6 Places I Would Travel to in 2023

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If you didn’t know Reader, I love to travel.

“Travel is life” has been my life before it became a hashtag. I’ve been aiming for at least one passport stamp a year for the last 10 years. There was no prouder moment when I had to get a new passport with extra pages because I filled up the first one, culminating in me moving myself and my family to Spain for 2 years … just so we could travel around Europe for cheap. I’m at a healthy 32 stamps and growing.

As you know I have a newborn which inevitably means my travel this year will be hampered. But since I bought the Frontier all you can fly pass for this year … I’m still going to have some fun. And I want you to have some fun too, frontier pass or not.

So, in honor of Black History Month, I’m highlighting some of the favorite international destinations I’ve visited.

Black vs. African-American and International Travel

One thing that was shocking for me to understand once I started traveling internationally is that, in most countries … Everyone isn’t just “Black”. For example, Spain doesn’t track race in their population. The government doesn’t have a concept of “Black”. They know how many Americans there are, how many people are from Senegal or from Kenya, but they are different groups. And you know what … after a generation, they’re just Spanish.

While this separation is very common in Europe, it manifests itself differently depending on where in the world you are. In some places, like India, you are a marvel, like a diamond never seen in real life before. Others, like Colombia or Brazil, your skin tone is all that matters and colorism runs rampant.

Each of these places offer something different for Black travelers. However, in my experience, these are all still great places to go no matter the color of your skin.

Zanzibar Island, Tanzania

I went to Zanzibar in 2012 on a grad school trip across West Africa, visiting Nairobi, Kenya, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania and finally Zanzibar. This trip, focused on the growing startup and tech scene in the continent. In short it was amazing. And while Nairobi, with its safari, bustling city center, and great companies is near and dear to my heart, Zanzibar wowed me as an unknown vacation destination.

Zanzibar has beautiful beaches and amazing resorts, but with great prices. Everyone is Black, the island is very Muslim and conservative, and they are very in touch with their history as well as their role in the slave trade.

In addition to drinking and the beach, there are key historic landmarks if you want a touch of culture with your Mai Tai. I got a lot of love from the locals, who were happy to see someone like them staying in the resorts and living in America. It was interesting to hear them talk about American culture (every guy who worked on the beach said I was Rick Ross and asked if I knew Jay Z, lol). I also had one person ask me how I avoid getting shot in the head. She said she could never go to America because of the violence and knows she will be shot in the head within an hour of landing. And I bet you were thinking of asking me if it was safe there (it is, really safe, Islamic law doesn’t play).

Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Rotterdam is one of my favorite cities in the world to visit. One of those reasons is it’s one of the blackest cities I’ve been to outside of America, in a very “American” sense. There is a large population of Black people there, who have lived in The Netherlands for generations and are just Dutch, not “Black Dutch”.

The thing I love about all of The Netherlands is the unique attitude of the Dutch. They are honest, to a fault, and have a dark humor. Everything is essentially legal and tolerated, just within reason. Need a little weed with your coffee, some shrooms with your muffin, no problem.

It’s also a huge city, holding the second-biggest port in the world. You can find food from all over the world, 45 minutes by train gets you to Amsterdam or into Belgium. The city has tons of food, activities, green spaces, and tourist attractions. I’ve been there 5 times, including my only international trip in 2022.

Cognac, France

I knew about Hennessy before I could even drink, and I’ve been drinking it since I could start affording it. I know I’m not alone in my love of Cognac, as it’s a stereotype that was 100% true for me. Oftentimes I’ve been found with “Yac” in my cup, or being brought to my table with a sparkler in it.

Cognac should be a pilgrimage to any cognac fan. It’s like what Napa Valley is for wine connoisseurs. Small producers are willing to give you tastings, tours, and access to exclusive bottles. Hennessy and Remy both have tours and tasting rooms. It’s an extremely small and quaint French city (there was only one taxi driver for the city when we went). It’s also a great couples trip, with fine French dining and good wines from nearby Bordeaux.

I had so much fun on this trip, I brought back 10 bottles (whatever the legal maximum was) and held a tasting at my house with my friends.

Rio De Janero, Brazil

Rio is amazing because it’s Rio. The beach, the parties, the food, the people. It’s all great. I’ve been twice, and was lucky enough to live there for three weeks on an internship. I’ve been to the favellas (aka the hood hood), the rooftop bars, and a lot in between.

Full transparency...Rio is not a great place for Black people. When I worked there I was bothered by how literally every executive or business leader we met with was fair-skinned and every security guard or coffee maid (my office employed a Black woman to fetch coffee all day) was dark like me.

So why is Rio on the list, you ask?

Well, because in addition to being a dope city, it exposed me to the importance of Brazil in the slave trade with the Americas. Brazil imported about 50% of all the slaves brought from Africa, crushing the US in terms of numbers. This huge influx of Africans meant the culture and integration of cultures was very different given the sheer numbers. The MuseoAfroBrasil introduced me to the history which actually expanded my knowledge and understanding of being Black in America, by seeing another country that was completely altered forever by the importation of slaves. It’s interesting to see the differences between Brazil and the U.S. in this very personal period of history.

San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia (Outside of Cartagana)

San Basilio De Palenque is (according to the locals) the first freed Slave town in all of the Americas, continuing to operate independently to maintain its rich heritage and African inspired native language. It’s a long and bumpy 1.5-hour drive from Cartagena, but well worth it. I’ve been twice, taking my wife and son the second time.

The Palenque believe deeply in the African diaspora (the proper term for Black African-descendants all over the world) and its connective nature, the opposite of the European mentality. The town is essentially a freed slave state that has been in operation for over a hundred years. The people are insanely nice and welcoming, have a ton of history and context to share, and it’s a great tour and place to visit in Colombia.

Lisbon, Portugal

Like Rotterdam, Lisbon is a city with a lot of Black citizens. It’s one of the handful of cities in Europe where you can go and just see what looks like a “normal” American style mix of dark-skinned people. So much so, more and more Black expats, several personal friends included, are living or considering moving to Lisbon or Portugal.

Lisbon is in itself an amazing city with great architecture, great sites, good food, good prices, and a lot of beaches that are a day trip away. The sheer fact that you don't stand out but instead blend in as a Black person is the icing on the cake.

The thing to remember is...

Whether or not you are Black, these locations all offer something different for a traveler. I try to travel as much as possible and don’t need a reason, and you should too. If you’re looking for inspiration, try one of these places. I would go back to any of them in a heartbeat. If you are going … shoot me the dates and maybe I might show up.

- Damien “Oh so Pragmatic” Peters