Six years ago I had a vision. I knew no one (other than myself and a handful of friends) who was curious and who traveled the globe and who appreciated culture— and looked like me.
When I visited websites and blogs to figure out where I wanted to go, or what I wanted to do upon arrival at my destination… again: there was no one who looked like me, no voice that sounded like mine, no visual aesthetic or curated experience that represented what I valued as a traveler.
And so I fathered this site. I loved it. I nurtured it, and I was proud of it.
Soon enough, my efforts led me down a lit path to find the tiny and elusive community I always knew existed. My hidden city of Atlantis. A community that, albeit small, was bubbling and effervescent and on the rise. And safe. Travelers who looked like me, who shared an upbringing and a culture, who felt the need to represent for the many wherever they went, and who were always on the lookout— just as I was— for the other lone brown face on a sold out flight.
I dove headfirst into my new community. It was bold and new and inspiring. It was refreshing and rewarding. I had access to minds and ideas— ideals and experiences that equalled, complimented and rivaled my own. I had access to people who were hitting the ground running, about to shake things up. And it felt damn good to know there were others— that there was a movement brewing. That more of us would be going deep with our travels. Going off the beaten path to engage with locals who— thanks to folkloric narrative and media demonization— might have otherwise perceived us as dangerous or uncivilized or gifted in sports, or all three simultaneously. It was nice to know those perceptions would no longer go unchallenged.
A funny thing happened, though. In a rising sea of my contemporaries— most of whom by this point had begun to document their travels in brilliant, creative ways— I started to lose sight of my goal. I created Nubian Drifter out of a desire to fill what I thought was an empty space. But the roof to that space had long blown off. I found myself wading in a deluge of creative but combustable energy, the tides of which threatened to overwhelm me.
I began to self-doubt, and self-disassemble.
Eventually the tides won. I misplaced my raison d'être, became jaded, self-sabotaged and lost my voice in the process.
It didn't feel good at all.
I still traveled though, because it was something I did (and by this point, something I was expected to do), but I no longer felt imbued with the zeal— or any desire for that matter— to share my experiences, engage with other travelers or offer advice to a drifter in need. I'd given up.
I often tell a story to friends or at cocktail parties about the time I almost drowned in the ocean at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. I'd been taken out too far by an unrelenting tide and its equally aggressive partner in crime: the undertow. Stranded for longer than I could physically take, I decided I would give up. That moment in the Atlantic ocean in August of 2006 should have been my last. But for the love of my friend and the kindness of a stranger, I'm still here.
I tell that story now because as I share this journey with you, I can't help but see parallels. It was the love of my friends, who swam out into the depths and talked and nudged and held me afloat, and the kindness of strangers, who put me on a surfboard and brought me back to shore, that saved me from drowning. I am here today, writing this piece, redesigning this site and engaging on social media, because of the people in my life who have supported me in my endeavors whether I asked them to or needed them to or not. And because of the strangers— people I either don't know well or don't know at all— who have sent me kind notes, or said encouraging things, hit a "like" button, or asked when more content was coming.
Marcel Proust once said of travel, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." In search of something bigger than myself, I lost myself. And as I tried to find myself, I found community. The kind of community you hear about from your parents and grandparents— those good ol' days when everyone said hello and had each other's backs. A resilient community, grounded in accountability and affirmation. The kind of community that grows strong individuals, able-bodied and able-minded enough to come together and break— or make— gigantic waves. The kind that doesn't necessarily have the lure or sparkle of an Atlantis, but nevertheless feels auspiciously, exactly right.