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A Different Shade of Travel (Home and Abroad): One Man's Look At The World And America Through Travel

A Different Shade of Travel (Home and Abroad): One Man's Look At The World And America Through Travel

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A Different Shade of Travel (Home and Abroad): One Man's Look At The World And America Through Travel

203 Seiten
3 Stunden
Apr 25, 2012


Have you ever looked at a globe or a world map and wondered what it would be like to visit or live in exotic countries? What is it like to travel to places where you are the only one of your race and archaic stereotypes and prejudices still exist? Maybe you have lived abroad and returned home to find your opinions and outlook on life and the world have dramatically changed.

A Different Shade of Travel ( Home and Abroad) delves deeper inside how traveling and living abroad changes us. Joseph Brazer, a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and educator has lived on different continents from the Southern Hemisphere to the Far East. He eloquently and candidly talks about making the transition from “wonderer” to “world traveler” while expanding on how his exciting escapades have reshaped his opinions of America and the world.

Apr 25, 2012

Über den Autor


A Different Shade of Travel (Home and Abroad) - Joseph Brazer





A Different Shade of Travel (Home and Abroad): One Man’s Look at the World and America Through Travel

By Joseph Brazer

Copyright © 2012 by Joseph Brazer

Published at Smashwords

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.

First Printing, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4507-4358-7


I would like to extend gratitude to my friend from abroad, Vu, with whom I shared many stories. His belief that I had something valuable to share encouraged me to write this book.




Chapter OneThinking of Distant Places13

Chapter TwoI’m Outta Here17

Chapter ThreeCulture of America 21

Chapter Four

American Woman

(Stay Away From Me?!)37

Chapter Five

Black Travel and Racism51

Chapter Six

Black America Through My Eyes75

Chapter Seven

An Education Nightmare99

Chapter Eight

Lifestyles (Abroad and at Home)105

Chapter Nine

Less is More111

Chapter Ten

Teaching Stress at Home and Abroad117

Chapter Eleven

Unwarranted Fears/Little Time for Travel127

Chapter Twelve

Enslaved to Debt and Work133

Chapter Thirteen

Partying Brazilian Style!137

Chapter Fourteen


Chapter Fifteen

No American Football!!!153

Chapter Sixteen

The California Dream157

Chapter Seventeen

The Far East163


MANY PEOPLE LIKE TO travel and talk about their experiences. I’ve heard interesting and fascinating stories from many travelers, but their experiences were often quite different from mine. As a black man, I noticed that traveling took on circumstances (good and bad) which were distinct wherever I went.

A coworker in Vietnam thought I had many interesting stories and asked why I hadn’t written about them. The thought never crossed my mind, but with his encouragement, this book came to life. Writing this book also provided the opportunity to reflect on some profound issues in America I have observed while living and traveling abroad. Issues such as the breakdown of character and morality amongst black Americans (especially males), and an American culture that has become as bizarre to me as any country I’ve visited.


I HAVE TRAVELED A LOT over the last three decades and it never ceases to amaze me when I see Americans after returning to the states. What is it that amazes me so much? It is not the wealth. Nor is it the well-landscaped roads and well-maintained highways. Not even the skyscrapers. Yes, those things are impressive when seeing them after a long spell away. The thing that amazes me the most is the look on the faces of Americans. The look of happiness and joy is remarkably absent from their faces as the work first/play later mentality consumes their minds. This became evident to me over the years and, in spite of the pressures of American culture, is a practice I learned to dismiss. On a lesser scale (no pun intended) I am always bewildered at the massive sizes of individuals. Notice that I did not say they are big. They are massive. People have been discussing this for years now and many medical experts have stated, with the use of many proven statistics, that this is a problem of epidemic proportions in America. Nevertheless, it just doesn’t seem that anyone really cares.

Those are some of the many aspects of travel that have opened my eyes wider and changed my opinions of my home country and the world. However, this book is not only about the negatives of travel and America, nor is it only about the positives. Yes, I have an objective of getting more Americans, especially black Americans, involved in international travel. But this book is for anyone with an inkling for experiencing the world and its wonders. It is a book of experiences and adventures that have shaped my life and made me the person that I am today. A person with whom I can honestly say I am proud. The charms of travel are so wonderful that, for me, it is like an emotional high. A high that somehow seems to take over your body. When you come down from that high (usually after returning to the states), a period of sorrow sets in. Sometimes just below the surface. Sometimes deeply. Knowing what is out there after having experienced it keeps the emotional high within my grasp. The memories of the moments circulate constantly in my blood. Therefore, I must continue to seek more world adventures.

Succumbing to these whims of travel has a negative side that I felt needed to be addressed because there isn’t much, if any, information about it. This negative is something that I have experienced often and most other travelers never or very rarely face. Unfortunately, it is something that most people are afraid to talk about or just want to pretend doesn’t exist. I’m talking about racism. Yes, we (Americans) have progressed more than any other country in the world when it comes to people accepting blacks as equal. In most places that I have visited, this issue has been dealt with on a minor scale or not at all. For non-blacks, it is almost a non-issue. They don’t have to deal with the problem of racism the same as blacks.

When I say black, I’m speaking of people like myself with a brown or dark complexion and thick, curly or ‘kinky’ hair. People who are definite descendants of sub-Saharan Africans. The technical term for what or who is considered black can be debated. Those of you who have faced racial discrimination because of your dark, African, physical characteristics will easily identify with me.

I want to share all of my experiences because wherever I’ve been, there have been few, if any, other blacks to share my experiences and receive advice. It would be a pleasure to meet other blacks traveling and learn about other places and cultures as much as I love them. Nevertheless, I’m usually the only one. When I say the only black, I mean that without the slightest bit of exaggeration. Whether it is on a bus, plane, boat, you name it, I’m usually the ‘only’ black in the group. That is disappointing because trying to explain or expel myths or stereotypes to people who have disrespected you or who just have no knowledge of blacks in general is complicated when you have no one to support you. One thing that I’ve learned from my travel experiences is that you cannot expect a non-black to support or defend you in situations that may have offended you. Nor in situations which were downright discriminating. If anything, you can expect them to pretend that nothing has happened, or turn in the other direction.

As blacks, we have so much history and so much to share to the world. Unfortunately, so little is known about us; and misconceptions, perceptions, awful stereotypes, and myths still exists (some due to our own odd behaviors). [For example, there appears to be a universal stereotypical image of black males; dreadlock or bald hairstyles, and the accompanying bulging diamond earrings and other gaudy jewelry.] Those beliefs can be changed if more of us take the opportunity to travel and visit some of these amazing places. I’m not saying that these issues will definitely confront you, but that you should be prepared. Keeping that in mind along with a willingness to embrace other cultures, you can be at the doorstep of the world. And what’s behind the door is truly amazing.

There are many ethnic communities spread throughout the United States. Chinatown and Little Italy are well-known. Vietnamese, Korean, Ethiopian, Jamaican, Columbian, Brazilian, Pilipino, and Cuban communities are also found in the U.S., along with a host of others. In fact, in America, it’s possible to find a community of most ethnic groups in the world. You may think these areas are an accurate reflection of the native country. From my experience, I can say with absolute certainty that this is false. Although you will find a few similarities, visiting the actual country is a completely different experience. Moreover, to fully appreciate and grasp the true essence of a foreign country, a short trip will not do justice. Short trips abroad are worthwhile and should be taken if longer trips are not feasible, but to truly understand the depth of a culture, a few months of living in that culture is necessary. The sounds, the smells, and the activities of the people are truly authentic in the actual countries; without the constrictions of conservative American laws and rules of behavior. Whether it’s observing the beautiful people during the summers in Punta Del Este, Uruguay, gazing at the gushing waterfalls at Foz do Iguazu, Brazil, or walking amongst the majestic temples at Angkor Wat, Cambodia—it’s all there for you to behold.

Chapter 1

Thinking of Distant Places

THERE WAS AN EPISODE of The Cosby Show where Bill Cosby’s character, Dr. Huxtable, talked about seeing images of Brazil on TV when he was younger. He became fascinated by the beauty of a Brazilian woman in the movie Black Orpheus, and at that moment, he decided he was going to go to Rio (de Janeiro) someday to find her. I can remember being in my late teens and also seeing images of Brazil on a travel program. One of the most beautiful women I had ever seen was playing in the water at a beach in Rio wearing one of those famous Brazilian bikinis. I’m not sure if Bill Cosby ever made it to Rio in real life, but I knew I would never be satisfied with my life if I never made it to Rio someday.

Every chance I get, I try to watch films from different countries. I have seen dozens and dozens of foreign films and I often find them much more intriguing than the typical American blockbuster films. By watching some of these films, I learn about these cultures and it injects me with energy and desire to visit these distant lands. I believe this desire to watch foreign films stems from my yearning to meet people who were different from me. I developed a strong craving to see and hear things that were drastically different from what I was accustomed to in America. Enjoying foods that I had never tasted before. Speaking languages that I never thought before possible.

Meeting new people has always interested me and I have never had problems being social to strangers. Since I was a child, I’ve always had friends and girlfriends of different races. I was always comfortable with it, but often others were not. As a teen, most of us succumbed to peer- pressure at times, and I was no exception.

I remember being in junior high school and meeting a very attractive girl who had a unique and exotic look about her. (Little did I know at the time, but this type of attraction to unique women would become common on my part.) It was obvious that she was from a foreign country, but I couldn’t pin down the exact country. I’m not even sure if I ever asked her where she was from, but it became very apparent that she felt queasy sharing that information with me. The two of us would chat in the hallways between class periods and walk each other to class from time to time. This was nice considering that I was a new student at the school. Not only would I have a friend to talk to and spend time with, but I would also have an attractive girlfriend to hug and kiss. I was on the football team at the time, so being an athlete and having a cute girlfriend had me feeling more relaxed at being at the new school. That relaxed feeling would come to an abrupt end.

Peer pressure can lure you into doing things you remember and enjoy, but it also can lead you to do things you regret. My possible girlfriend and I were standing together in the hallway between classes chatting when, suddenly, a group of my football teammates came walking by. All of them looked at the two of us standing there and began making the stereotypical Native American sound and motion by tapping their hand against their mouths while making a loud drone of a sound. They passed on by and I vividly remember the girl looking at them with a slightly embarrassed look on her face and just saying, Weird.

That day at football practice, I asked those same guys what was the meaning of their gestures. They stated that she was from some strange country and that’s why no one would consider dating her. It didn’t matter that she was warm, kind, attractive, and pleasantly different from the other girls in the school. She was from an unfamiliar place and that was too much for them.

Well, it was too much for me too. I couldn’t be known as the guy with the girlfriend from some strange place. I didn’t want the guys on the football team making fun of me in the locker room and at school. I immediately began to avoid her the following days—to her anger. She soon got the picture that I was no longer interested, even though I never explained to her the reason why. Eventually, my family moved to another neighborhood and I soon transferred to another school. Until this day, I still think about her and regret treating her the way I did. We could have learned so much from each other.


Baseball was my favorite sport as a child and always will be. The sport also increased my yearning for learning about other cultures. My dad used to say that it would be great for my brother and I to go down to Puerto Rico, Cuba, or The Dominican Republic to play and improve our skills. That wasn’t feasible, but the thought always stayed in the back of my mind. Not only for the flamboyant style of play by the Latin ball players, but also for the vibrant Latino culture. I wanted to go down there, play ball all day, learn the language, soak up some culture, and just enjoy being on an island. So intrigued was I of the Latino baseball culture that I often wished my high school team could travel down to Miami and play some of the schools which were known for consisting mostly of Latino players. The rapid-fire language they spoke and the flare in which they played was the coolest thing.

The summer after I graduated from high school presented me with the opportunity to play in an international baseball tournament in South Florida. There were teams from the USA, Latin America, Europe, and the Far East. Young baseball players dream about this experience. All of us were looking forward to the great competition, but I was looking forward to a much broader experience. Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida didn’t allow me to meet many foreigners except for the very few that I attended school with. Playing in this tournament would allow me to play good competitive baseball and, possibly, strike up some friendships with players from around the world.

During media day and at the team dinner held for each of the qualifying teams, I leaped at the opportunity to introduce myself to players on the other teams even though I could not communicate with all of them. A friendly smile and a handshake can go a long way toward breaking down the wall that exists between people from different cultures. I traded autographs and spoke as much as I could to opposing players while soaking up the atmosphere. Another day we had to share a bus with the team from Venezuela. They sang songs in Spanish and laughed joyfully during the entire bus ride. I remember a few guys on my team saying softly how they wish they would quiet down. Not me. I knew that this was typical of many Latino cultures. The entire time, I was wishing I knew the words to the song so that I could join in on the fun they were having. That fun eventually paid off for them because they ended up beating us easily and making it to the championship

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