How Leaving America Is Saving Black Women’s Lives

Tulum, with its white sand beaches and turquoise waves, has long been a popular vacation destination. Now, with the help of a new Facebook group, Black in Tulum, blacks from America are flocking to the Mexican city. Seeking short- or long-term respite from the current state of affairs, black travelers take advantage of the community to bond, seek recommendations, and share their experiences in the city.

Last summer, Black in Tulum grew from 25 to 3,000 members in just a few months, and it’s not the only Facebook community for black travelers that provides resources and information to help with the US transition. to other countries. Group founder Nubia Younge is also a co-founder of another group called Blaxit Tribe – Black Americans Who Want to Exit the US & Move Abroad, which has over 7,000 members. Promoting the Blaxit group to his Black in Tulum community, Younge wrote, “If I could, I would do whatever you want and move you from the United States.”

Three years ago, Younge packaged the seemingly American Dream lifestyle she had built in Fairfax, Va., For a full-fledged digital nomad existence. Through her Facebook communities, she helps pave the way for other black travelers looking to leave the country in pursuit of different lives.

Black women, in particular, find that leaving the United States is beneficial to their overall mental and physical health. Other countries like Portugal and Colombia offer lifestyle changes and easier access to affordable health care. Younge knows this firsthand.

“My sanity was at stake,” said Younge, a black mother of two young adults, of her decision to leave the country. “I was under a lot of stress. I was a single parent. I had a toxic relationship with the father of my children and even my mother. I have suffered a lot from depression, seasonal depression in particular.

Tulum

Nubia Younge’s nomadic workspace in Tulum

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There were also other factors at play for Younge that contributed to his stress. “I was overweight at one point,” she says. “When most of my family turned 35 or over, they developed type II diabetes. And I was on this trail.

Mental health, especially for blacks, often manifests itself in physical ailments, according to psychiatrist Dr Aminata Cisse, who has a background in cultural and intercultural psychiatry.

“Your mental state can certainly have an impact on your physical state, especially in people of color who face a lot of stress, racial trauma,” said Dr Cisse. “Many black people don’t even realize they are depressed, but they might say that my body hurts because their body will show the emotional pain they are experiencing.”

“If I could, I would do whatever you could and move out of the United States.”

For black women, prolonged exposure to stress and the hormone that comes with it, cortisol, often leads to physical and mental disorders such as heart disease, obesity, anxiety, and depression. Unfortunately, the American health experience has been less than ideal for black women, often becoming a matter of life and death.

Today, an unprecedented global pandemic and relentless police shootings that often claim the lives of innocent black people are making matters worse for the health of black Americans. These realities have further highlighted serious inequalities within the U.S. healthcare system, especially for black women who are often ignored and ignored when seeking medical care.

Despite her mental health issues, Younge said high insurance costs, difficulty finding someone she could relate to and a general lack of access to mental health care kept her from following. professional therapy.

Black women who turn to treatment alternatives are not out of the ordinary.

“I see black women revisiting things like Mother Nature or their ancestors, even a return to natural hair is synonymous with wellness and healing,” said Miami-based psychologist Dr. Michelle Wiltshire, whose approach multi-faceted healing attracted mostly black patients. “Unlike some other groups, we need healing at every layer of our being due to all these years of oppression. Almost anything we do that allows us to heal is an alternative. Of course, there are your typical activities like yoga, meditation or more oriental practices. “

For Younge, she turned to travel for healing.

“It was like this overwhelming feeling of I am tiredShe said. “I just needed to get used to it. That’s when it all started. It was like a domino effect.

Like Younge, a growing number of black women in America are taking charge of their health by choosing to leave the country for foreign lands. Younge has set his sights on Asia in search of healing.

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“Changing your environment can affect your mental health,” Dr. Cisse said of seasonal depression. “It’s good to look for places that have good weather or where it’s more comfortable and self-uplifting as a person of color.”

Younge’s few months’ trip to Thailand turned into a long stay abroad. She quickly began to notice changes. With easier access to fresh food and coconut water, she lost weight, and vitamin D from the sun improved her mental and physical health. “Waking up in the sun felt like I was receiving all the things that I didn’t realize I was missing without having to try,” she said.

Not all black women who choose to leave the country share the same level of stress as Younge. When healthcare reform lawyer became a digital nomad and fitness coach Sharita Jennings decided to leave in September 2018, she was simply looking for a sense of adventure and adventure.

Colombia
Digital nomad and fitness coach Sharita Jennings in Guatapé, Colombia.

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“I made the decision because I was following this very strict path,” Jennings explained. “I wanted to be a great lawyer or in politics when I was in high school and college, so I said, ‘Okay, I’m on a schedule. I have to go to school. I have to go. in law school. I was ticking all my boxes, I think I had been practicing for five or six years, and it struck me that if I didn’t change anything, I would never have the chance to do a big change in my life. “

“It’s not that I had this dying passion not to live in the United States,” Jennings added. “I had the passion to see more of the world. It occurred to me that the easiest way to do this would be to stop working full time and try something risky and crazy. Now it doesn’t sound so crazy anymore.

Jennings’ travels have taken her to several countries, including Colombia, Peru and Portugal. She currently lives in Mexico and spends time in cities like Tulum, Playa Del Carmen, and Bacalar. Initially, health was not a priority.

“I hear so many stories of you having to beg for care, especially as a black woman in America. There they give you everything you need without a doubt.

“I did some research to make sure the health care was affordable and that I could find a good hospital,” Jennings said. “It didn’t worry me too much.

She was surprised by the positive experiences with the health systems with which she interacted abroad.

“It’s just crazy because here I was warned to go to Colombia and Portugal,” Jennings said. “My best experience was in Portugal.”

Before leaving for Portugal, Jennings returned home to spend time with her family over the holidays and deliberately postponed her medical appointments because access to good health care in the United States is often unaffordable.

Mexico
Coach Roshida Dowe in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

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“Instead of worrying about poor care, I waited to make all my appointments in Europe,” she said. “I bought travel insurance and paid out of pocket. I paid $ 150 for blood tests, ultrasounds and a Pap test which would have been astronomical in the United States.

From her routine gynecological exam, she recalled that the Portuguese doctor had done both an ultrasound and a pap smear, which is standard in Portugal. “I had never had an ultrasound before. A second after that she said you had a fibroid, it was literally a second.

“If I was in the United States, I wouldn’t have found out until I was in pain or had horrible symptoms,” Jennings predicted. “I was lucky. It was just shocking, and I had to go all the way to Portugal to have the easiest and smoothest experience.

If she needed surgery in the future, Jennings would return to Portugal. “I would feel more comfortable,” she explained. “I hear so many stories of you having to beg for care, especially as a black woman in America. [There], they give you everything you need without a doubt.

Not having to beg for care and just being believed resonates with tech lawyer turned career-breaking coach Roshida Dowe. Formerly based in Oakland, California, Dowe took a career break and visited Mexico and France among others. Now temporarily based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dowe plans to return to Mexico City once she feels safe to travel again.

“I did all the basic maintenance I needed overseas during my trip,” said Dowe. “I have autoimmune problems, so I used to treat them with the help of a doctor for two decades. I know what I need to process them. Abroad, Dowe had easier access to the drugs she needed. “In the United States, I should have gone to the doctor more often to get the prescription. [Abroad], lots of drugs that I need, I can get over the counter. I don’t have to prove that I’m in pain.

Now, with COVID-19, U.S. residents and citizens are barred from entering many countries around the world. With more than 200,000 confirmed victims, the United States has more coronavirus deaths than any other country, and, according to a recent Pew Research survey, about 62% of Americans believe the United States’ response to the pandemic has been less effective than that of other wealthy countries. For black women who left before the pandemic, their decision to seek a better sense of mental and physical well-being outside of the United States seems particularly prescient.

When asked if they intend to return to the United States permanently, Jennings and Dowe explained that they would likely return intermittently for visits. As for Younge, she just laughed.

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