JourneyWoman Community Call: Unconscious Bias in Travel

by | May 14, 2022 | 0 comments

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Becoming aware of our biases through travel

by Carolyn Ray, Editor, JourneyWoman

Do you know what “Ground truthing” is? We can’t always believe what we read in the mainstream media about places and people. We have to find out the truth for ourselves.

JourneyWoman Advisory Council member Tonya Fitzpatrick, Co-founder of World Footprints, leads a discussion about overcoming unconscious bias in travel. On this call, Tonya shares her experience living in various regions of the world, including China and Russia, bring awareness to this aspect of travel and facilitate an open dialogue to help us shift our perspective.

Tonya asked ‘Is there a travel experience you’ve had where you’ve been confronted with your own unconscious bias and how did you handle it?” How would you respond?

About Tonya Fitzpatrick

Tonya Fitzpatrick, Esq. is the co-Founder of World Footprints, a socially conscious travel media platform that was founded on the unity principle of “Ubuntu” – I am because we are. Tonya is co-host of the multi-award-winning World Footprints podcast and has interviewed distinguished guests like the late Dr. Maya Angelou. Through World Footprints, Tonya amplifies stories about the transformative power of travel and the beauty of our common humanity.

Tonya is a 3x TEDx and international speaker, lawyer, author and member of The Explorers Club.  She was appointed as a Delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and is a former White House political appointee.  She is a North American Travel Journalist Association board member and she serves on several committee on the Society of American Travel Journalists.

Tonya graduated from the London School of Economics, Wayne State University Law School and she attended East China University of Politics and Law.  She has been featured in AAA World, MSNBC, U.S. News and World Reports, Black Enterprise, NBC, CBS and in several books.

Learn more about our Women’s Travel Advisory Council here

From Tonya’s website, World Footprints

How we all must travel differently once the world reopens

Our planet has been given a much-needed break, presenting small silver linings such as a visible reduction in air pollution in India, and the canals in Venice being the clearest they have been in over 60 years.

But while we are all hoping for things to return to normal, what we should be doing is hoping for things to return to a new normal. A state of living and of travelling that is more ethical, sustainable, and more responsible — both in protecting our planet, and all the people who live on it.

Everyone has their own subconscious conceptions about other people and cultures. It’s inevitable that our own culture and upbringing has shaped our view of others, whether we’re aware of this or not. But one of the easiest ways to broaden our mind and change any existing views you may have is to explore other countries and cultures, and widen our perspectives of the world.

When travelling, it’s important to be sensitive to cultural differences and treat everyone you meet with respect. Be open to the idea of learning about new cultures in a way you perhaps weren’t before, and you may be surprised at what you learn about not only other people, but yourself. But it’s also about knowing how to be respectful — such as asking for permission before taking someone’s photograph (in some countries and cultures, it may be considered rude and intrusive), or taking care not to partake in cultural appropriation. With many of us learning about our own unconscious biases under the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s more important than ever to be aware of these things.

It’s also important to recognise and be aware of our own privileges while travelling. We need to stay aware of how racial privileges in particular can grant us unsolicited special treatment while travelling or grant us immunity from microaggressions, something that you may never have thought about before. That being said, while I love to travel, I now recognise how I may benefit from my privilege and how I should be using that to be respectful of others while travelling. We need to acknowledge that our privilege allows us to explore the world safely and comfortably in a way that marginalized groups, such as people of color, may not be able to, and have the difficult but important conversations about how we can actively change that.

If recent events have taught us anything at all, it’s that we can rise from these difficult times and work together to create positive change. We have been blessed with a chance to re-enter the world in a way that can make it stronger than ever before — so let’s take it.

Read more on Tonya’s website here.

More on Sustainable Travel

A passionate traveller, Carolyn believes anything is possible when we follow our heart and trust our intuition. Raised in Florida, Carolyn loves all things Latin, margaritas, the ocean and music. She's a board member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and a member of the Travel Media Association of Canada (TMAC).


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