Travel is entirely rewarding. However, the most rewarding thing about traveling while black is meeting other black travelers who connect with you on such a deep, understanding level when it comes to yo’ natural hair. Girl, I know. These straight-haired girls can’t relate (sorry y’all, next time). While traveling through Europe and meeting people from all walks of life was quite the experience, I’ve always felt a little left out because I didn’t have anyone to connect with when it came to my natural coils. Sometimes, I’ll have a bad hair day and I just need someone to tell me, “Girl…what’s going on with yo’ head” instead of hearing blissful compliments like, “Your hair looks great,” after I say it’s not. Traveling through places without an ounce of black hair in sight can be taunting, and at times, I found myself alone…until I found a sista that lifted my spirits the minute we started conversing.
This month, I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with Travel Blogger, The Sojournies, about her natural hair maintenance, go-to products, condescending commentary, and advice. Read all about TheSojournies and how she rocks her natural hair in each country-of-choice:
How long were you natural for?
I’ve been wearing my hair “out” since 2013, but I have always been natural! Pigtails with barrettes, braids, all that. Growing up, my mom refused to let me get a relaxer. Instead, I got a wash, press, and curl every 2 weeks like clockwork haha. I also flat ironed my hair soooo much in middle and high school. Though I’ve been natural, I didn’t know about keeping my hair healthy before like I do now. I was obsessed, but I prefer natural over all the presses and sew-ins I’ve experienced. Hands down.
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If you think this was posed you are aaaaabsolutely right, so let’s talk travel and asking strangers to take your photo… 📷 Do it. It’s fun and gets you out your comfort zone. Also, it’s not as awkward as you think. And I pretty much had this cafe all to myself so it was easy to frame. In touristy places, look for someone with a camera or crouching to get a shot for their friend. They’re the real MVPs. I never even needed to use my tripod while traveling solo in Mexico! 📸 Just remember you should always buy something to support the business you’re using as a backdrop. Exhibit A: this fresh mango smoothie that was everything I needed on a hot day. I didn’t go here with the intention of this photo, but it was such a cute cafe I couldn’t resist
What are some challenges you’ve faced with your natural hair while traveling?
I think maintaining my fro long-term, without protective styling, was really hard abroad. There are so many elements you face going from country-to-country, or even hostel-hopping and sleeping on public transportation. Your hair can go through it all! I have 4C hair that shrinks up at the mere mention of moisture or humidity, meaning a twist out I spent 20 minutes doing the night before would be gone if it was hot in Spain or raining in London. Though I still embrace my hair in its shrunken state, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bitter at all my hard work going to waste when I stepped outside haha.
Finding products when I wasn’t in a big city was also a challenge too. If available, sometimes they were way more expensive than what I was accustomed to paying. So before I left to teach abroad, I made sure I knew how to do my own Marley twists and packed enough hair products to last me the year. Knowing how to do my own hair helped me get creative.
What are your favorite go-to products?
Alice’s Garden Herbal Products carries a Nourishing Hair Cream that is my favorite. It’s my mom’s business, so yes I’m biased. BUT, she’s an urban farmer and herbalist who grows the herbs in her products, studies their healing properties, and creates products to do just that. I love the cream for twist outs, twists, curls, etc. It’s like self-care for your hair in a mini-mason jar! Also, I would be nowhere without Curls Passionfruit Control Paste, Giovanni’s Direct Leave-In Weightless Moisture Conditioner, or Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Deep Treatment Masque. I always have multiple in stock, and carry peppermint essential oil to add to products.
You’ve traveled to numerous countries and your hair’s poppin’ in each photo on your insta! How do you maintain those lovely coils?
Protective style when you can! Going from country to country can do a lot to your hair due to differences in climate, water, etc. When I’m not traveling, I let my fro out to breath. But I always make sure to do hot oil treatments and deep condition between styles. Part of protective styling is taking care of your hair underneath, so even though I wear twists a lot, I treat my hair life the beautiful crown it is.
Now the big question: What do you do when you wake up with a bad hair day and you have a day-trip planned?
For me, bad hair days mean headwrap days! I own a bunch from The Wrap Life, and I always pack a few when I travel. You just never know what can happen while you’re abroad, and I like to be prepared as much as I can. If you need inspiration, The Wrap Life, The Traveling Fro, and YouTube have videos on different wrap styles too.
Traveling with black hair can lead to unwanted microaggressions at the most inconvenient times. How do you respond to those microaggressions?
Oooh. I don’t think there is a “good way” of responding to micro-aggressions, especially while traveling in locations where you don’t speak the language. So I normally rely on body language. All of my experiences have always caught me off guard, but if I see someone reach for my hair, I move away. Or, I wave my finger back-and-forth and shake my head to signal “no” and that it’s not ok. Occasionally, I have the time and capacity to explain why they can’t touch my hair, or why it’s offensive. As a teacher, I actually made lessons on Black hair for my students in Spain (under the guise of building up their vocabulary and using adjectives). It just depends on what emotional and educational labor I’m willing to do that day.
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Your smile during your Spring break in Greece on your fellowship’s dime 😁 • If offered a free roundtrip flight abroad, with a stipend, and a year (or two) of professional development, would you take it?? If the answer is yes, my newest blog post may have the experience for you. I compiled a list of 23 Masters, fellowships, scholarships, and teaching programs abroad (link in bio). Side note: the majority are for people from the U.S. and require a Bachelor’s degree ✈️ • From a traveling Masters program in Europe, to global health fellowships in Africa, to teaching in Japan or Chile, this is only a portion of what is out there! Some are more competitive, costly, or time-consuming than others, but I look at them as: the worst thing someone can tell me is “no.” Life is about trial and error 🤷🏾♀️ • Sooooo if you meet the basic eligibility requirements, go for it! Just remember that travel is not the goal (but a huge benefit) with these programs. Apply to something you are passionate about, and let me know so I can send you some positive vibes. Good luck 🙌🏾
What natural hair products do you recommend for our lovely natural readers?
In addition to the ones I mentioned earlier, I always gravitate towards Shea Moisture products because multiple lines work well with my hair. I also keep olive oil, rosemary essential oil, and peppermint essential oil mix on-hand. Black Travel Box has some good travel-size products too! I tested them out at home, but I want to take them on my next trip.
Any more natural hair tips while on the go?
Pack headscarves and travel-size bottles for your products! And if you’re living somewhere long-term, pack in BULK so you have your fave products. For naturalistas living abroad long-term: wear weave, get it installed before you leave so you don’t have to pack it. Clearly, you can also stash more in your checked bag, but if you wear most on your head you can save baggage room for other important items.
The Sojournies, Travel Blogger
There are so many elements you face going from country-to-country, or even hostel-hopping and sleeping on public transportation. Your hair can go through it all!