Traveling with Afro: Tips, Tricks , and Avoiding Awkward Moments

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.

The Afro

The Afro

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!

 

 

 

 

Top-Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Travel Moments

In an attempt to become a more active blogger, I’ve started a new series . Every Tuesday, I’ll be posting a top-ten list about something related to the travel/expat world.

I was looking through old travel photos and they brought back many memories and untold stories . I’ve decided to share.

                                                                        1. Granada , Spain 

An interesting statue in the gardens of the Alhambra. ( Granada, Spain)

An interesting statue in the gardens of the Alhambra. ( Granada, Spain)

                                                                                2. Orlando, Florida 

Just after feeding the gators.( Orlando, FL)

Just after feeding the gators.( Orlando, FL)

                                                                3. London, England

Snapping street signs to find our way back once we realized we were getting  lost.

Snapping street signs to find our way back once we realized we were getting lost. ( London, England)

                                                            4. Seoul, South Korea

Performers relaxing before a flag ceremony. (Seoul, South Korea)

Performers relaxing before a flag ceremony.
(Seoul, South Korea)

                                                         5. Dover , DE

Stumbled upon this thing at the Firefly Music Festival. (Dover, DE)

Stumbled upon this thing at the Firefly Music Festival. (Dover, DE)

                                                                                       6. London, England

One of many failed selfies with my bff and travel buddy. (London, England)

One of many failed selfies with my bff and travel buddy. (London, England)

                  7. Toledo , Spain

This breathtaking view on a tour bus in Toledo , Spain

This breathtaking view on a tour bus in Toledo , Spain

                                                                                       8. Morocco, Africa

Watching a rug "show" in Morocco. Before taking this , the shopkeeper pointed to me said I looked like I knew Arabic. He tried several times to start a convo with me in Arabic and seemed very annoyed when I couldn't respond.  (Morocco, Africa)

Watching a rug “show” in Morocco. Before taking this , the shopkeeper pointed to me said I looked like I knew Arabic. He tried several times to start a convo with me in Arabic and seemed very annoyed when I couldn’t respond.
(Morocco, Africa)

                                                                                     9. Beijing, China

Found this fun little guy at the Beijing Zoo.

Found this fun little guy at the Beijing Zoo.

                                                                                      10. Beijing, China

A children's camp followed us around the Forbidden City before finally asking for a picture. You can just make me out in the back.

A children’s camp followed us around the Forbidden City before finally asking for a picture. You can just make me out in the back.

 

I would love for this an interactive type of tag so I tag EVERY READER to contribute their own travel moment photos or a top-ten list.

Spanish Memories : Finding Cinderella in Segvoia

Segovia Alcazar

Looking through my photos , I realize that there were a lot of outings from Spain I forgot to share.  With assistance from said photographs, my memories, a journal,  and Google, I’m going to attempt to relive those outings with … Continue reading

Bullfighting in Granada,Spain

When people talk about Granada they usually mention the tapa bars and the famous Alhambra. At least, those were the aspects I heard about the most before actually arriving in Granada. So imagine my surprise when , during the first … Continue reading

Likes & Dislikes of Granada, Spain

 Likes

1) Me? Interesting?

 For the first time in my life, I was different in a good way. Because I was so obviously different from everyone else, the Spanish people and other exchange students from places like Korea, Switzerland, and Ghana were automatically interested in my life back home. They wanted to practice English, know more about American culture, and if the television descriptions were accurate. ( Most of the time they weren’t but on average , foreigners know a lot more about American culture than vice versa). I can think of two separate occasions when, after telling someone my family was from Philadelphia, they started singing the theme song from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

2) Tapa Culture

Nothing will ever compare to trying plate after plate of new dishes with a glass of genuine Sangria. Another fun fact: Granada is one of the last cities in Spain that still honors the age-old tradition of free Tapas with every drink.

3)  “Hola, Guapa!”

Who wouldn’t like being called good-looking at every greeting?

4) Not Very Similar, Not too Different

Granada ran on a different language, schedule, and culture than I was used to but there was a large population of English speakers. That came in handy when I missed the language or was in serious need of directions. Also, being able to walk everywhere reminded me of NYC.

5) Food

I talked about this in my last post but my Señora really knew how to cook! Everything (except for the pea soup) was delicious. Also, the fruit and vegetables more fresher than anything I’ve ever tasted in the U.S.  I miss biting into tomatoes like apples.

Dislikes

1) The Stares

Being obviously different meant I never exactly blended in.  While it served as a great icebreaker most of the time, there were other times with my differences got me nothing but stares. The worst was when people would actually stop in their tracks to watch me walk down the street or when looks were clearly unfriendly.

2) Lack of Personal Space

Spaniards are a bit more touchy-feely than people are in The States. Strangers are greeted with hugs and kisses on both checks. I didn’t mind that aspect. What I did have a problem with was the lack of proper lines and how you had to be pretty much knocked down on your back before the guilty person would say “Perdona”. For example, I was once shopping in a store when another shopper hooked a wire hanger through my belt loop because she was trying to get to a rack without asking or waiting for me to move.

3) Food

The majority of it was delicious but I was served things that would make most, especially someone who had just given up vegetarianism, a little queasy. Think raw meat and virtually every, and I do mean every, part of a bull.  

 

As you all can see, the likes far outweigh the little annoyances and I would return in a half a heartbeat.