My afro is my favorite part of my body and , no matter where I go, it always causes heads to turn. If I’m in certain places abroad, it’ll also cause a lot of unsolicited stares,questions, and even touching. And don’t even get me started on the trying to find the right products to keep the ‘fro presentable and healthy.
Luckily, I’ve developed an arsenal of tips and tricks to care for my hair and deal with the awkward moments abroad.
First , the tips:
Tip #5: If you can’t find it in the supermarket, pack it.
Many of my must-have hair products double as cooking ingredients. Because I know I’ll be able to find them in most markets I never worry about packing things like olive oil or mayonnaise for long trips.
Things that are a bit harder to find and always go in my luggage are Shea butter, castor oil, and shampoo and conditioner specifically made for my hair type.
Tip #4: Utilize travel size containers for short trips
If I’ll only be away for a short amount of time, I don’t worry about finding all of my usual products. I’ll pick out two or three that I can’t live without and squeeze them into a travel-sized container.
Tip #3: Wear Protective Styles
I always wear my hair in twists or braids because it’s easier to manage. Instead of waking up early every morning to detangle the inevitable night-time knots, moisturize, and style I just fluff out the twists, spray a bit of moisturizer, and I’m out the door.
Tip #2: Wear “flat”styles to avoid TSA searches
For whatever reason, the TSA is very unforgiving when it comes to puffy,big hair like mine. Even when I braided it or scooped into a bun , I was still ended up with a pair of gloves shifting through my curls. However, on my last trip through an airport, I pulled my twists into a low pony tail and then gathered all the loose hair into one braid. I went through security uninterrupted. I think the key to avoiding awkward hair pat downs is to style it in as flat a way as possible. Think french braids,corn rolls, etc.
And speaking of awkward hair moments…
I’ve definitely experienced a few.
*Near Cordoba,Spain I was encircled by a group of women who took turns tugging at my twists.
*In a checkout line in Korea, I handed the cashier money and she responded by reaching up and , again, pulling my hair. ( as a side note, why must everyone pull?)
*While waiting in line for the bathroom on a flight, I felt someone massaging my scalp from behind. I turned around and asked the tiny Asian woman doing the massaging to stop but she only gave me a thumbs up before continuing as soon as I turned back around.
When traveling , I’m so focused on experiencing different cultures and people that I forget that I’m just as new and interesting to others. This was probably the biggest shock for me when I moved to Asia;people would gasp, follow me, and pull their cars over to take pictures at red lights .It took me a while to realize that in certain places, people who look like me – with dark skin and kinky,big hair – aren’t an everyday sight.I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the staring but one thing I have become quite comfortable with is saying “No” when people touch my hair.
The first few times the hair-touching accidents happened, I was afraid to do more than walk away. I didn’t want to come off as the “Rude American” or “Angry Black Woman”. Then I realized that if I was going to do the solo travel thing, I would have to get used to protecting my property. And that includes my body, and by extension, the hair.
So my #1 tip to anyone traveling with afro is to never be afraid to say STOP or NO if someone if touching you without permission. It may only be hair but it’s still yours.
Have you had any awkward hair moments while traveling? Share them in the comments!