Oneika Raymond, educator, writer and founder of the incredibly popular blog,Â Oneika the Traveler has always been inspired by travel. “I grew up in a very multicultural city (Toronto, Canada) and am of Jamaican parentage, so I’ve always had a passion for and a curiosity about different people, places, languages, and cultures.”
As a serial expat, she’s visited 70 countries on 6 continents, so it should come as no surprise that she has more than a few lessons learned to share. From race relations and the downside to living as an expat to the most valuable things she’s learned about herself, Black Enterprise caught up with the expert wanderer to learn more about her journey.
While living in France, Mexico, Hong Kong, and the UK, what did you learn about yourself?
My two years in France essentially taught me about myself– who I am as a person.Â Â Those years were really formative and I grew a lot from the experience.
Mexico taught me to be truly independent from a travel perspective– it was there that I started traveling solo, something that had initially scared me.
Hong Kong taught me about East and Southeast Asian cultures.Â Before my move to Asia I had only really seen the world from a “Western” perspective.Â Asia opened me up to different cultural norms, entirely different languages, and diverse histories and religions that I knew nothing about previously. Additionally I learned the following three things about myself:
1. I am fiercely independent and really enjoy my own company. I thus enjoy the freedom of solo travel.
2. I love meeting people “on the road” and love learning their stories. I find myself striking up conversations with people randomly when I travel– I love learning about their lives and what makes them tick.
3.Â I’m not a fan of museums at all. I much prefer interacting with locals and learning the about the country’s/city’s history that way. I thrive on human interaction and find it more effective to learn about a place through engaging with its people.
How do you manage your career as a teacher and founder of “Oneika the Traveler?”
Juggling my teaching career with my blog is a lot more difficult, however, because they both require so much of my time. My teaching job is consuming as my days are very full: I work from 7:30am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday.Â In that time, I prepare and teach lessons, meet with colleagues to discuss curriculum, and deal with student issues.
In addition to teaching I have a role in middle management at my school, so I also have a number of responsibilities attached to that as well. With such a full plate, blogging sometimes falls by the wayside, even though sharing my travel tips, photos, and stories is my passion. As such, I try to write blog posts on evenings or weekends, when I don’t have to work, but sometimes the pull of going out with friends or exploring Hong Kong is too strong!Â Dedicating more time to blog is something I’m actively working on.
Has race ever been a problem for you traveling abroad?
Knock on wood, race has never really been a problem for me when it comes to travel! 99.9% of my experiences “traveling while black” have been positive.Â Yes, I get stares in places in many parts of Asia (and in some cases people have tried to touch my hair or skin).Â But it’s always in the spirit of curiosity and positivity and I find that their reactions are very complimentary.
The only place I have had a negative experience is when I traveled solo to Dublin, Ireland. A group of young men followed me down the street and yelled out derogatory comments about the size of my behind.Â I know the comments were racially charged because they attempted to speak to me in Ebonics.Â That said, I would happily return to Dublin and don’t believe that those gentlemen were representative of the whole country.
What about the downsides of living as an expat?
For me there are very few downsides. Living abroad is the best thing I’ve ever done!Â However, one thing that I find difficult is missing out on important life events back home like weddings, births, and graduations.
As much as the Internet, Facebook, Whatsapp and Skype make it easy to keep in touch, they are not a replacement for physically being in someone’s life.