At Exodus, we’re committed to promoting inclusivity within adventure travel. To begin a series of blog post highlighting diverse voices within the adventure community, we hear from blogger and passionate adventurer Tayo Jaiyesimi from The Five To Nine Traveller, about her experiences.
My passion is adventure – I have loved it in all its forms since I was a child, so I was bound to seek it when I travel. I find it exhilarating to physically challenge my body in beautiful locations around the world, with diverse landscapes and cultures not bound by societal norms or ideas conjured by man. I feel free!
I am used to be being the ‘only black girl’; the adventure travel environment is no different. I have felt comfortable in these spaces but it is a very white-dominated environment and thus it can appear uninviting. To be the only black person, it can be challenging to enter spaces that don’t expect you there or to have your presence questioned. I was once asked in Colombia whether I was there as a missionary or student and when I said I was just there on holiday there was a look of surprise from the guide. Stereotyping me as a black woman, that I can’t possibly be there as a traveller.
My first taste of adventure travel started on a Duke of Edinburgh expedition in the UK as a teen and since then I’ve kayaked along the Dalmatian Coast, snorkelled in the Caribbean Sea, hiked Mount Snowdon in Wales, jumped into rock pools in Ecuador, and undertaken so many more thrilling and heart-pumping experiences.
One of my favourite trips was a multi-sport adventure of hiking, canyoning and rafting in the Zupa Valley of Bosnia and Herzegovina. My cousin, who had never been on such a holiday before, had seen my past adventures and stated: ‘next trip, I am coming with you.’ I didn’t actually believe her but, lo and behold, there she was right beside me in the river as it flung our bodies upstream. Representation truly matters and she had taken the plunge to join an adventure trip she had never done before. We still laugh over the hilarities that ensued on the trip.
My nationality has been questioned by locals abroad when asked ‘where are you from?’. When I answer from the UK, it is followed with a look of surprise, and in some cases they question whether I was born there. Which white person is asked this question? I am British Nigerian, and I don’t deny my Nigerian heritage, but my first answer should be the answer accepted. Then, later, when I get to know you, we can talk about my fused heritage.
Have I received stares from locals in the areas I have explored? Sure – but no different to the stares I have received in the UK in spaces wondering why I am there. Have I been called names like ‘Chocolate’ or ‘Rasta girl?’ Many times. All this microaggressive attention can be draining as you just want to be present in the moment, like any white person partaking in the same adventure. The adventure travel space needs to normalise black people being present in it and enjoying it like anybody else.
The last thing on my mind when going on a trip and pushing my body to its limits is race. My mind is focused on the adventure before me and I hope that in the future that will be the case for many others up for the adventure!