Black & Abroad Conversations: Abena Bempah

 March, 2017 at  Playa Blanca  in Colombia.

March, 2017 at Playa Blanca in Colombia.

Here at Black & Abroad, we work to ensure that our mission concedes simple brand recognition.

Often along the way, we encounter other like-minded individuals that have successfully mastered the space beyond their anticipated approach to empower the diaspora.

These are the influencers, visionaries, and tastemakers that have managed to successfully employ their own blueprints to create a better world for us tomorrow.

Throughout this series, we will present to you a hand-picked line-up of black-owned & operated brands and individuals that deserve your consideration.

That deserve your support.

That deserve your attention. 

Welcome to the Black & Abroad Conversation Series.

Enter Abena Bempah.

 June, 2017 at the  Hassan II Mosque  in Casablanca, Morocco. 

June, 2017 at the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. 

 May, 2017 in  Keukenhof,  also known as   the  "Garden of Europe,"  in Holland .

May, 2017 in Keukenhof, also known as the "Garden of Europe," in Holland.

What becomes of an introspective millennial suffocating in her own success, constricted mainly by the expectations of others? In this case, a sun-chasing, jet-setting, travelista. Meet Abena Bempah. Her newfound pursuit of happiness has ferried her to over 15 countries and counting since early 2016 when she made her grand debut into the travel world. Since then she's been sauntering around the globe with her trademark style & grace in tow. Her Instagram page, @beautifully.flawed.one boasts of well-composed, colorful images documenting her world explorations. We got the chance to pick her brain for a better understanding of her experiences and perspectives. Check out the interview below.

Welcome to our Conversation Series! Tell us about yourself.

 Up close and personal, in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.

Up close and personal, in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.

I am Abena, a registered nurse living in the Philadelphia area. About a year ago, I decided to figure out what drives me. At 30, I was convinced—that many of the decisions I had previously made were influenced far too greatly by the expectations of others and not my own desires.  So I decided to leave my full-time position as RN Clinical Manager, get a part time remote gig with an insurance company, change my graduate course of study, and search for what mattered most to me. I discovered that beauty can be found everywhere, even in everyone, if you bother to look.  I currently work for a national health insurance company remotely. The work is not as rewarding as direct patient care, but it affords me the flexibility that I desire. I love discovery, human connection, inquiry, faith, ice cream, and my dog Jackson.

Describe to us one of your fondest memories abroad.

 September, 2016 at the  Philadelphia Museum of Art  in Philadelphia, PA. 

September, 2016 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, PA. 

Prior to my trip to Cartagena, Colombia I was determined to maximize the interactions I had with others. Besides the typical Lonely Planet/Trip Advisor searches, I perused Facebook for expat and traveler groups.  I found three groups and posted a general inquiry about meeting up during my 5 day trip to Cartagena. My first evening I hung out with a black expat who moved to Colombia to teach. She took me to one of the best restaurants in the city, shared her experiences as an American in Colombia, and invited me to an open air Zumba class in the middle of the coolest neighborhood in Cartagena. We capped off our night dancing with 200+ participants and meeting the instructors afterwards. The next morning I was scheduled for a bike ride through the Turbaco countryside.  I hopped in the car and my driver was one of the instructors from the previous evening’s Zumba party! This was just the beginning of feeling at home in Colombia through all of the rich and beautiful connections I made during my travels there.

My skin is a deep cocoa complexion. I do not have ‘good’ hair.  My head is shaved by choice.
— Abena Bempah
 October, 2016 at  Our Lady of Grace Cathedral  in León, Nicaragua. 

October, 2016 at Our Lady of Grace Cathedral in León, Nicaragua. 

When and where was your first trip abroad? What countries have you visited since?

 My escapades abroad began when I was 1 with a trip to Ghana. My heritage is Ashanti and so my family visited Ghana frequently when I was a child. My outlook on international travel changed, however, when I left my job last summer.  I planned a trip for Cuba as my first solo jaunt.  It was exhilarating and initially nerve-racking, but it also gave me an appetite to explore the world.  Since August 2016 I have visited 15+ countries and I have fallen in love with Colombia, Croatia, Indonesia, and surprisingly, my hometown of Philadelphia.  

As a person of color, have you ever been subjected to certain stereotypes on your travels? 

 January, 2017 in Oranjestad, Aruba.  

January, 2017 in Oranjestad, Aruba.  

 In general, I am met with curiosity and admiration when I travel abroad.  I'm use to the stares, annoyed by the pictures taken without my permission, and honored when esteem is expressed. However, I was heckled for the first time when I was in Macedonia this spring. As a disclaimer, I by no means think this is the norm and to be fair, it was two teenagers. The jeering was sexually objectifying in nature.   I ignored the kids, centered on positive affirmations, and processed the event through the caption and comments of an Instagram post.   The discussion eventually dredged up the question, “is it the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressor their mistake?” I still don’t have a definitive answer on this either way.  And maybe I will never have one, but I have new resolve to engage ignorance, in certain circumstances, when or if it rears its ugly head again. 

What’s the greatest piece of advice that you can give a person looking to travel abroad for the first time?

 July, 2017 in Cappadocia, Turkey.

July, 2017 in Cappadocia, Turkey.

My experiences with many American men have often reinforced a preference for anything other than what I inherently embody.
— Abena Bempah

The beauty of a place is found within its people.   Take the time to meet locals and other travelers on your journey.  This adds so much richness and depth to your time abroad.  Prior to your trip, check out sites like couchsurfing.com and country/city specific groups on social media.  Via the internet, you can plan your trip based on the advice you receive, but more importantly you can connect with locals or expats who have a unique and current perspective of their hometown.   During your travels, don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger.  A simple hello can lead to an experience of a lifetime.

As a black woman, have you noticed a heightened appreciation from men in certain parts of the world? 

 July, 2017 in Cappadocia, Turkey.

July, 2017 in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Yes! Yes! And Yes!  You may or may not have noticed, but I am not racially ambiguous. My skin is a deep cocoa complexion. I do not have “good” hair.  My head is shaved by choice. My experiences with many American men have often reinforced a preference for anything other than what I inherently embody.  Therefore, it is refreshing and affirming to travel abroad and feel beautiful because of my defining features not despite them.   As I previously mentioned, I am treated kindly and with intrigue while abroad, and this is especially by men.  In my own experiences, the most remarkable response from men abroad was in Thailand and Colombia. 

What have your travels taught you about yourself?

 December, 2016 at the  Pura Ulun Danu Bratan  in Bali, Indonesia.

December, 2016 at the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan in Bali, Indonesia.

 I began traveling the world in search of a heightened sense of joy, adventure, exploration, escape, and BEAUTY.  However, my journeys abroad have taught me that I create this type of lifestyle no matter where I am.  Practically, I have chosen to set aside time to discover hidden gems locally, relax with intentional self-care, find joy in the miracle of the moment, and connect by investing in friendships new and old. 

Where can we find you online? 

 I can be found on Instagram @beautifully.flawed.one 

 

How has travel changed your life for the better? Let us know in the comments below!