Beware of the travel blogger who says they'll tell you all there is to know about a place. It's nearly impossible to do so. Here's why.
When we travel, we bring baggage other then the ones we check in and carry on the plane with us. I'm surprised airlines don't charge us for that excessive amount of baggage: our past experience, our personalities. Trust me, if it were possible, they'd have found a way already. (Done with the off-topic, lame joke.)
Who we are shapes our travel experience. By that I mean our gender, sexual orientation, race, origins, etc.
I'm an heterosexual cis-gendered able-bodied nerdy woman who grew up in Port-au-Prince in a tight-knit middle-class Catholic family and currently lives in Canada (not an exhaustive list; I could go on). This shapes my view of the world and how I experience it is so many ways.
I may not be the best reference for a traveller with disabilities, for example. Unlike a person with disabilities, I have to make it a point to notice whether or not a place is, say, accessible. Of course, the more I get into the habit of noticing, the more it'll become natural for me to do so. But, unfortunately, I'm not there yet. (Work in progress.)
Similarly, when the 4 musqueteers decided to surprise me with a trip to Lebanon, non of them thought about whether or not my outfits would be culturally appropriate. As a woman, I have to look into those things. As men, what they wear is often appropriate every where. They are simply not used to worry about that. (I wish they would. But that's a discussion for another day.)
I just realized that, as I talked about my trip to Lebanon, I didn't say a word about the blackouts (power outages) in Beirut. This shows that I'm more of a Haitian traveller than a Canadian one.
For months now, I've been working on a piece to frame that thought. Nada. And early on this Sunday morning: light bulb! Pun definitely intended.
Val is currently in JoBurg. OK, Johannesburg. I don't feel that I'm allowed to use its nickname to refer to a city I haven't set foot in—no matter how high my desire to see it. So, he's in Johannesburg and mentions a power outage.
Power outages are commonly referred to as blackouts in Haiti. And being children of the 80s, both Val and I are way too familiar with the phenomenon. I say phenomenon, but there was nothing special about them. They were the norm.
I jokingly asked him whether or not he forgot his roots. He replied that the few days he just spent in Dubai rekindled his attachment to elextricity. I could have reminded him of our recent trip to Lebanon. But he'd find a smart repartee. It's too early (6 am on a Sunday) for the battle of the wits.
I'm so used to blackouts—12 years in Canada aren't enough to reprogram me. They are inconvenient, but when you a) are used to them and b) organize your life around them, meh, you manage. What can you do, sue EDH? (EDH = Electricité d'Haïti) The North-American in me has briefly contemplated the option of suing. The Haitian in me says "nah, fam". So, blackouts don't jump out to me as they would for, say, a North American.
(Blackouts in Canada are the devil. Everything in my home is electric. But that's not the point.)
I will often refer to myself as a Third-Worlder. I've reclaimed this is a term as a personal term of endearment. It translates the differences between my upbringing and perspective and that of a First-Worlder. It's my polite way to point out "First World problems". Yes, I've been telling people that as a Third-Worlder, it's hard for me to comprehend their issue with a certain thing.
And this is part of the baggage I travel with. I experience the world through that lens.
I also experience the world as a married heterosexual woman. I can travel with my husband and share his room in most, if not all, countries. So much so that I don't have to worry about looking it up. The only thing I may have to do is travel with our marriage license to certain countries because I don't use his last name (I haven't changed my name legally. Sometimes, I hyphenate, but don't write a cheque to that Exumé-Auguste chick.).
I'd also be the wrong blogger to tell you about family-friendly destinations. But I can refer you to a few good bloggers who travel with their children. Or, you can read between the lines and complement your reading with additional research. Actually, you should always do your own research before you book a trip.
Am I saying that you can't be sensitive to certain issues if you don't belong to a group? Of course not. What I'm saying is if it's not your reality, you may not have a full understanding of the experience. For example, when I, a Haitian woman am talking about my experience with racism in the Dominican Republic, you'd be hard-pressed to invalidate said experience without the knowledge of our peoples' common history and current events.
Does this mean that a North-American, a man, a mother shouldn't read my blog? Or wouldn't find the information useful? Absolutely not. Getting information from various sources is the best way to make sound decisions. I read travel blogs written by men, parents, single people, non heterosexual people, etc. 1) Their experience matters. 2) It's the best way to get the full picture.
The idea is to understand that some people may not view the world the same way you do and to see value in there perspective.
If you're looking for a blogger who can tell the story from your unique perspective, become that blogger.
That's what I did.