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Traveling As An African American Female With An Autoimmune Disease

As someone living with a chronic condition, you can say my life has been more than a little complicated. – Being an African American female adds to the stress quite a bit. A few months ago Brooke Abbott and I were featured on the About IBD podcast (hosted by Amber Tresca), speaking on Minority Health and how being black has impacted our healthcare over the years. I absolutely loved the topic.

At times I find it difficult to properly articulate how I’m feeling. – Especially when it comes to issues in the African American community. It seems like when we talk about issues pertaining to race we’re viewed as a threat. – Even if you’re not addressing a particular race. Even if you’re simply identifying the difficulties of being a minority there’s always someone around to hush the conversation or minimize the problem. As if focusing on my blackness is some sort of crime. With every movement created there’s always some sort of backlash. You can’t say the words “black lives matter” without the swift  response of “ALL LIVES MATTER.” – As if me saying that my life matters (too) is a threat to anyone else’s. – But I digress.

TRAVELING AS AN AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE WITH AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

I say that to say this, me talking about things and issues I face as an African American female is not to belittle the issues people of other races may face. It’s not to say I have it harder than anyone else. It’s simply shedding light on what it’s like to live as a small, African American women.

Traveling internationally for the first time was huge for me. I don’t love leaving my comfort zone and for me that is a small home in Charlotte! Let’s be honest, the world is just messy right now. Unfortunately, I can’t fully blame that on other countries. – BUT being someone who has never left America, I wasn’t sure how I’d be seen. The media portrays black people as ghetto. – Not everything, but a lot of things. They make it seem as though we’re all undereducated or criminals. If my own country views me a certain way… If my own country discriminates against me… If my own country belittles my issues… If my own country justifies crimes and wrongdoings to my people, how can I expect the world to treat me any differently? After all, these are supposed to be my people! You can say I was a little worried.

TRAVELING AS AN AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE WITH AN AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE

It’s Always in the Back of Your Head…

On the plane my friend and I sat with a kind English women. When we told her it would be our first time overseas she was ecstatic. She was so excited for us. We talked a bit but because the flight was semi-long (7 hours) and overnight, we all mostly slept. Being that I was visiting Europe, the culture shock wasn’t really there. Sure, a lot of people we bilingual, but they spoke English. I thought talking to Border Patrol would be intimidating, but to my surprise, it wasn’t. He was the kindest man. He saw I didn’t have any stamps in my passport so he said he’d make sure he “stamped it nicely.”

About an hour of being in the United Kingdom and I had no complaints. Everyone was so helpful and understanding. Even the local transportation people were nice! My friend and I talked to quite a few locals over the next few days. One great conversation we had was during dinner one night. In London they have this place called Mercato Metropolitano. The website says it’s a community market. Basically it’s this awesome outdoor area where music is playing and there’s sooo many street food options and drinks. They serve authentic food from everywhere you can think of! We did a video on it, you can check that out below:

We met some awesome people there. One guy was with his parents, he moved to the UK from Italy. The other guy was born in the area. We were talking about everything from tipping to social injustice. I even brought up how peaceful it seemed to be there, to which they agreed. We got into a little bit about America and politics, but you get it. There was no judgement. Not everyone will be your best friend when you travel. – This applies to anyone. – But so far I don’t have anything negative to say.

If you’re African American and you’re worried about traveling, maybe try starting somewhere like Europe. I thought it was a good idea because it’s not too much of a culture shock, the diversity in London was pretty amazing (we met people from all over Europe), and they’ve seen black people before which lessens the worry of people assuming you’re a criminal or taking your picture because you’re considered “rare.” – Unlike in some other countries. Don’t allow fear of the unknown to hold you back as it did for me for so long. There’s so much of the world to see. Travel. Meet people. Try things. You only get one life so you may as well live.

“Experience does for the soul what education does for the mind.” – Casey Neistat

Managing My Condition

Managing my condition was a pretty smooth process. I wasn’t gone for long and I brought extra meds just incase. Because I have a condition that largely affects my digestive system, I was a little worried about how my body would react to different foods. Surprisingly, I was fine. One tip of advice I would give whether you’re living with a condition like mine or not is to stay hydrated. I cannot tell you how many times I felt dehydrated or faint because of not drinking an adequate amount of water. When you travel it’s so easy to get caught up in the beauty of the place you’re visiting, but you can’t use that as an excuse not to care for yourself. Another thing that was also super helpful for me was keeping my medication close at all times. I didn’t actually need it more than a few times on the plane, but having it around made for a much smoother flight.

Thanks for reading and sticking around until the end! Tell me, have you ever faced any trouble while traveling? Was it because of your condition or something else? Let’s start a dialog! Leave your response in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Hi Shawntel,

    Just came across your post via Pinterest!

    Congratulations for travelling to the UK and accomplishing this big step despite health difficulties.

    I definitely understand that fear of being a young black woman in this world + suffering from chronic illness. Last October I went to Paris for the first time and hadn’t been away in over 10 years.

    A challenge… Yes
    Regrets… NOPE

    I wish you many spoons and hope you get to achieve much more goals and travel successfully in the future

    One Spoon At A Time

    Laura ❤
    @LauraSpoonie
    https://lauraspoonie.wordpress.com

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What They're Saying

"Shawn. I see what you're doing in the IBD community. You're doing phenomenal things! Prayers for your personal journey as well as I know it can't be easy."

Felicia Robertson, MD June 23 2017
2017-09-08T14:16:02-04:00
"Shawn. I see what you're doing in the IBD community. You're doing phenomenal things! Prayers for your personal journey as well as I know it can't be easy." Felicia Robertson, MD June 23 2017

"You're the best! So glad you joined (the Patient Advisory Council of ImproveCareNow) and I hope we can get to know eachother better! Looking at your blog girl it's amazing. You're a beautiful writer and fighter."

 

Natalie B, PAC ImproveCareNow, April 29 2017
2017-09-08T14:21:19-04:00
"You're the best! So glad you joined (the Patient Advisory Council of ImproveCareNow) and I hope we can get to know eachother better! Looking at your blog girl it's amazing. You're a beautiful writer and fighter."   Natalie B, PAC ImproveCareNow, April 29 2017

"Chronically Strong is an absolutely beautiful blog filled with information about Ulcerative Colitis, Chronic Bowel Disease and Mental Health just to name a few. (Shawntel) has excellent healthy eating tips as well as a focus on overall wellness and nutrition, and recipes."

Leanne, Blogger, Aug. 2 2017
2017-09-08T14:26:29-04:00
"Chronically Strong is an absolutely beautiful blog filled with information about Ulcerative Colitis, Chronic Bowel Disease and Mental Health just to name a few. (Shawntel) has excellent healthy eating tips as well as a focus on overall wellness and nutrition, and recipes." Leanne, Blogger, Aug. 2 2017

" I've never found you to be anything but inspiring. Your honesty is refreshing and I like when people keep it real. Makes me feel it's ok to be human."

 

Sara R, Sep. 12 2017
2017-09-12T22:05:16-04:00
" I've never found you to be anything but inspiring. Your honesty is refreshing and I like when people keep it real. Makes me feel it's ok to be human."   Sara R, Sep. 12 2017

Though mostly about IBD, this blog covers a wide array of issues.  Shawn covers complex issues, like how her identity as an African American intersects with her IBD.  I am taken aback by the depth of each post! Whether you’re a blogger or an IBDer, her posts are sure to offer tons of inspiration.

 

Collin, Jan. 9, 2019
2019-01-09T22:11:58-04:00
Though mostly about IBD, this blog covers a wide array of issues.  Shawn covers complex issues, like how her identity as an African American intersects with her IBD.  I am taken aback by the depth of each post! Whether you’re a blogger or an IBDer, her posts are sure to offer tons of inspiration.   Collin, Jan. 9, 2019