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Black Backpackers? Where in the World Are They?

“Only 4% of frequent backpackers are African-American, while Hispanics make up 19%, and Whites just over 70%” – Backpacker Magazine, May 1996

Yesterday I lazed on my couch trying to calculate how many Black backpackers – meaning those ‘of African ancestry’, I had seen or met in my travels over the past few years – I could only recall a small handful. The few that I had met were predominantly confident females traveling in small groups. I couldn’t seem to remember any names or faces of males that I had spoken to or shared a beer with.

A backpacker taking a nap before hitting the road

I thought that perhaps it is because I haven’t been to Europe, Asia, or Africa and maybe, just maybe, that’s where most black backpackers go. Is it? I guess that I won’t be able to prove or disprove this theory until I travel to those continents (hopefully sooner than later). Then I thought that perhaps it has to do with finances, but I quickly dismissed that theory since there are many black youth and young adults that earn just as much, or more than the average backpacker.

Real de Catorce Mexico

Photographing off the beaten path in Real de Catorce, Mexico

I have no doubt that other black backpackers exist, but they seem to be few and far apart. The one theory that I think holds the most weight is that black youth lack direct exposure to others who actively participate in activities like camping, hiking and backpacking. I am inclined to agree with David Baker, founder of a black backpacking group in California, “Once people are taught that there are woods to explore, taken there and shown how to backpack efficiently and safely, they will find a way to get back there.”

Although Bakers’s comment is more in reference to backpacking as it relates to camping, the same principle applies to travel. We need to introduce our friends, brothers, sisters and students to the outdoors and the beautiful world that awaits them beyond the glitz and glamour of shopping malls, posh all-inclusive resorts and the television.

Taking it a step further – and this isn’t a personal PR plug – we should start blogging and tweeting more about our travels and experiences from around the world. I have found that although I don’t have many friends who are as obsessed with travel as I am, Twitter is a great place to easily find, follow and interact with many cool travelers who are always willing to share invaluable advice and exciting travel tales. Follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/adventurejo! Check out others that I follow and add them to your list.

Backpackers – New friends going out for a night on the town

For starters, I have an extra backpack that I would gladly lend to anyone who would like to give backpacking a chance – whether they are black, white, or blue. I hope that my blog will somehow reach more people that are apprehensive, curious or just need a little inspiration to get out into the world.

Have an opinion? What to share some advice? Just leave a comment below.

Check out the second part this post written in August 2016 – Black Travel: Being a Black Traveler in South and Central America. 

Live what you love – Joel

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59 Comments

  1. backpacking is definitely picking up amongst young black europeans and west africans. On my recent trip through western europe i encountered on average about one black backpacker per hostel. Met one African american girl from Florida and no AA males though….

    • That’s great news. African American males are definitely the minority (no pun intended) on the travel circuit. Even small increases in the numbers is great.

  2. I came across your blog while searching for black travelers in Colombia as i will be traveling there in March (Bogota, Coffee triangle, Medellin & Cartagena). I am a black female and usually travel solo, it’s good to see other black travelers out there and i have to admit wherever i travel i always look out for that one black face in the crowd but in most cases i am the only black face.
    I admire the fact that you left your desk job and embarked on this amazing adventure. My dream is to actually take some time off work and travel to Central and South America but i am scared of doing it alone for an extended period of time. Maybe i will get the courage to just do it as opposed to taking short vacations to the various South American countries i have been so far…………….this blog sure is an inspiration!

    • I’ll go with you. I am so ready to take a sabatical and go backpacking, myself.

      • Hi adventure friends! I also found Jo’s website through a search for black backpackers. I have always had a deep connection with nature, exploring the unknown and just simply beating to my own drum. Unfortunately, many of my friends, like Joe said, just like to stay inside or go on vacations at aforementioned luxury resorts. This December I will be going to Peru over New Year’s and I am looking for a traveling companion. Let me know if any of you are down for an adventure to closeout the year in true backpacking-style!

    • I’ll go with you. I am so ready to take a sabbatical and go backpacking, myself.

      I am an African-American female.

      • I’ll go with you too! I bought a ticket to Brazil and will be backpacking around South America until I’m ready to leave (or have to leave lol)

      • Hey! When and where would you like to go, I want to do South Asia but a little worried being a back female (I’ve read some scary stuff). Do you have any advice? Thanks

  3. I’m also a black female extensive traveler. It just amazes me how few of us venture out into the unknown. Besides medicine, nothing makes my heart rush as much as landing into a country I’ve never stepped in before. It is such an adventure. So far, I’ve made it into four continents. This year or next year, I’ll touch the last: Australia/New Zealand.
    Before I start my residency, I’ll have more than several months off, as I”m graduating from med school early, and although I’ve traveled to 34 countries thus far, they’ve always been separate trips. I finally want to travel long term for several months to South America. But I also MUST use that time to explore India/Nepal/Sri Lanka, while also doing some medical volunteering. I’m super excited.
    As far as Blacks in my travels, I always stand out, even in Africa! Imagine that. Aussies are the most represented anywhere, except South America, i believe. I really want to rectify this. Whenever I post my pics, my black comrades are always inspired but hardly ever take that next step. I want to allow them to do so but how??
    Congrats on the blog!

    • im a young man soon going on my backpacking adventure N i wanted to say somethign about this all cause in my eyes its really simple why there are almost no black backpackers
      when 2 groups dont have te same life its difficult to understand why they do it that often en we dont But in reality its becouse we have to work on more then they do because of our history N today
      when we grow up we have parrens that focus on giving us a place in the society were we can feel save
      because lets be honest most places are not save were we live but white people they already live in a good home wit parrans that dont need to stress also how they think is different because of the groups they have around them.. they got more time to do this sort of stuff we dont we always end up stressing N worrying about life 😉

    • im a young man soon going on my backpacking adventure N i wanted to say something about this all cause in my eyes its really simple why there are almost no black backpackers
      when 2 groups dont have te same life its difficult to understand why they do it that often en we dont But in reality its because we have to work on more then they do because of our history N today
      when we grow up we have parents that focus on giving us a place in the society were we can feel save
      because lets be honest most places are not save were we live but white people they already live in a good home wit parents that dont need to stress also how they think is different because of the groups they have around them.. they got more time to do this sort of stuff we dont we always end up stressing N worrying about life 😉

    • Hi lady. Nice to know black back packers actually exist. Can you please give me a link to your blog. Need much much inspiration.

    • I am a black woman and I love backpacking, hiking , and anything outdoors. And I always stay out from the normal. I wish there could be most black explorers ! However if anyone wants to explore let me know

  4. Great post! I will be backpacking across Europe and North Africa in 2014 and one of my biggest worries is being the only black face in the crowd doing it. I agree with the quote you shared above — “Once people are taught that there are woods to explore, taken there and shown how to backpack efficiently and safely, they will find a way to get back there.” I didn’t always have that adventurous mentality until I met some amazing people while attending college. They introduced me to that lifestyle and now I’m hooked.

    I searched for the term ‘Black Backpackers” because I wanted to see if there were actually any of us out there and I also wanted to start some kind of movement like you, to introduce this way of life in our communities. Maybe we could all get together using the web and start new trend?

    Let me know what you think.
    Find me on Google + https://plus.google.com/115172031977345232414/posts

    I will be following this blog.

  5. Not only am i a black male, im an African too and i LOVE travel so much am currently planning my first backpack expedition. It’ll be Sub-Saharan African (chose it cuz its easier for me given my location and it is my first try after all!). I agree with your sentiments and many of the comments. Its all parental and social. All my peers are more interested in marriage and babies – im not about that any time soon! I think one of the reasons im so into travel is that i was exposed to it and encouraged by my family in many ways from an early age

  6. I must admit i am also guilty of googling Black Backpackers. Being of african decent currently living in Canada i find travel and others cultures Amazing to explore. I plan on backpacking through Asia mostly south east Asia in the coming year. I feel that our demo of black youth backpackers need to be represented to the world. When i mention this to my friends and family they act as if Im crazy or running away from something when in fact im running towards my dream of travel. We as a people need to be more open minded and curious about this big beautiful world god has blessed us with. IF not now then when is my motto. If any one is going to south east Asia in march feel free to hit me up. peace and love your backpacking comarade

  7. I must admit i am also guilty of googling Black Backpackers. Being of african decent currently living in Canada i find travel and others cultures Amazing to explore. I plan on backpacking through Asia mostly south east asia in the coming year. I feel that our demograpif of black youth backpackers need to be represnted to the world. When i meantion this to my friends and family they act as if Im crazy or running away from omething when in fact im running towards my dream of travel. We as a peeople need to be more open minded and curious about this big beautiful world god has blessed us with. IF not now then when is my motto. If any one is going to south east asia in march feel free to hit me up. peace and love your backpacking comarade

  8. I’m planning a backpacking trip across Europe for spring of next year. I need advice for every aspect. We already mapped out what countries and specific cities we would like to go in those countries. But as far as books to purchase to prepare, items to bring, and just how much money should we bring. Also, why are backpacks sooo expensive?! Lol is there anywhere I can find a backpack for cheap. I’m a black female and I’m traveling with my friend who is an Asian female. Any help/suggestions would be greatly appreciated! 🙂

  9. Totally agree with you mate. I’m from Kenya and I have been travelling across South East Asia for the past 4 months, and if I can recall in all this time I have only met 1 black backpacker of African origin. Other blacks tend to be from America, Brazil and parts of Europe.

    I think the main reason is that “backpacking” is an alien concept in many African communities. Most people will just go on a week vacation and fly back home. Finance may also be another reason, especially among young people.

    There should be away to get more Africans to backpack, but until then I’ll enjoy being that one African face in the crowd. I will be travelling to Fiji and Central America soon, I hope to find Africans there!

    • James: Thanks for the comment. I have been thinking about writing part two of this post in the wake of all of the madness happening in the US and around the world right now. I can understand more now why there is a disparity in the number of black travellers. Money is definitely a factor. It isn’t so much that they don’t have the money, but more how they choose to use the money. I think that most of us are worried that we won’t be accepted in strange lands. The fact of the matter is that the blond, blue-eyed traveler is much more admired than his counterpart. Anyways, I will sit down in the next few days and spew out my thoughts. Safe travels my brother.

  10. Haha! 🙂 I too found this website looking for black backpackers who wouldn’t mind sharing some friendly advice to a newbie. I love the outdoors and spend a lot of time hiking around MD and VA. I recently begun planning my first 2 week backpacking adventure to South American for Feb 2016. Looking forward to having a great experience. If anyone knows any good Central or South American routes I’d love to hear about them.

    Safe travels.

    • Drew: Thanks for the comment. 2 weeks isn’t a very long time. I would highly recommend doing one country or you will miss out on a lot. Don’t try to do multiple countries in such a short time. Have you been to Mexico? I think it is an amazing country to travel through. Central America is beautiful and the advantage is that its countries are smaller that South America´s, so you can over more in less time. Costa Rica is beautiful but less raw than Nicaragua and Guatemala. It all depends on what you hope to do and see on your trip.

  11. There’s not many out there brother to many of the black nation is scared to take that leap of faith and see the world. I backpacked Asia for three months didn’t run into much black backpackers only once in a blue moon I was always the only black guy in my hostels. I did met some black guys that was from all over Africa that lives around Asia mostly in Thailand all of them was really cool they made me felt the love of my peoples. Now Africa is my next backpacking destination I’m talking real Africa from West,East, and part of the South Africa . Asia was amazing even though I was the only black around most of the time I had an amazing experience. Can’t wait to get back on the road

    • Thanks for the comment my friend. It’s great that you did Asia. That’s my next big trip. I want to do Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Believe it or not, I think that more black guys and gals are picking up backpacks. I have seen a definite increase here in Colombia and that makes me proud and happy. The Africa trip sounds great. I will get there too but first I want to knock those Asian countries off my list.

      • Definitely go at it hard bro Asia is an amazing place. I can see myself living there for a few months or years

        I’ll be back in the road in the next few months probably starting in Brazil then head to Africa. I plan to spend some time overseas I’m not putting a time limit on it I just know I want to be gone for a long time I’m in the process of selling off all my things back at home right now can’t wait till everything is sold. Planning on making 2017 a big year for me hope to be a better bloggers in the future

  12. I am backpacking through Europe from April 27th to June 23rd. I am starting from Romania then going into the Schengen Zone from Hungary. I would love some recommendations on itineraries. Also if anyone is interested, I could use a travel buddy.

  13. Salud from Barbados, I came across this when I searching for black backpackers. I’m taking a week to travel to Medellin and Cartagena Colombia in May. Then Brazil later in the year. Its good to see black backpackers exists. Could use some tips and a travel buddy

    • Pat – Thanks for your comment. I am so happy that wrote this blog post and I happy that it is finding people like you. It’s awesome that you are going to visit Medellin and Cartagena in May. At the moment I am here in Medellin working my butt off to afford the next chapter in my travel life. I have changed over the past few years and I now prefer a bit more luxury. Shorter trips filled with richer experiences. That should probably be my next blog post – the evolution of the backpacker. Send me a message a week or so before you get here and we can sit down for a coffee and a chat.

      • Oh most def, no prob

      • Sorry for the late message Joe, I’m now in Medellin

  14. Loved this post and I have also pondered on the same thing during my travels. I have my theories as to why there are so few Black backpackers (as opposed to the Black luxury vacation goers). We are definitely few and far in between, hopefully as we share our experiences we will continue to inspire others to embrace different ways of travelling.

    • Amen to that. Happy travels. Keep the positive energy going.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Revolutionary Traveller | Shari's Blog - […] This post was inspired by Adventure Jo‘s post called ‘Black backpackers? Where in the world are they?‘ […]
  2. Black Travel: Being A Black Traveller in South and Central America - AdventureJo | AdventureJo - […] A few years ago I wrote a post called ‘Black Backpackers – Where in the World Are They’ .…

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