A life of peace, a life of safety, a life of joy. Sounds amazing, right? Well, believe it or not, it’s much easier for Black women to experience these things in other countries. Whether for a new career, a new adventure, or a better standard of living, many Black women are making the intentional decision to settle down abroad.
According to Bloomberg, Black women have left the United States during the past three years due to the pandemic and social unrest. Since 2020, groups have formed online that share relocation tips and host meetups. There are some great sites — Blaxit Global, Traveling Black Women Network and Black Americans Living Abroad — that have everything from starter toolkits, free itineraries, and other valuable resources for traveling and living abroad.
Black women have discovered that achieving the American Dream may not be possible in America. That realization is a hard pill to swallow, but systemic racism, discrimination, and oppression is an even harder burden to carry.
This is not a new phenomenon. Black Americans opting for a life as expatriates dates back to the 20th century. James Baldwin, Richard Wright, and Nina Simone famously fled American soil and took up residency in Europe where their artistic dreams could be realized. Maya Angelou also spent years in Ghana as a journalist and university administrator.
In addition to the freedom from racism in the States, where people often feel they are seen as Black first and American second, some make the move to grow creatively, to study abroad, to fulfill a lifelong goal, to provide a safer environment for their families, and to have an improved work life balance.
For many Black women, overall mental and physical health is at stake. Mental health, particularly for Black people, often manifests as physical ailments. Your mental state can definitely impact your physical state, especially with a lot of stress and dealing with racial trauma. I believe many Black women don’t even realize that they are depressed, but they will be able to say, “I have body pain,” because their body will demonstrate the emotional hurt that they are experiencing. So many times, we know that Black women have to practically beg for proper medical care. Other countries offer more positive lifestyles and easier access to affordable healthcare.
Oftentimes, it is completely a wanderlust situation. A friend of mine checked all the boxes. She had wanted to be an attorney since we were in high school. She went to college and then law school. After practicing for many years, it just hit her that if she didn’t change anything, she would never have a chance to make a big change in her life. It’s not even that she had a deep desire to not live in the United States anymore. It was a passion to just see more of the world. The easiest way to do that was to quit her job and go for it. Now, it doesn’t seem so irrational anymore. My friend currently lives in Mexico and spends time in cities including Tulum and Playa Del Carmen. What a life!
The truth is, living life in another country is not completely free from racism and discrimination. Black American citizens who are considering the big move should be aware of the racism that they will likely encounter at some point while living abroad. Like anywhere else in the world, inequality can be found there among immigrant communities. In Australia, instead of Black expatriates, Indigenous Australians have a long-standing history of being targets of racism and discrimination.
Like in America, being Black abroad can make other people uncomfortable just by our existence. Depending on where you travel, you still have to be concerned about being racially profiled, being stared at, or strangers wanting to touch you or your hair.
Social media has a way of creating a certain aesthetic and the right music that can make anyone feel as if they, too, can live their best lives. There is no shortage of Black women on Instagram posting their lives in other countries. There have been times, since the pandemic started, that I have thought about curating a life that I don’t need a vacation from. It’s more than a pursuit of living a “soft life,” which has become so saturated online these days. It’s about having the mental space to explore my creative interests, having the capacity to write and expand my writing career. Also, striving for a better quality of life, safer neighborhoods, and the other benefits of life outside of the United States, like the time to slow down, tend to my mental health, and dive deep into a self-care practice that taps into what really brings me joy, sound great. These are all indicators of a healthier and fuller lifestyle for me.
The sites that I mentioned earlier offer great advice before moving abroad, including giving yourself a mini-trial. Visit different places you are interested in, stay in spaces outside of hotels, interact with locals, experience the weather, and check your finances. Once you’re sure about the location, commit to the decision. When the plane ticket is booked and the job and apartment are secured, all the other parts won’t seem so scary.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.