At 28, I’m a fairly new traveler. Travel for the sake of pleasure was never something I prioritized; I grew up in a family that typically hopped on planes solely to visit loved ones, rarely to explore new cities or just relax on vacation. When I got older, I found myself falling into the same cycle. Before I knew it, it had been years since I’d taken a real trip for fun.
Everything changed when the pandemic hit. As we were forced inside indefinitely, an unfamiliar itch started to materialize: I wanted to explore (OK, it was more like I felt trapped and needed to get out). In 2021, for the first time in five years, I left the country. Like many green travelers, I gravitated towards the Tulums and San Juans of the world with friends, and for good reason! Destinations like Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and even Miami are some of the most accessible for US travelers without sacrificing fun and culture. I was having a blast. Yes, I’d missed the “wanderlust” themed Pinterest-board era by about a decade, but it was finally moving full-steam ahead. I started to see traveling as pure joy and a way to spend time with friends in a (usually) tropical destination. But it was my trip in June 2022 to Mallorca, Spain that completely transformed my perspective on travel.
When United Airlines invited me to fly on its inaugural direct trip to Mallorca, it took me all of five seconds to accept. Mallorca wasn’t a destination I’d ever considered, mostly because it was generally much easier and more affordable to access other cities. (I love a direct flight) This new direct route is the first one from the US, suddenly adding Mallorca to the list of accessible destinations for a brand new demographic of travelers. A quick Google search promised gorgeous beaches, rich history, and Mediterranean charm. Enter: my Mamma Mia meets Eat, Pray, Love moment (except in Mallorca, of course)!
I swallowed my fear of water and took a sailboat out in the Bay of Palma to enjoy the gorgeous blue water. At the Salinas d’Es Trenc, I discovered that I have a surprising fascination with the sea salt mining process — the extra salty brines create an ideal ecosystem for flamingos, a favorite animal of mine that I had no idea inhabited Mallorca! I shirked my sedentary lifestyle and climbed the (182!) steps of the tallest cathedral in Mallorca to get a bird’s-eye view of the island. As a notoriously picky eater — I have a lot of allergies, sue me! — I pushed myself to embrace new culinary experiences. (Did y’all know that grilled octopus kind of slaps?). I drank wine with every meal, ate my weight in bread and alioli, enjoyed a sustainable meal at sunset at a stunning eco-resort, and went to my first Michelin star restaurant. I toured artisan markets where I bought spices and jewelry from the local merchants.
I even went on a fantastic first date with a VERY cute chef-de-rang who showered me with compliments and played me Spanish love songs while wining and dining me on my last night on the island. We have to talk about how my confidence skyrocketed just by being Black and beautiful in Spain. The laid-back beauty practices of Mediterranean women freed me to live in all my bare-faced glory without feeling self-conscious. In contrast with the US, where the beauty of Black women is so often either ignored, denied, or even fetishized in favor of lighter-hued women co-opting our natural features, I actually felt appreciated for my inherent beauty in Spain. It was incredibly affirming to be on the receiving end of comments about everything from my skin to my shaved head to my style, smile, and energy. European men know how to give a compliment, chile!
My trip to Mallorca was so different from the other trips I’ve taken on my baby world traveler journey. I forced myself to be adventurous and was rewarded every time. And along the way, I met the kindest locals who were eager to show off their city. It was an experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life! I love a non-stop turn up week or weekend with my friends as much as the next person, but I think it was really important that I had a different experience. I’m now looking at traveling in a new way, expanding my travel bucket list to add places I never considered before.
It’s important that as Black women, we get the opportunity to experience the world beyond our comfort zones, and to do so without judgment. Sure, I’ll never turn down a girls’ trip to Tulum, but next time you travel, try considering booking your flight somewhere totally unexpected. Expand your own worldview and experience something new — if only just to have a bougie adventure drinking wine on a boat in the Mediterranean.