The Secrets of Becoming An International Brown Girl Globetrotter

by Chandrima Chatterjee

As a first generation Indian-American born in the Lower East Side of New York City, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. However, I was born with a passport in my hand and a love for all things multicultural.

New Yorkers love the hustle and bustle of life; diversity is something we learn to thrive on quite early. While I was still young, we moved to a sleepy and safe town in New Jersey. I traveled the globe with my parents for the first 16 years of my life accompanying them on their many visits to West Bengal, then took many adventures solo for the next 16 years. I learned two languages as a child and then thirsted for more.

Sailing the Mediterranean
[Chandrima Chatterjee as she sails the Mediterranean Sea. | Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
Some say that I am at home less than I am en route to or on my next adventure. Could be true. I learned to fly single engine airplanes as a private pilot when I was 16. There’s nothing quite as heavenly as the feeling of being in the air. Well, there is one thing; being on an adventure, landing in places unknown, feeling and working your way through the airport, the city streets, the unfamiliar faces and buildings, the changes in terrain and culture, the colors and sounds all around, the beauty that exists within every inch of new space you experience and every conversation that leads to inspiration and friendship.

Even within those moments where you feel lost or challenged, frightened or anxious, it’s quite apparent you are growing as an individual and as part of the larger collective, the global society. My hope is to inspire that sense of adventure and curiosity for travel and adventure in anyone who has not yet taken that step.

Amsterdam Chandrima
[Chandrima Chatterjee in Amsterdam. | Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
Before that, let me just clarify. I too have Indian parents, Bengali parents to be specific, and I’m an only child. So I have that pressure all South Asian children know. I had to hide my travels often, but I always let my parents know about it later. So it’s not really a lie. It’s a delayed truth. My mom now just assumes I’m somewhere else much of the time and has come to realize that I’m a survivor. In her words, I am slightly crazy – for wanting to see new things, for believing that life is not about sitting still in one place and nesting.

[Chandrima Chatterjee at Lake Finland. | Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
I hunt for airfare deals daily, sharing my findings with anyone who’s up for traveling and support the ‘travel for good’ movement – all those remarkable volunteer programs that open up people’s world views and concept of purposeful travel. Mind you, I don’t mean it like as a tourist – I mean it as a full immersion globetrotter. We shouldn’t be bystanders to the happenings around us. We should place ourselves firmly within the fabric of the culture, with an open heart and mind. Make that effort to get to know your hosts a bit before you arrive somewhere, learn some of the language if you can, don’t be overly worried about the cuisine or lack of comfort items you are attached to at home. It’s all about letting go and trusting your intelligence and instincts to guide you. Get lost a little and be prepared to find your way, making new friends along the path.

chandrima chatterjee
[Chandrima Chatterjee under a canopy of cherry blossoms. | Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
As a woman who travels alone a lot, those are my top overarching travel guidelines. Travel and adventure are two of the most empowering tools available to us. It doesn’t have to be a luxury experience to be enriching. For me, it usually isn’t a luxury experience – actually, I’m struggling to remember one spa, beach or ski resort. I’m the girl tripping around the tea groves in the Himalayas or getting lost on a hike in rural Wales or the Andes.

chandrima chatterjee
[Chandrima Chatterjee at Lake Malta in Pozna?, Poland. | Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
Join me on this journey and I promise to take you places figuratively and literally, in the sense that I bet you’ll be inspired to take that solo trip this year, if you haven’t done it already. I’ll share stories of all the women I’ve met along the way who inspire me. Women like Anna, who is on a solo motorcycle adventure around the world – she started her journey two years ago with a mere $1000 savings. She got a free motorcycle from KTM for this adventure by… writing letters! Biggest lessons from this; try and try again. Ask for help. And be fearless, but smart. Research with the understanding that things won’t go your way. So be prepared for detours!

chandrima chatterjee
[Chandrima Chatterjee mid-flight on her way to another adventure.| Photo Courtesy: Chandrima Chatterjee]
On the to-do list this year is Africa, Russia, and China. Share your experiences with me too! I want to hear all about it! Come fly with me!

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›