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The Balancing Act of Living and Traveling as a Hypervisible/Invisible Individual

Updated: Jan 29

If my body or mind is uncomfortable, I will move.  

A way for me to do that was to travel. Travelling has always been a form of escapism from either my depressive state of mind or my environment, when given the chance I will leave. At 21, single and financially secure, I developed an impulsive behaviour that became uncontrollable.

"The world is a book, and those who don't travel read only one page". St Augustine.

From childhood, I was what is known as a suitcase baby, moving to and fro between my parents. It started small, moving from house to house in the same area, to different cities and eventually to different countries. I eventually developed the desperate urge to travel, albeit solo or with friends. My first solo trip was to Rome. Taking that first step was scary, but I wanted to go, and waiting on others to make plans was tedious. I originally wanted to go with friends, but one of my toxic traits is my unwillingness to compromise on what and when I want it. I'm better now.

On one of my solo trips to Rome, I did what I do best: walked around the city tipsy from the variety of excellent wine provided by a local restaurateur I previously befriended. With a stomach full of pasta and wine, I easily discovered the local area and its people.

During my trip, I noticed the unique ability to be both visible and invisible in a space that wasn't designed for me. That power got me into places I wasn't supposed to but received looks in the most ordinary places. I would get stares in McDonald's but when I sneaked into an invite-only event at a museum no one batted an eye. I experienced the same feeling when I was in Budapest, Brussels, Lisbon, and, surprisingly, Egypt.

In 2015, the feeling of unease remained. My mother told me it was my body telling me to change my environment and go wherever I'd be at peace. Mothers have the annoying knack of being right, don't they? Where was I going to go and do what? No clue!

By July of that same year, I received an opportunity to teach English in China, which I initially had no interest in. However, I found myself on a plane to China that September!

 Living in China will be the first time I fully experienced what it was to be truly hypervisible. Being invisible and hypervisible in China is something most cannot describe, you have to experience it. Unfortunately, colourism and location will affect the experience, I moved to a city where black foreigners were a growing number. However, the feeling of being out of place is present. If you are uncomfortable with being stared at and pushed around on public transport without any apologies, then China may not be the ideal place for you. Fortunately, I had no issues being looked at. Firstly, I would stare back to make them uncomfortable. Secondly, the stares fed my ego as a Leo.

Hypervisibility and invisibility are just microaggressive behaviours that fall under the umbrella of racism. For example, if you are the only person in a certain area who looks like you, you may experience microaggressions, which can lead to receiving poor customer service or no service at all. On the other hand, the advantage of being invisible is that you are not constantly being followed, and you do not feel anxious when leaving a store without making a purchase.

 Back in the West, specifically the UK, visibility was something I was used to. Though we are only a small percentage, black women are not the first image that pops into your mind when you think of British women. Black women are not the primary standard, albeit beauty or womanhood, but that's a topic for another day.  Travelling outside the West, there will be issues with finding the best products for both your skin and hair. If you understand that the world is not catered to you or anyone with melanin deeper than olive, it becomes a better place to live.

I do not want to discourage anyone from travelling because the world is a shit-hole, but that is not going to change. I'd rather experience all the variety the world has to offer and take in what makes me grow and be better than to live in unpleasant experiences. Take it for what is it and move on.

 It's important to prioritize your mental and physical well-being, and sometimes that means taking a break from your current environment. Travelling can be a great way to gain new perspectives, learn about different cultures, and recharge your batteries. Of course, not everyone has the privilege or resources to travel, but for those who do, it can be a life-changing experience. Embrace what life has to offer and be persistent in making it fit you, and I guarantee you it'll make an interesting life.

Have you ever felt like you were being overly visible or noticed by others?

If so, what was the outcome of that experience?

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