This Black Lesbian travel agency wants to help you plan your next vacation! Keep reading to learn more.
Blue skies above rippling sand dunes in Abu Dhabi. A rainbow over a secluded cabin by the sea in the UK. A hillside covered in blindingly bright white and blue domes in Santorini.
Images like this pop up regularly on my Instagram feed, posted by the countless travelers who have made a full-time job out of going to picturesque destinations. My reaction is always the same: First comes the wanderlust (that place is so beautiful; I must go immediately,) then comes the uncertainty (can people like me go there?), then comes the Googling (“black travel Greece,” “solo woman travel Santorini,” “gay travel Abu Dhabi”).
As a Black queer woman, I have to keep track of so many -isms no matter where I am in the world. Before I buy a plane ticket, I need to determine whether a place is too racist, too misogynist, or too homophobic for me to go there comfortably. Anyone with a marginalized identity can likely relate; just traveling as a woman is scary enough.
But the other problem for Black queer women is the severe lack of travel information geared specifically toward us. As someone who spends a lot of time on the internet, I can tell you that it’s pretty rare to come across a travel blog or social media page run by a Black queer woman. Moreover, there are very few who make it a point to discuss how their identities impact their travels so the rest of us know what we’re getting ourselves into.
Imagine my excitement when I came across Wandering Soup, a Black lesbian travel blog founded by married couple Kat and Amber. The blog is full of a ton of firsthand stories from destinations like Barcelona, Spain; Athens, Greece; and Siem Reap, Cambodia, plus a huge collection of travel guides. They also provide plenty of Black queer travel inspo on their Instagram page, where they regularly feature Black lesbian travelers.
If that weren’t amazing enough, Kat and Amber also own a travel agency: Wandering Travel Tours.
Kat and Amber are currently reporting live from Southeast Asia. They left the U.S. to travel full-time with their son in June 2019, and they’ve since spent time in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, and now Malaysia again. “We said, ‘Heck, why not just country hop for a few months to each place and really experience living there vs doing a week or so?'” Kat tells GO. “And that’s currently what we are doing in 2020.”
The pair are now bona fide experts on Black and LGBTQ+ travel. They’ve made it their business to help other people plan their own vacations, from solo outings to group excursions.
Starting the travel agency was a natural extension of Kat and Amber’s own deep love of adventure. “It was almost an easy transition because I am a traveler who loves to experience and ‘taste’ life outside of my comfort zone,” Kat explains. Being Black and LGBTQ+ has definitely affected Kat and Amber’s travels, along with other factors, like being plus-size women.
“We probably think more than the average white hetero traveler when considering a destination, more aware of our surroundings and possible microaggressions,” Kat says. “Interestingly enough, we’ve received more wonder and stares than anything else, followed by questions that are really just wanting to talk more than anything. A few picture requests, here and there.”
They have had some negative experiences, though. They’ve been followed in stores (yep, just like in the U.S.). “We are looked at as possible thieves,” Kat says. She thinks that’s mainly due to “Western media influence,” because “there just aren’t enough of us here to even lead to that assumption.”
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The challenges of traveling while Black go beyond just discrimination.
“This seems like a small thing, but finding beauty products for Black folks and people who can style Black hair is not plentiful when you are moving around overseas,” Amber says. She adds that they’ve had to learn to decide what they can live without, as it’s impossible to bring everything with you. “We finally found Fenty in Malaysia, so I am super excited and on the lookout for my favorite lip colors.”
As Black lesbians themselves, Kat and Amber are uniquely qualified to help fellow Black and LGBTQ+ people explore the globe safely. They draw not only from professional research and training but also from their own experiences.
“I won’t sell you anything without offering advice and providing supporting information as to why I would or wouldn’t go there as a Black queer woman, not just as a woman or even as an American,” Kat explains. “I’ve had requests for, say, Dubai, and I’m like, ‘Sure, you can go, but be aware of XYZ?’ And after all that and a lengthy discussion, do you still want to make a trip there? If so let’s do it! And some other travel agencies may think ‘Great, a trip to Dubai. Sure, let’s get you booked.’”
So, what destinations do Kat and Amber recommend for Black queer travelers?
“If you are looking for places that have gay-friendly policies, then I would start with Iceland, Spain, Portugal, and Cambodia,” Kat says.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, she advises against certain countries. “Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, and yes, Jamaica top my list of no-gos.” If you do go to Jamaica, she recommends staying at the resorts.
But Kat also emphasizes that there’s no need to limit yourself too much out of fear. “Go anywhere that interests you and you feel that you will be safe. That’s broad, but the world is massive.” Some destinations may be less overtly Black- or queer-friendly, but that’s not necessarily a reason to avoid going altogether.
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What about money? Kat recommends planning your trip in stages rather than booking everything all at once. “I generally buy a ticket, and then purchase lodging a month or two later, then plan excursions,” Kat explains. “[This] saves a little in between purchases. This way I also see what I’m purchasing and manage myself better.”
If all of this feels too overwhelming — well, that’s what Wandering Travel Tours is there for. Kat and Amber can offer advice and support, plus they have access to money-saving deals that regular individual travelers don’t. (And if you’re wondering if you can afford to hire a travel agent, they assure us that they offer payment plans.)
Eventually, Kat says, you have to just take the leap, even if it means traveling solo.
“Go,” she says. “Buy that ticket and then make plans from that point on. Break it down in small digestible bites if you feel as if it’s too much. And the last bit of advice, which is the most important one, don’t wait for anyone to travel ‘with’ — just go. Solo travel will help you find [yourself] while you are exploring something new.”