Nerja, a coastal town in the Malaga province of the Andalusia region of southern Spain, was crammed with families on holiday, joyously eating and drinking. In bunches, they walked very, very slowly.

The beach was full of tanning bodies spilling out of bathing suits. Nerja, unlike, say, Barcelona, isn’t where people, who spend months toning their beach bods, go to be seen.

Rather, it appeared like a quaint gathering destination for extended European families with but three things on their itinerary: eating at one of the hundreds of restaurants, sitting on one of the small beaches underneath hovering cliffs and clogging the narrow streets.

My travel partner and I were there to explore the Cueva de Nerja, or the Caves of Nerja. There I had one of the most thrilling moments of a month-long trip, and it wasn’t because the giant stalactites and stalagmites in the caves, discovered in 1959, were so impressive, which they were.

I saw another Black person. Two, actually.

It had been almost two weeks since I had flown from Charlotte, N.C., and while I had encountered Africans in several Spanish cities, I hadn’t locked eyes with someone like me—a Black American traveling abroad.

I was sitting on a bench outside the gift shop writing in a small notebook and singing to myself. A bus idled in a nearby parking lot. An older white woman, whose group was boarding the bus, said she needed a moment to rest and asked if she could sit next to me. The cave’s steps are hold-the-rail steep.

“Are you composing something?” she asked. “Are you a musician?”

“No,” I responded. “I hope I’m not bothering you.”

“I was enjoying it, actually,” she said.

Then I saw the couple. Both were wearing straw hats, jean shorts and white sneakers. I exchanged a head nod with him and sly smiles broke from our lips.

The last time I shared that kind of unspoken acknowledgement was with a security guard at my former newspaper early on the morning of Nov. 5, 2008.

The Black couple boarded the bus. So did the woman who was listening to me sing. I was left thinking whether I had noticed a dearth of Black travelers? Of course. How much did it matter to me? Apparently, more than I had realized.

I’m not alone.

In July 2015, Ashley Southall, a reporter for The New York Times, wrote an article titled, “Black Travel Groups Find Kindred Spirits on Social Networks.” In the story, Southall reported, “African-Americans are one of the fastest-growing travel markets.”

Her story noted that Black travelers are usually the only Black passengers on an international flight. “And once we land at our destination, we can be the only Black guests at the hotel, restaurant or attraction,” she wrote.

But we are not alone.

As Southall pointed out, we’ve come a long way from “The Negro Travelers’ Green Book,” Victor H. Green’s travel series published between 1936 and 1964. The series provided Black travelers with a guide to hospitable places to dine, sleep and sightsee in the United States, Mexico and Puerto Rico during segregation.

I was on a pretty intense schedule while in Spain (more on that in my next two columns), and it became increasingly difficult to reflect. That’s what happens when you have a FOMO-stricken travel partner.

While on the grounds of the Alhambra, the sprawling palace that was the final bastion of Moorish rule in Spain, I set aside time to sit by myself. When Granada fell in 1492, it capped the end of the Christian Reconquista, an almost 800-year effort by Christian monarchs to end Islamic rule.

The Alhambra is where Christopher Columbus went to seek financing from the Spanish crown so he could sail to Asia. A less-than-stellar navigator, he bumped into the Americas instead, a continent he did not discover. And here we are.

And there I was, sitting on a stone garden bench in a courtyard reading. I kept thinking about my place in the world.

My thoughts were interrupted by gravel crunching under feet. I looked up and saw two young girls. I dropped my bag on the ground and scooted over so I could share my shaded seat.

They sat down.

“I like your dreads,” one nervously said as she twisted a braid.

“My brother has dreads,” the other said.

They were from Virginia. They were chatty, taking turns peppering me with questions. “What you reading?”

“Invisible Man.”

“What is it about?”

“Showing yourself to world.”


Black travel guides are nothing new, but now we have the Internet. What sets the following five travel sites apart is their sense of community. If you haven’t done so already, check them out before you plan a trip—in the U.S. or abroad. Along with travel tips, you could find more budget-friendly travel packages and flight deals. Better yet, you can find someone to link up with.

  1. Travel Noire, Its curated approach to travel includes culling from expats living abroad. When you land, live like locals who know how to avoid tourist traps. If you look at Travel Noire’s Instagram, you’ll see that traveling looks so fly.

  2. Nomadness Travel Tribe, Want to travel with an urban edge? The Tribe, which is more than 9,000 strong, has gatherings around the globe.

  3. Get your girlfriends and go on a trip with a company that puts together tours developed by “Black women for Black women.”

  4. The site celebrates “women of color who wanderlust.” Essays with titles such as “I’m Black, So I’m Kind of a Big Deal in China” are, like Beyonce, fearless and inspiring. The site was founded by sisters who travel.

  5. SoulOfAmerica, This website is a solid resource to begin international and domestic inquiries. The listings include notes on a destination’s history, transportation, food and lodging. It’s like a TripAdvisor for Black travel.