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“I think India knows How to Welcome Black People”

“I think India knows How to Welcome Black People”
Roobens Fils at Rio , Photo Credit: Roobens Fils

French travel blogger and author Roobens Fils tells us about his recently launched book Traveling While Black, and shares his experiences

Karan Kaushik
October 08 , 2020
07 Min Read

How and when did you come up with the idea for your book Traveling While Black?
I was at a workshop in Morocco with other travel bloggers, and we were brainstorming! We were wondering what kind of products we could create for our blogs. I started thinking about what I could do to build authority in my niche, and I said "Maybe I can write a book about my travel experiences as a black person?" The reactions were immediately enthusiastic "Great idea! You should do it! It can be interesting! You have the expertise and credibility to do it!" This is when I really started thinking about writing this book!

Please tell us about the book and what it aims to communicate?
Traveling While Black is an essay explaining what it's like to travel the world independently as a black person. I realised many of my white friends had no idea what we, as black people, are going through when travelling. This book educates people to show them that our skin is an integral part of our travel experience. I'm definitely not whining in this book, just stating what many black people go through when travelling. The book also wants to show that contrary to popular opinion, black people do travel.Traveling While Black is available on Kindle and Amazon Which, according to you, is the safest city in the world for black people and why? Which is the most unsafe city and why?
From my own personal experience, Samarkand in Uzbekistan is probably one of the safest cities for black people. I know it's not one of the most popular cities in the world, but people are so welcoming and friendly towards black people there. They're just happy to see us, they smile at us, they make sure everything is fine, ask nicely if they can get pictures with us, and even invite us to have dinner at their places. The very few black people I know who went there loved it! Regarding the most unsafe city, I don't know... I'm not sure it's the most unsafe place, but I didn't have a good time in Kiev, Ukraine. Many people were glaring at me. They didn't seem happy to see me. Some of them were very rude, while being nice with other white travellers. But again, it's my experience.

Tell us about your best travel experience so far. How many countries have you visited so far and which one has been your favourite?
There are so many great travel experiences! One thing I won't forget is the kindness of people in Iran. They want to make sure the tourists have a great time there. I was at a restaurant in Tehran, the capital. I was by myself, the menu was in Persian and none of the employees could speak English. “No problem, give me what you have, I’m just hungry“. “No, we’ll give you what you want to eat!” The four employees asked the whole restaurant if anybody could speak English. No one… “Where are you from?” “From France!“. Once again, they asked every customer if any of them could speak French. Needless to say, nobody was speaking French… All of a sudden, one of the customers came out of nowhere and handed me his phone “Someone for you“. In fact, the customer called one of his friends who spoke English, he recited her the menu and the prices, and on the phone, I had a woman who was repeating in English everything that was on the menu. WOW! I was so surprised that I wasn’t even listening to what she was telling me, I was staring at the guy like “This is crazy!“. And after the phone call, he said “That’s nothing… At least now we know what you want!“. Yes, the best experiences are always about the people you meet!Fils at TehranI don't know how many countries I've been to because I don't count. Probably around 60. I love Iran, Uzbekistan, Myanmar and also Indonesia. Great countries, beautiful landscapes, nice people, and delicious food.

Have you been to India? How do you think the country treats black people?
Yes I've been to India. I spent three weeks there. From Europe, you hear so many things about India and I wanted to see it with my own eyes. I'm fascinated by the diversity of Indian culture, the food, the monuments, the landscapes. It's an interesting country but as a foreigner, I think it's better to stay several months to really know the country. Regarding black people in India, I'm not going to lie, I had a big apprehension before getting there. I kept hearing India was not the friendliest country towards black people. I went anyway. And guess what? I had no problems there. Everything went fine. I met a group of Indians in Delhi and they were very friendly, making sure I was having a good time. I also went to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, Jaipur, Goa and Kerala! I didn't face problems, and I met numerous black students coming from Africa. I think India knows how to welcome black people, but we tend to focus on the racism issues. Truth is, it happens everywhere.

Do you think black people face racism during their travels across the world? How and why?
Oh yes and I talked about it in my book. Black people fear racism no matter where they plan to go. They don't know how people are going to react when seeing them, which is one of the main reasons black people face racism. Moreover, seeing on the news all the racist attacks abroad doesn't help. You see it in the media and you start wondering if the place you want to go to is full of racists. Black people also face racism in their home country, in their hometown. That's another reason many of us wonder if it's the same abroad.Fils at the Taj Mahal in Agra Tell us a bit about yourself. And your love for travel.
I was born and raised in Paris. I used to work in the e-commerce industry but unfortunately, because of a layoff for economic reasons, I had to leave the company I used to work for. Since I always loved travelling and writing, I decided to travel across the world and launch a travel blog, Been Around The Globe. I was 30. I travelled solo for a year and I started publishing articles on my blog. After my gap year, I decided to work on my blog and try to make money with it. I'm now home and make a living thanks to my blog. I love travel basically because I love meeting people from different cultures and learning from them. It's so enriching to discover new ways of living, news ways of thinking, different architecture, and different food. There's always something new. That's what I love the most about travel!

How do you think the pandemic has changed the travel industry? Where would you like to go once international travel restrictions are lifted? Have you taken any trip during the pandemic? 
The pandemic has seriously changed the travel industry. People can't travel any more, therefore many companies in the travel and tourism industry had to shut down. Many people lost their jobs. Traffic on travel blogs plummeted since people can't travel right now. It's not the best time to start a company in the tourism industry. But I'm optimistic things will get better soon. Once international travel restrictions are lifted, I would love to go somewhere in South America. Colombia, Peru, Chile or Argentina. I didn't travel at all during the pandemic. I don't want to take risks.

Where can we get your book?
You can get the Kindle version on Amazon India. If you prefer to buy a physical copy, you can buy it on Amazon USA, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada.


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