Travelling While Black is a curious mix of part experience, part observation with a bit of a history lesson sprinkled throughout.
French travel blogger Rooben Fils has a lot to say. An experienced traveler, and the face behind the blog Been Around the Globe, Fils is in familiar territory as much of his existing travel writing comes from a Black perspective. In Traveling While Black, Fils seeks to expand on some of the content that can be found on his blog.
Unquestionably, this book is detailed. Fils starts each chapter with either a common question or a misconception. Chapter titles such as “You’re a rapper, right?” or “Where are you really from?” should already give the reader an idea of what direction this book is heading towards. This book strives to not only describe many of the stereotypes that many Black travelers may encounter but to also give a rational explanation as to why they exist. In that sense, it makes the read a curious mix of part experience, part observation with a bit of a history lesson sprinkled throughout.
The author gets nuance right. Throughout the book, Fils readily admits that experiences will vary. By highlighting some of the engaging, problematic and downright disturbing situations, he underscores that there are some experiences that seem to follow Black travelers.
Fils discusses the multilayers that come with travel that do not solely rely just on race, but rather how race overlaps with other identities and how that can impact one’s experiences. For example, the challenges that Black African travelers may face can differ from their Black Western counterparts, acknowledging the privilege that comes with citizenship. In a different instance, the author dedicates an entire chapter to the concerns that Black women may face and smartly relays the information shared to him by female travellers. Fils is careful enough to try to avoid making broad generalizations. His arguments are strengthened by his incorporation of other Black traveler voices. In doing so, Fils recognizes that our own views might be limited and the inclusion is refreshing.
That stated, Fils doesn’t always hit the mark. This book can be at times a very dense read. There are sections that occasionally veer into tangent territory. While the additions can add for a colorful imagery, they do not necessarily always add to the main point the author is attempting to make. The absence of subheadings can make some portions feel like one long train of thought and make an unfortunate distraction from some incredibly helpful content.
This book is best suited for the new, Black travelers and will help those who have general race-related questions that may be of concern. For non-Black readers, this book is a solid starting point to amplify specific challenges Black travellers may encounter. While every situation outlined may not be the experience of every Black traveller, they are frequent enough in general to take note of.
Traveling While Black is available on Amazon in English and French.
All book reviews are the personal and subjective opinion of the reviewer. No compensation was received for this review.