Weaving a Tapestry of Love Through Travel

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  • Published on August 31, 2022
  • Last Updated March 10, 2023
  • In Guest Writers

A personal tale of self-discovery through travel while meeting new people from across the globe, as well as new parts of ourselves.

Traveling and moving through different parts of the world over the last five years have dispelled many myths for me about love and all its blissful iterations. While moving through countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and India, I began to form bonds that unraveled the myth of a single soulmate. I often questioned how there could be seven billion people on Earth, and yet that word was presumed to encompass one person. It felt restrictive, and to be honest, boring. I was meeting people who felt so familiar, as if I’d known them in this lifetime and others. Humans who were not romantic interests (though some admittedly were) became woven into my travel tapestry, showing me that one of the natural consequences of heart-centered travel is to reel in the people, places and experiences that provide a more expansive and truer meaning of love. Not only was I meeting strangers who became soulmates, but nothing since has allowed me to see and know myself the way that travel has. In some ways, social media has reduced self-love to face masks and luxury experiences.While these things can be valuable, traversing across place and space can be the ultimate slingshot into our being — into our wants, needs, desires; it is an invitation to practice radical self-acceptance in real-time. This does not always feel luxurious, but if we take a beat, something magical blooms that could never be bought — a deeper love and understanding of self. As I’ve met more Black wanderers on my journey, I have come to see us, our complex experiences, our unique stories, as part of an intricate tapestry of love that creates a synergistic, wave-like masterpiece.

Lessons Through Heart-Centered Travel

Some challenging aspects of solo travel that often go unacknowledged are the changes in relationship dynamics back in the places we call home. There is a sense of grief that accompanies a solo traveler who longs to bring family and friends along for the momentous ride, but oftentimes it is not their choice to make. Carle Wickliffe, a Long Beach, California native and wandering social worker, learned through one of her first long-term stays this past summer in México, that in love, there is also letting go. She admitted to wanting family and friends to be part of the experience, but noted her reasons for wanting them with her were “selfish,” and that ego can play a role in relationships by creating a false sense of possessiveness. “They’re not dreaming the same journey,and I have to understand that they may see their life differently,” Wickliffe said. She vulnerably questioned how her status in their lives would change if she left, but ultimately realized something. “If it’s true love, you have to let them go and let them live their season, and I’m going to go live through mine,” she said. “And it doesn’t mean I’m going to love them any less, it just means I’m going to love them from wherever I am.” As for what travel has taught her about loving and caring for herself: “I have to actually process [issues] myself and self-soothe, because there is no guarantee that there is someone to talk to. Processing when you’re so far away from [loved ones], it really takes your self-love to another level, and it exposes all these areas of yourself.”

Khalipa Ntloko, a Cape Town-based marketer, content creator and photographer affirmed my own wonderings about travel and its ability to move us more into ourselves. “Oftentimes, I don’t think we give a lot of thought to the impact that travel has on ourselves internally,” she said. “You don’t always have to be aware of it, but there’s a reason why we feel so good after traveling, there’s a reason why we enjoy stepping out of what we know to go to a place we might not know. I think it has to do with our inner selves, and how — through travel — we’re simply finding a way to love ourselves.” Travel can be this expansive force that not only allows us to explore the external, but also our internal worlds. It has the power to show us what our “special sauce” is. Ntloko added that traveling in February 2020 right before the world shut down forced her to navigate anxiety and fear brought on by the uncertainty of leaving her home country for the first time at a moment when the world was experiencing unprecedented change. In the end she was better for it, acknowledging her bravery, strength and boldness. Serendipitously, and in true travel-romance fashion, she met her current partner while he was on a work trip in her hometown. May we Black travelers continue to live, weave and sew into our travel tapestries of love.

Renée Cheréz, also known as the Travel Liberationist is a writer who expresses her thoughts, experiences, and stories at the intersections of joy, travel, Black liberation, and the pursuit of more life. She is a mermaid, child, storyteller, adventurer, and lover of mountain gorillas. Her work has been published in The Huffington Post, Geez Magazine, Sister Letter, Lonely Planet, and more. You can find her come up to the surface from her living on IG: reneecherez.

This story was created by Detour, a journalism brand focused on the best stories in Black travel, in partnership with McClatchy’s The Charlotte Observer and Miami Herald. Detour’s approach to travel and storytelling seeks to tell previously under-reported or ignored narratives by shifting away from the customary routes framed in Eurocentrism. The detour team is made up of an A-list of award-winning journalists, writers, historians, photographers, illustrators and filmmakers.

This story was originally published August 31, 2022 10:00 AM.

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