Traveling alone opens up a world of opportunity for new bonds, powerful friendships, and the intimacy of sisterhood. As a twenty-something black woman, I’ve seen more countries, world wonders, and landmarks than most, but whenever someone asks about my favorite travel memories, I rarely quote any traditional tourist attractions. While I’ve had my share of flings with foreign men, the most profound relationships that I’ve experienced while living abroad were among sister friends: women who I’ve grown to love like family and have provided support during moments of frustration, joy, and apathy. Shakespeare once said, “A ministering angel shall my sister be,” and these women, American Brazilian, Spanish, Senegalese, Canadian, and hailing from numerous other countries, have come to my rescue when my best friends were too far away to offer a warm hug, soft words, strong encouragement, infinite giggles, and reassurance that everything will be alright.
I had been in Brazil for three weeks, and already felt the power of sisterhood shaping my experience. I had been introduced to a few Black American women through mutual friends, and instantly, we built an affinity based on shared values and womanhood. While we were all standing at different points in our lives, I couldn’t help but notice the same conversation occurring at each meeting. Inevitably, we’d discuss our careers, travels, romantic lives, and journeys to self-love. And then, we’d all exhale, as we’d share memories of weakness, depression, growth, and strength during our time living abroad.
But these moments weren’t foreign. In fact, they felt quite familiar. When I was living in Spain, my American, Senegalese, and Spanish sister friends fed me and provided shelter during my travels across the country when I was a struggling student living off a loan budget. They gave me memories of laughter, cross-cultural conversations, and countless fiestas in which we partied like our lives might end the following day. Again, we talked about our careers, travels, romantic lives, and journeys to self-love. And again, I remembered the group exhale, as we’d share memories of weakness, depression, growth, and strength.
However, one of my most powerful moments living in Brazil includes a short vacation that I took to a nearby island. While I cherished and adored my American sister friends near my apartment, I missed the power in building bonds with women of different nationalities. The universe must’ve heard my desires because on this trip, I found myself surrounded by a wonderful group of young Brazilian women that soaked me in love, affection, and numerous other core emotions of sisterhood. As I struggled to speak Portuguese, fluctuating from Spanish to a few Portuguese words, they were patient, kind, and inclusive despite the language barrier. And I started to notice that I understood more and more of this foreign tongue, finding the ability to share memories, listen, and exhale because once again we shared similar journeys.
It’s not every day that we take the time to say thank you to our sister friends, regardless of where we met them or where they currently stand in our lives. But I must say, to all the women that I’ve met while traveling, thank you for having my back, sharing your story, listening to mine, and exemplifying the power of sisterhood.
As Alice Walker said, “Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”
I think not.