Black Women Who Travel: Shaniece & Ariel

To kick off my first week of solely featuring Black voices on my blog this month, I want to introduce two of my best friends: Shaniece & Ariel. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen my shoutouts to them a couple of times already. And if you don’t, hit that “FOLLOW” button ASAP! 😄

Ariel, Shaniece, and I met back in 2016 as English teachers in South Korea. Over the last four years, we’ve traveled to multiple countries together: Palawan, Philippines – September 2017; Bali, Indonesia – February 2019 (+ my sister + other friends); Guam, USA – January 2020.

While traveling, we’ve been treated differently or have had to take certain precautions because 1) we are women and 2) we are traveling while Brown/Black. Though similar in some ways, my experience as a Filipina differs from theirs as Black women so I asked if they could speak on it for this week’s post.

We’ve got some words from Shaniece who took the time to answer some questions I prompted and for all you visual people out there, I’m sharing some of my favorite vlogs from Ariel’s YouTube. So without further delay, let’s hear it from my Best Travel Buddies! **Shhh, don’t tell my travel-loving boyfriend I said that! 😜**

Shaniece is a fellow #WestCoastBestCoast-er hailing from Washington. She doesn’t like sweets but give her bags upon bags of Flamin’ Hot Limon Cheetos and her eyes and smile will light up like sunshine on a rainy day. She’s the friend that will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. And she’ll do it while empathizing with you and always finding just the right words to say to encourage and uplift you. She’s magical like that. She’s also the queen of freestyling about anything when Ariel provides a beat. Like I said on Instagram before, Shaniece is my future childrens’ favorite “Bougie Traveling Auntie.” She’s out here trynna catch flights all over the world, not feelings!

Aside from the trips above, I’ve also met up with Shaniece in Tokyo, Japan – September 2018  when our trips overlapped. Here’s what she has to say about traveling.

I’m a 30 year old Black woman teaching English in South Korea. My first time ever leaving my home country was to move my life abroad. I’ve been in Korea for almost four years and plan to stay one more. Living in Korea has not only given me the opportunity to meet people from all around the world, but also travel it. I’ve traveled to 11 different countries since I’ve lived in Korea and I don’t plan on stopping.

– Shaniece K.

What is your favorite country you’ve traveled to?

Oh man, that’s a hard one. I’ve had a great time during all of my travels. But if I had to narrow it down, I would have to pick a solo trip and a group trip. My favorite group trip was definitely when you, me, and Ariel all went to the Philippines for Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). It was our first vacation together and we were visiting your motherland! From the moment we got there, I fell in love. It was just so beautiful and the locals were so kind. I didn’t feel ‘othered’ or that my presence was unwanted. Being there felt welcoming, like a home away from home. The food was great, the beaches were unreal and I got to spend it with my girls. I couldn’t have asked for a better group trip.

My favorite solo trip was definitely when I went to Vietnam. I fell in love with both the bustling energy of Hanoi and the relaxing energy of Ha Long Bay. The food was cheap and magnificent and the beer was plentiful. I met so many wonderful people on this trip, both locals and fellow travelers. The beautiful landmarks, water and light shows. I had the best experience traveling alone here. 10 out of 10 would recommend!

Which country is next on your list?

The next country I plan to travel to is Italy. My buddy is in the Air Force out there so I’m going to visit him once we can travel again. Europe was never actually on my travel list to be honest. But since I have a friend out there, I’ve got to go pay him a visit. See how he’s living and enjoy a place I’ve never been before. I mean, I also never planned to travel all over Asia either, but here I am and I have not one regret.

What brings you joy and happiness in traveling?

Planning it. As time consuming and tedious planning a trip to another country is–especially when you don’t speak their native language, I enjoy it. It brings me so much pleasure to be able to plan every detail of my trip from the comfort of my computer and then actually experience it weeks later. Having all my hard work pay off by seeing my plans come to life is the best feeling while traveling.

Also navigating new places. When I was younger my biggest fear was getting lost. I was always scared to go to new places for fear of losing my way. But now, I embrace it. It’s a part of traveling, being lost. And although being lost has led me to some great places while abroad, I also learn how to navigate in each new country I visit. I research their public transportation systems and ride passes to map out where I need to go, how I need to get there and how much it will cost me. It feels so good to travel to a new place and not feel overwhelmed trying to get places because I’ve already mapped it out. 

Lastly, getting to see how other people live. In America I think we only know what we see to be true. We automatically assume that people around the world are living and functioning exactly like us. But that’s not ture. So to see societies live their lives a different way than me is dope. It’s like you’re witnessing something you would have never seen had you not had the privilege to travel. And I love that I get to experience different ways of living and see that my way isn’t the only or best way.

What is a favorite travel memory you have?

Wow, I changed my mind about the first question being the hardest. This one took me so long to narrow down! I have so many travel stories but I think the time I traveled to Taiwan was the best. I visited Taipei city and stayed at a dope guesthouse that had a bar in it. I went down to grab a drink and didn’t see a bartender there, only a local reading a book. I asked him if he worked there and he replied “Of course, I’m behind the bar right?” so I replied “Well, how am I supposed to know? You don’t look like you’re serving drinks.” To which he replied with a smile, “Well I am, what can I get you?” After that we started talking and drinking together. Other guests started to come into the bar area and we all got to know one another. After the bar closed, we all went to the roof top and drank some more. I met so many wonderful people that night, including another local who was a woman. Turns out both locals knew each other and they asked me what my plans were the following day. The next day was supposed to be a beach day for me so when I showed them what beach I was going to they told me to scratch that idea as it was way too touristy. And that tomorrow they would take me to a much better beach, and they did. The beach was one of the most beautiful places I had ever been! They hung out with me that entire day and took me around to all the wonderful sights and introduced me to great food. We had traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup & a crazy but delicious ice cream burrito that had cilantro and peanuts in it. It felt so great to go to a country by myself and meet good people. Ones who knew the area well and helped me experience the REAL Taipei. That trip was back in 2018 and I’m still friends with those two people till this day! 

Is there something you want to tell fellow Black people about traveling?

Stop thinking only White people travel! I’ve met so many other Black travelers during my adventures. We. Are. Out. Here. Too. And stop being so afraid. It has taken me almost 4 years to convince my own mother to come visit me in Asia. I understand traveling to other countries is relatively new to us, but we have to stop being so scared of the unknown. I promise you it’s worth it, and once you do it you’re going to be mad at yourself for not doing it sooner. The world is a lot bigger than just your neighborhood. Shoot, up until recently, I was the only one in my immediate family who even had a passport. Get out there and travel! It will do the mind and body some good to get away from the states sometimes. 

Also, don’t listen to people who tell you not to travel because people in other countries don’t like Black people. I mean have you been to America? We’re literally in a race war right now trying to stay alive in our own country. Now I won’t say that white supremacy hasn’t reached other countries, but I promise you it’s not as bad as it already is in America. And at least when you’re disliked in other countries (which is rare) it’s because you’re a foreigner. So white people are included in the hate as well, it’s not just because you are Black.

If there’s something you can tell non-Black people to do/not do or to know when it comes to you traveling as a Black person, what would it be?

I would say not to just assume you know where I am from based on my looks. It’s happened on a number of occasions, people assuming I’m from Africa. Don’t be afraid and just ask me. I know when traveling, people are from all over so I won’t take offense to you wondering. I just prefer you to ask me over just guessing and guessing wrong. 

And also, please let’s not talk about politics or racial matters. I’m on vacation, I don’t want to discuss how shitty you think America is or listen to you compare race issues in your country to mine. I came here to relax not to have these conversations with random people I may never see again. It’s exhausting. 

Since we can’t really travel currently, what’s one thing you’re doing to take care of yourself right now?

Keeping my health up. Summer may be cancelled but I’m pulling up with a summer body regardless. SOMEBODY GOTTA SEE ME! I want to come out on top after quarantine is over and we can all go out again. So I’m working really hard not to eat and drink myself into another pants size. Cutting out alcohol, exercising and eating right daily. It’s the best thing I can do because not only is it taking care of my physical health, but my mental health as well. So until I can hop on another plane, my health is my main priority.

According to her Instagram bio, Ariel is Lvl 29. Crybaby. Hotmess. I say she is: Lvl 29 with a childlike (NOT childish) heart which makes her hella fun. Has a tender heart because I’ve seen more tears of joy and happiness than anger and sadness. A unicorn because a friendship like hers is rare. She’s the friend that will always support you in anything and everything. She cares deeply and loves fiercely. Call her up to go get ice cream and she’ll always say yes (even when she’s trying to eat healthy) cus she’s always down for dessert. Solo trips and travel planning aren’t her thing, but ask her to come with you or on a girls’ trip and she’s in!

Ariel and I have also gone to Bangkok/Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand – September 2016 (+ other friends); Manila/Baguio/Cebu, Philippines – July 2018; and Singapore – January 2020 together. Luckily for you, she’s caught all of us on camera as our most authentic selves to document some of our favorite memories together.

Here’s a playlist of videos from her YouTube channel that you should check out! Don’t forget to hit that “SUBSCRIBE” button.

MY #1 FAVORITE VIDEO of us 3 traveling TOGETHER – Philippines 2017:

A few things about this video:

  1. This was before the days of her current camera, which a bunch of us gifted to her as a surprise for her birthday. (You can see that vlog and an example of those tears of joy she cries here.)
  2. Listen to how they talk about me behind my back (LITERALLY as I walk in front of them) in the first minute of the video. *insert eyeroll here* LOL I love ‘em though!
  3. Sometimes Ariel puts the camera down at the most crucial moments, thus leading to the need for reenactments. 10/10 would recommend you hire her for this!
  4. Don’t EVER ask Shaniece if she wants a club sandwich. Like EVER.

Canyoneering In Cebu – Philippines 2018

Another reason I love Ariel? She’ll face her fears, just like she did in this video. She HATES the feeling of dropping, but was down to go canyoneering! 3:01 – “Follow the pwet…” means “Follow the booty…” hahah.

Hot Springs, Temples, and mOnkeys – Bali, 2019

Watch us as we bask in some natural hot springs, Shaniece gets asked to take pictures like she’s a celebrity, and we feed some monkeys on the side of the road.

Our last girl’s trip – Guam, 2020

….for now at least. Catch us traveling just when Miss ‘Rona started. We didn’t do anything super special the first day of this trip, but catch us in our most natural states – eating (we STAY eating & snacking), beachin’, and chillin’!

OKAAAAAY, now I’m crying happy tears from appreciation of having these two beautiful babes in my life and reminiscing on some of my fondest memories. But before I go – you know the drill… if you or anyone else wants to share a travel tale, leave a comment below or send me a DM!

Til next time and with wanderlust,

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