I’m happy to introduce one of the lovely ladies from Las Morenas de España, Danni is the Community + Content Director for a website that shares what the black experience is like in Spain. If you are interested in sharing your stories, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Explain the first opportunity you had to travel + any challenges you faced (familiar, socioeconomic, etc.) What propelled you to want to travel?
The first time I traveled (sans family) was when I was 18, and I took a trip to Quito, Ecuador with my University. I grew up speaking Spanish, and wanted an opportunity to practice the language in a different and exciting context! Ever since then, I’ve been hooked: I’ve traveled to over 15 countries, with a few repeats thrown in the mix, and the number continues to grow. My family is extremely supportive, and so is my partner. Living in a European hub like Madrid, I’m fortunate to have access to almost all of Western Europe.
What inspired you to start your travel blog?
I didn’t start Las Morenas de España, I came on shortly before the launch. I really felt drawn to the project and its message. When the site launched, I had already been living in Spain for over 4 years, and I felt that between Sienna’s vision and skills, and my experience and voice LMDES would soar! Here we are almost 1.5 years later, and constantly growing and pushing things to the next level! It’s wonderful!
Can you recall an instance/challenge you faced as a minority abroad? How did you react + how did it affect you?
In all honesty, I’ve had more positive moments than negative moments while traveling abroad. Germany was very friendly and open, Switzerland, Malta, Portugal, Ireland; they’re all lovely places! Italy, I experienced a few uncomfortable moments as a female solo traveler. I tried to keep in context that flirting is a very cultural practice, and obviously their ways were quite foreign to me. Spain has its moments of xenophobia, and my solution has been constant dialogue and changing perceptions through LMDES, and on a day-to-day level.
Can you describe a positive moment you had as a minority abroad?
My first solo trip I took in Europe was to Dublin, Ireland. I was nervous, and scared about traveling all by myself! It ended up being one of my most memorable trips because at 3 in the morning, I found myself sitting at a table with 3 people from Germany, 4 from France, 1 from the UK, 1 Italian and we were all sharing stories and laughing. Race– our differences– was the farthest thing from our minds. It reminded me of the beauty of travel, and how shared experiences have the power to transcend stereotypes, preconceived notions and bigotry. I wrote a great piece on my time in Nantes, France that goes into further details. Nantes for me was a home away from home as a minority traveler.
How has your perspective on the world changed as you’ve traveled more?
I’m so much more patient than I was before! I remind myself of two things: it’s all relative. Everything. And that if I wanted things to be done “like they do it back home” then I could’ve stayed at home! I realize after traveling as much, and as often as I do, that I’m a guest. I’m simply passing through. It’s not my place to judge, or compare one to another because every home, just like every country, is unique in its own right. My only job is to be inquisitive, respectful, present and interested. I would never have learned this important lesson if I didn’t travel.
As humans, we tend to connect with people who we identify with. What advice can you give to future travelers like yourself?
Growing up, my teachers told me that I didn’t need to learn the “vosotros” tense in Spanish because I’d never go to Spain. Well, here I am: a permanent resident of Spain! People are going to try and put limits on what you can do, or what they think you can do, because no one wants to look inward and feel disappointed with their own failures and shortcomings. Don’t let them. Misery loves company, and it’s much easier to tell someone else what they can’t do, than to do it yourself. Be the exception to the rule. It’s okay to stand out; to be different; to want, desire, and yearn for greater. I’m from the south side of Chicago, and if I had let others write my story, I would’ve never left the city because “my path has already been chosen for me” due to geography, socio-economic limitations, race, gender, etc. Wrong. You write your own story, and it’s not over until you say it is.
How can we encourage minorities to travel? Why do you believe it’s important to encourage minorities to travel?
Men and women of color are changing the face of travel everyday. We need to travel because if we continue to let others tell our story for us whether through media, television, or just plain ignorance, our truth will never be heard!
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Be encouraged. Be brave. And trust that little voice in your head that tells you it’s possible. Because it is!