Travel for me starts of with one thing first. Friendship. Living on a small island in the Caribbean can either isolate or globalize you. I’ve experienced this first hand because I live in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.
I call it the promise land. Its beautiful, has all the wonderful trappings of an island and creates an intoxicating environment for those who visit. However, for someone who lived here from the age of 1 (I was born in NYC) it can become mundane.
Now, I don’t mean to be snobbish about my home because I love it and will represent it to the fullest (and will highly recommend black travelers to visit), but I’ve always found the urge to try something new for a while. This is the case for many people I grew up with. If anyone reading this, lives in an urban area, or rural, or anywhere you may know a Caribbean person who immigrated to the states or Europe. This maybe you or your parents.You may know this feeling.
This “phenomenon” hit me in a different way. Not that I wanted to follow them, but I found myself loosing friends due to relocation. Most of the people I’ve grown up with have left the island.
Along with this fact is another fact. People who I meet in other places of the world tend to stay in their locations which allows me to travel to visit them. This is how I ended up in Switzerland in the middle of August on a paddleboat on the lake of Geneva with my white friend and his two black siblings.
One day, on another island (St. Croix) , I got a message from someone I had not heard from in 3 years. One of my close friends from my exchange semester at Binghamton University in upstate New York reached out to me. I had given up on finding him but he hit me up around the time I was heading to Germany for two weeks. I decided I that would visit him for a week.It was such an adventure. Not only did I get to meet his biracial siblings, but I was able to taste the true culture of Switzerland with a real local. We drove into the French mountains to soak up the views. We toured the historical landmarks which I really appreciated.
During my week in Switzerland, I visited a carnival village in my friends town. I was able to have crepes at a special spot called Muller’s Factory, which is only has two locations in the world, both in Switzerland.
From almost getting into a fight with the hotel manager to living one street away from the red-light district, we always had an adventure. Visiting Switzerland as a black person did not cause me any trouble and I saw black people around as well. Even though we had a blast in Geneva’, Switzerland it’s a generally quiet town with not much going on most of the time.
I would I say that if I had gone alone, I would not have had such an amazing experience, and I probably would not have consider the place to be my second home. I call it a home because that’s where I found friends, even family. To me, travel would mean a whole lot less without friendship.
Being black in Switzerland was great!
By: Ronnie G.
Follow Ronnie on Instagram: @redeyeronnie