has implemented various evening curfews and weekend lockdowns, mandating residents to stay home and all businesses to close. However, despite the Navajo Nation’s mandates, tourists are still making their way to the Navajo Nation’s tribal parks such as Monument Valley Park, Antelope Canyon, and Canyon de Chelly, to name a few. During the pandemic, travelers should avoid traveling to and through Indigenous communities that are closed as these communities are dealing with pain and suffering from the impact of COVID-19. Plus, in the case of the Navajo Nation, the Navajo people themselves are required to be home and not on the road. Therefore, why should outsiders be given leeway to travel through the lands when Navajo people can’t?

Other internal work includes changing the language used in the travel industry. For example words and phrases such as exploring and discovering something new-to-you-but-not-new-to-Indigenous-peoples, heading to the Wild West, and even counting the number of countries visited.

Explorers and discoverers search for new places and things with the assumption that the place or thing has never been found or known about by others. Rather than describe travel as exploring or discovering, try to describe travel as an adventure or a visit.

Calling the southwest of the United States as the Wild West is a phrase of colonization that was used because the government and settlers in the lands in the west were open for the taking and were under the impression that Indigenous peoples in the West were wild and savages – a damaging stereotype that still exists today. 

When traveling, take efforts to learn about the Indigenous peoples whose land you’re visiting and make an effort to support the economy of locals outside of chain hotels and tourist attractions. Recognize that as non-residents and non-Tribal members that there are sacred places, objects, and acts that are just not for you as well as understand that if you are asked to leave, to avert your gaze, or to not take photos and videos if requested, please abide. If possible, support artisans by buying direct and don’t haggle pricing as buying directly immediately supports individuals and their families. 

Decolonizing travel is a continuous and ongoing commitment. The actions I shared are just a start. While there are so many ways for people to decolonize their travel, it’s important to keep in mind that decolonizing travel means uncentering one’s attitudes and beliefs in order to center those of the Indigenous peoples.


Monika from @wherethewildcrowfootsare

Connect with Monika: Instagram

Monika identifies as Navajo (Diné), Blackfoot, Oneida, Akwesasne & Armenian

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

When I was 15, my dad took our family on a road trip. We traveled up through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, stopping off in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. My dad talked to us about the Native tribes who once lived there and roamed free. We continued traveling east until we came to The Dakotas. 

We stopped off at a Pow Wow, witnessing the traditional dancers and internalizing the beat of the drum. Dad stopped the car when we reached the Rosebud Sioux Reservation. I remember when he got out of the car, took his glasses off to wipe his eyes and told us the story of the tribes of Lakota and the Battle of Greasy Grass that happened in the Montana territories in which the Lakota were massacred. Many men, women, and children of the Lakota had died.

We traveled further to the Black Hills where Mount Rushmore stood. Again, he told us the stories of the Lakota and how the Fort Laramie Treaty, which gave the Black Hills to the Sioux tribe, had been broken. The United States took back the Black Hills and hired a sculptor to deface the hills with former Presidents and Leaders who tried to extinguish the Native Americans. 

Now that I have my own family, this memory has been branded upon my mind. Wherever we travel, we research the history of the land.

Decolonizing travel means we dig further than the retellings of whitewashed history. We find neutral stories that tell both sides as well as give voice to Indigenous history tellers and light to indigenous plights. 

The typical travel guide is not going to tell you who the land belonged to before mass genocide. Instead, it will glorify colonizers and send you to streets and mountains named after the murderers, the conquerors, thieves, slaveholders, and general white establishment.

What are you currently doing as an Indigenous- allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

As an Indigenous Black Lives Matter ally, I see how our struggles are intertwined with our brothers and sisters. I see the bloodshed and oppression that our black family has had to endure. When my family and I travel, we keep this at the forefront of our minds in order to educate our children, to wipe out negative stereotypes, whitewashing, and colonizer glorification. We are proactive in our research on travel destinations because the typical travel guide will not tell you the real history. They will not point you to the Black, Indigenous, and POC owned establishments!

What active steps can other Indigenous-allied travelers take to decolonize travel? 

We must do the work, and the more vocal we are about the work and research we do, the more other travelers become aware and follow our lead.   


The Perspectives of White-Allied Travelers

When you Google travel, a sea of white men come (and some white women as well, but not as much). This reflects the perception that travelers are equated to a white male, reinforcing the privilege they generally have in society. Ironically, I could not find any stats regarding white American travelers. I found that to be QUITE interesting. 

I asked three white females their thoughts because 1) they are underrepresented compared to white men in the travel industry and more importantly, 2) these three females are amazing representations of what TRUE allyship looks like in the Black Lives Matter movement.

Cassandra from @escapingny

Connect with Cassandra: Instagram | FacebookBlog  | TwitterPinterest

Cassandra identifies as white AF :-)

What does the phrase “decolonize travel” mean to you?

Honestly, this is not a phrase that I've heard much about until recently and it's not a phrase that I've ever used myself, so I'm hesitant to define it in my own terms. From what I understand, the phrase centers around challenging a white-centered travel culture that reinforces colonial oppression, both in terms of the narratives that are told about black and brown people in destinations we visit (and how they're represented - or not represented as the face of that destination) and in terms of who benefits from travel dollars (from guides, hotel staff, and street vendors to everyday local people living in the tourist destination).

What are you currently doing as a white-allied traveler to actively engage in the Black Lives Matter movement towards decolonizing travel? 

My first step was getting out in the streets and attending regular BLM protests in New York City, where I continue to attend protests. I documented the protests on my social media and basically turned my travel feed into a full-time protest and BLM feed that shared information about peaceful protests, the reality that Black people face every day, and information from experts on how we white people can begin to educate ourselves and support our Black brothers and sisters.

I noticed that I was losing a lot of followers and receiving comments and messages to stop using my travel page as a political platform and to stick to travel content. While I disagree that this is a "political" issue, it's a basic human rights issue that shouldn't be politicized. However, I decided to scale back my protest/BLM content to balance it out with more travel content. This was a strategic decision to maintain the attention of people who were on the verge of deleting me. While I don't personally care if I lose a follower, it concerns me that I may be the only page they follow that's lifting up the voices of Black/brown people and if they delete me, they may no longer receive the sort of content that I think is crucial for white people to see.

Next, I wrote a blog post on my website about How and Why White People Can Do Better. I stuffed it with resources and quotes by actual experts, and had several close Black friends of mine review it in order to ensure that I wasn't unknowingly portraying the situation and making suggestions that may do harm. I then began promoting the post in my travel newsletter and across my social media. So far, I've gotten a good response from followers and previous group tour clients who have said that they've shared the post with their own friends and family as well as used it as a starting point to have difficult conversations. As I say in the post, I'm not a leading authority on dismantling racism, but I do believe that the post is a useful resource that is structured in a very non-confrontational way. Therefore, your racist uncle that doesn't know he's racist might consider. I worried that if I came out swinging like "All white people are racist even if you don't know it" (which I believe to be true), then the message would be shut down immediately by the people who need to hear it the most.

Due to COVID-19, my international group tour business is on hold, so I can't talk about how I'm making changes to it currently. However, I can tell you about the steps I've taken in the past to lift up the voices of not only Black and brown people but also the voices of the underrepresented. I lead small group tours in Mexico, Cuba, and Jordan, and in every case, I hire local guides who are experts in their field as well as pay them fairly. All of the guides are people of color (unsurprising given the countries I operate in), but I specifically try to get as many female guides as possible. I also incorporate guides who are not traditional guides and who do not typically have access to tourist dollars (such as a documentary filmmaker friend of mine in Havana). Doing so not only funnels money into the pockets of people who normally wouldn't have access to tourist money, but it also means that the guides are willing to speak more freely about the country, it's history, and it's people - something that official state tourist guides may be hesitant to do. In all of my tours, guides talk about Indigenous people, nomadic groups, and other marginalized groups. We often visit these communities to hear firsthand from the people, and I encourage my tour participants to spend their money there. I've also shifted the overnight accommodations and cooking class experiences to areas that are in most need of tourist dollars.

Finally, I've always strongly encouraged my clients to tip well and I provide guidelines on how much to tip. Even though Americans are accustomed to tipping in the US, many feel that they don't need to tip in other countries. I've noticed many of my clients (who tend to be fairly open-minded and thoughtful) tip very well. However, I've also noticed a few very well-off stingy people who could afford to tip well but don't. In these cases, I leave a larger tip myself. As such, I'm considering incorporating tipping into the trip package price to ensure that everyone is properly tipped.

What active steps can white-allied travelers take to decolonize travel?

Spending as much money as possible in the actual destination is so important. Spend your money with small businesses and give it directly to the people doing the work. I realize that I'm a white American running a tour company that operates in Black and brown countries. Therefore, it may seem counterintuitive to advise people to spend their money directly in the destination. Of course, I want people to book my tours and I do my best to funnel as much money as possible to the people who need it the most (my guides, the cooks, the cleaning staff, the drivers, etc.). However, not every company does this. If you travel with a responsible tour operator, your money will go into the right hands, but often it doesn't, and you may be better off going on your own. That said, if you book an Airbnb that's run by a local wealthy person that manages 10 other high-end homes and then eat in all "Instagrammable" restaurants catering to tourists, then your money isn't going to the people that need it the most.

Staying in small, independently-run B&Bs (as opposed to big hotels) and eating in independently-run restaurants or street food stalls funnels money into the right hands. While some people promote AirBnB as a good option for this, I generally avoid the platform because so many of the homes are owned by very well-off local people (or even by wealthy foreigners using the property as an investment), and so much of the money is kept by AirBnB. On my tours, I stay in small, independently run hotels or book homestays and B&Bs directly with the homeowner so that they keep all the profits.

Consider how you're representing the country you visit in your social media feed. If you're posting images of poor children and dilapidated housing, you're contributing to a negative stereotype that misrepresents the country and ignores its rich history and accomplishments. Don't do that. Also, NEVER take pictures of people without their permission. Doing so asserts an act of power, where you, the wealthy traveler, feels entitled to photograph a person as though they were an inanimate object or the source of your entertainment.

ALL races do this, not just white people. However, I find it particularly problematic when wealthy white travelers photograph poor Black people because it feeds into our history of oppression. Educate yourself about the history of wherever you visit, whether by hiring local guides or doing your own independent research. Don't just visit a beach and shop in the market! Share important cultural information in any information you post online to provide a richer narrative.