Updated: Apr 26, 2018
We are made by the adventures we choose
My spirit was captivated, as I sat in an auditorium, two years ago, in awe of the individuals on a panel set to discuss Selma’s place in the civil rights movement. Dr. C.T Vivian, respected civil rights leader, author and minister, discussed the essential nature of gathering with like minded individuals in order to achieve a common and exigent goal. In that moment, I unearthed a desire to engage with new communities alongside my own.
Fast forward two years, I was granted a powerful opportunity to do just that. I was invited to join EPIC LIFE OUTDOORZ in Japan for a Ski Summit. Finally, a chance to partner new communities with familiar ones through an unforgettable experience. Like Dr. C.T. Vivian expressed, this was a moment that would contribute to my sense of self and galvanize us collectively towards a thriving global community.
What makes this trip unique is the counter-narrative that black people are less inclined to engage in winter activities such as skiing and snowboarding. This beautiful band of 200+ adventure seeking, successful, creative black snowboarders and skiers from all over the States, UK, Australia and Africa have been defying this stereotype for decades. While preparing for this trip, I felt this could be an extension of Vivian’s famous quote, “Leadership is found in the action to defeat that which would defeat you...You are made by the struggles you choose.” In that, I believe, we are also made by the adventures we choose which led me to wonder, “Why is it so important for Blacks (in particular African-Americans) to travel?” I explored this idea while on the journey and heard so many brilliant perspectives.
Fanon Wilkin, associate professor at Doshisha University, Japan, avid snowboarder and co-founder of the exclusive EPIC LIFE shared his thoughts. Wilkin co-founded EPIC LIFE with Leon Henderson in 2014 and has inspired others to create organizations such as Black Travel Movement which was created by Reggie Cumming after being inspired after attending an EPIC LIFE trip. Wilkin's is originally from LA and lives in Kyoto, Japan.
"Human beings only grow to their fullest potential when in the presence of other human beings. All living things seek community. Travel exposes people to a larger world. The more we are exposed, the more we expand. When we travel in groups and are able to reflect on our experiences collectively, our sense of connectedness is enhanced and our experiences our verified and reified in real time. After it’s all said and done it’s just so much more fun to engage in group travel rather than go alone. Group travel is particularly important in an era dominated by social media where we are so technologically connected, yet so humanly disconnected. Indeed, community travel is like a salve or a balm that allows us to feel truly alive and in touch with ourselves and others.”
Eric Rhea, skier since 1975 and border since 1998, is affiliated with EPIC LIFE OUTDOORZ. Rhea hails from Detroit and currently lives in New York city. Eric Rhea shared his perspective.
“EPIC LIFE OUTDOORZ and my SOULBOARDERS NBS club are the two groups I go on trips with... I prefer to have like-minded people of similar background, education level and age on trips...what keeps everybody involved more than anything though is the genuine camaraderie and family feeling everyone has with each other on these trips. It provides an opportunity to see your close friends who are spread across the US and globe and create lifelong memories together. When traveling, I had to learn to leave my AMERICAN racial divide attitude at JFK Airport in a locker to pick back up upon return if I so choose whenever I leave the country because I won’t be in that environment of U.S. race relations when abroad. When traveling to Cluj Napoca with my wife, which is one of the whitest places on earth, in the middle of Transylvania... Not only was I received with open arms but I never once even felt like I was judged for my “Blackness”. I’m the only Black man in the entire city and I felt like I am nothing special nor nothing to look at with disdain. Nobody cared about my race and if they did it was out of curiosity. For most African Americans our life existence is filled with mentally dealing with the day-in/day-out subtleties and blatancies or racism in America. Often times we generalize this as the perception and attitude we will encounter from non-Blacks around the world. In so many cases this is the exact opposite. America’s history with slavery and the slave-trade and a Jim Crow South and Civil Rights Movement created centuries of animosity and stereotypes that go in both directions in the United States. Countries that never had that direct experience of Black enslavement have no real basis for these stereotypes. I have learned from traveling around the world that in general foreigners in other countries are ambivalent to my race and treat me with the same respect as everyone else. Not only is traveling broadening one's horizons but literally a boost to ones self-esteem when you learn how revered and appreciated you are for being YOU. Black Travel groups allow for those that may have apprehension to this worldwide acceptance to feel the comfort in strength in numbers and/or having like-minded familiar people to roll with and commune with.”
Walking away from this experience, my perspectives are broadened and the words of Dr. C. T Vivian, “You are made by the struggles you choose” continue to emanate. I firmly believe, that we are also made, by the adventures we choose. Choosing to take a risk and seek adventure while actively pursuing togetherness is essential. Being immersed in Asian culture has extended my knowledge of culture and reaffirmed my knowledge that all communities want to be respected. Individual cultures extend into a grander, more united, global thread. All of this has extended my understanding of people, of culture and reignited my desire to connect languages and people.
Alexis Doyle is a photographer of #loveandgoodlight, secondary school teacher and service coordinator at a private school in Atlanta. Alexis is the owner and lead photographer of AD Photography. She enjoys yoga, photography, beach hopping, sun chasing, exploration seeking and spending time giggling and memory making with her fabulous family, amazing tribe of sisters and friends.