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This series is a series of firsthand anecdotes from a seasoned solo traveler who has traveled to 50 countries over the past decade. Priyanka Juneja is also completing her MBA and Masters in International Studies from Wharton and is the founder of, a platform to empower women to travel fearlessly.

As someone who identifies as both Indian and American, I have always been aware of the color of my skin. I’ve seen the dichotomy between these two completely different cultures firsthand my entire life. I’ve seen them collide headfirst, struggling to create a cohesive hybrid identity that would suit someone like me. While this post is not about my racial identity crisis (although I have many stories to tell), the context in which I am both Indian and American is important. As someone born brown in a very conservative town in the south, I was acutely reminded that I have been a POC all my life.

It wasn’t just in this little American town. When I was studying abroad in Seville, Spain, random people asked: “¿Porque eres morena? ” to recognize where I come from and why I am tanned. I had random people sing “Dora, dora the Explorer” to me when they passed by on bicycles one morning. I would be lying if I didn’t say that these experiences made me feel uncomfortable. I’m sure some people really cared about my ethnic background. Even so, someone who sings the lyrics of a children’s cartoon where the main character is my skin color feels like it was meant to be some kind of stitch.

Why the talk about race?

It is important for me to highlight that the anecdote I shared at the beginning of the post is my personal experience as a Native American American. We as a society use the term BIPOC as a broad term, but it is naive to believe that everyone who falls under this category has the same experience. For example, I can’t talk about the challenges a black, Latin American, or East Asian woman can face in her own country or abroad. What I can do is underline the need for this dialogue on race – especially with what is happening not just in the United States but in the world around us.

These past 12 months have been fraught with seemingly insurmountable challenges and heartbreak. You have also highlighted the systemic racism that pervades the entire fabric of society. From senseless violence against the black community to a 150% increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, we can no longer remain silent and complacent about racial issues.

Race related to the travel industry

While there’s nothing I enjoy more than exploring a new place, I’ve found that the cities I keep visiting are the ones I can fit in more. That way I honestly feel safer.

It’s harder to travel to places where I get noticed and where I get a lot of unnecessary attention. As a solo traveler who is taught to always be on guard, a lot of attention is just the opposite of what I want. For me, it boils down to where I feel most secure with a combination of skin color and language skills.

I share this because it’s important to realize that racing affects not only your everyday life but the way you travel as well. More specifically, it can affect your safety while traveling. There are countries where wearing one Burqa or Niqab in public areas is prohibited and in countries where the darker your skin, the more suspicious you are. I urge you to read Nicole Phillip’s account of a black woman studying abroad in Italy as she describes her experiences that left a deep emotional scar.

The first step towards change is always awareness, but action must be taken quickly. It’s no secret that there needs to be change at the travel industry level and that there needs to be a variety of messaging and targeting. There is no image that defines a traveler. By not recognizing this, tourism associations and other key players are missing out on attracting a number of travelers. Who would want to travel somewhere where none of the travelers depicted in the advertising material look like them? It’s daunting and alienating at the same time.

While there’s nothing I enjoy more than exploring a new place, I’ve found that the cities I keep visiting are the ones I can fit in more. That way I honestly feel safer.

This is a topic that I don’t take lightly as the founder of Hera, a travel platform that helps women travel fearlessly. It is my goal that every single woman in the Hera community – regardless of background – feels empowered, included and heard. I know I’ll make mistakes along the way, but I’m sure that Hera can and will make a difference with a diverse and strong leadership team.

Pro Traveler Corner

This section provides tips on how to recognize how racing affects travel and how to plan accordingly.

  1. Find out about current events before your trip
    For your own safety, it is important to understand what is currently going on in the country you are visiting. Is there a rise in sentiment against immigrants?
  1. Acknowledge your own prejudices
    Regardless of who you are, you can be racially prejudiced. It’s a difficult and uncomfortable fact, but acknowledging your own prejudices is the first step in making change. This can go a long way as well as interacting with locals or fellow travelers.
  1. Support to BIPOC tour operators
    The travel industry still has a long way to go in terms of diversification. Be part of this change and support BIPOC companies.
  1. Trust your instincts
    This has to be repeated over and over again. If the situation doesn’t feel right, move away immediately.

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