Two Global: Why Two Black Sisters Traveling is Radical

In All, teju by Teju Adisa-Farrar

“One hand can’t clap”

African Proverb/Jamaican saying

For about six years now my sister, Shola Adisa-Farrar, and I have been traveling as a duo. We have often been told that we should start a blog, vlog, or have a show to document our adventures. We never followed through on any of these ideas, until yesterday when we took the small step of starting an Instagram page called Two Global. This page is about the trips we take together as well as our lives living abroad in different countries. But I don’t want to talk about the Instagram page, even though I encourage you all to follow us, what I want to communicate is why two Black sisters traveling around the world is radical.

Firstly, we are Black. As a result of colonialism, racism, and other forms of structural disenfranchisement American Blacks, and people from the African Diaspora more broadly, have had limited access to travel. Historically there have been explicit laws restricting and controlling the movement of people of African descent, and further the legacy of aforementioned circumstances (racism, etc.) have created implicit standards that make it difficult for Blacks to move around the word freely and with ease. As Black Americans and Black West Indians, we are resisting and overcoming legacies of mobility impairment and restriction. My sister and I both live in countries where we were not born nor raised, and we travel to countries we’ve never been to before quite often.

Secondly, we are women. Even in countries where men and women are on the most equal footing, like Denmark, in many ways women are still fighting to be equal to men. One of the clearest disparities between men and women is salary. A common statistic stated on this issue is that women in the United States make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. What this statistic leaves out is that Black women, Latina women, and Asian women make even less than 77 cents to every man’s dollar. Thusly, as women who are Black there are layers of inequity that we have to overcome. Similar to racism, the legacy of sexism is still very pervasive and thus means that it may be more difficult for women to travel, without the accompaniment of men—not only for financial reasons, but for safety reasons as well.

In 2015 my sister and I went to Marrakech, Morocco for her birthday. We flew there together from Paris after I had been in Ethiopia and Kenya visiting friends. While in Ethiopia I was asked by three women 1) If I felt safe traveling alone and 2) Where is my husband and was he okay with me traveling. I told them that I do feel safe traveling alone and remain very cautious, and that I do not have a husband. When Shola and I arrived in Morocco, men asked us if we felt okay traveling “alone.” We would usually respond: “we are not alone, we are together.” Regardless, safety is a real issue for women traveling alone and even though we are carefree Black girls, as seasoned travelers we are cautious and always aware of our environment. Still, for women to confidently and consistently travel, as a pair, without men and without asking for permission is a statement in itself.

Thirdly, we’re sisters. As adults, Shola and I have never lived in the same city or state, and for the past seven years we haven’t even lived in the same country. However, we’ve managed to see each other multiple times a year and see new places together. We are constantly working on our relationship as sisters and friends, which takes a lot of patience, emotional energy, and self-awareness. We are always giving each other constructive criticism so we can construct better lives and continue to grow. It is difficult traveling with anyone, but traveling with family may be the biggest lesson—and Shola and I are always learning from each other.

I am often asked how my sister and I are so close. The answer is we’ve worked very hard on our relationship. When I was in high school, I didn’t talk to her for an entire year because I did not think I could trust her. Almost a decade later we talk on the phone everyday and are upset if we don’t know every detail of each other’s existence. This emotional work coupled with traveling to places where we have never been and, most times, do not speak the language is not an easy feat. Choosing to travel and do the emotional work necessary to maintain a healthy sister-sister relationship is the epitome of female solidarity and familial bonding.

Finally, as two Black Jamerican women traveling around the world and living in places we never visited as children is radical. It is radical because we are rejecting structures and systems that have been put in place to keep us “in our place.” It is radical because we are breaking barriers that are so pervasive they seem invisible. It is radical because we are not rich, we do not have full time jobs, and we are both also simultaneously pursuing our own very different personal and professional goals. It is radical because it is an act of courage and love.

When we asked our brother, who is the second born (between my sister and I), what the tagline for our page should be… something that represents us and who we are, he was quiet for a minute and then said: “adventurers, hustlers, dreamers.” Somehow we are all of those things and working to hold ourselves accountable to them. So we invite you to follow us on our adventures around the world as two global sisters who are never content to stay in one place.