Ashley Southall, THE NEW YORK TIMES
(The New York Times) — As I stood barefoot at the entrance to the Chottanikkara Bhagavathy Temple, a labyrinthine Hindu shrine in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala that is forbidden to nonworshipers, a man studied me.
Wrapped in a blue silk sari, I was an anomaly in the crowds of worshipers and wedding guests sweeping past. My pecan-brown skin had been tanned by the sun, my tightly coiled hair was cut in a close crop, and I spoke a foreigner’s English. There was no one like me there except my then-boyfriend, who was standing next to me with his modest Afro as we waited for my college roommate’s wedding party.
“What are you? South African?” the man finally said. When I told him we were American, he asked again, “South African?”
This kind of encounter with incredulity is a recurring scene for black Americans traveling to far-flung destinations, and their experiences led to the creation of the Nomadness Travel Tribe, an invitation-only collective of more than 10,000 globe-trotters spread out over 36 countries.