Written by Sophia Hyder-Hock, Founder/CEO of Papilia, a company committed to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion practices for the hospitality industry.
My parents were notorious for piling all six kids into our Lincoln Towncar for spur of the moment road trips. Our adventures spanned across multiple state lines as we soaked in the scenery of Idaho Falls and learned about geysers, witnessing the magnificence of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. We looked up in amazement at the incredibly tall thousand-year-old trees nestled in the Sequoia National Park in California. These were a few of the many trips we had taken since the 1980s as a family.Our road trip essentials included a map, a designated navigator, and necessary local produce stand stopovers. “I Spy” was a classic road tripping game that we played to pass time and to find commonalities across the American landscapes.
The knowledge that we absorbed from these adventures could not be taught in a classroom.
As a first generation Bengali American, I look back at these experiences with pride and curiosity. I am proud to have experienced different facets of American culture, and to have seen and felt the wonders of our lush countryside through the innocent eyes of my childhood. My parents’ natural enthusiasm to expose us to adventure travel made us feel safe, but I wonder if they experienced adversity along the way. I wished I asked them these questions when they were still alive.
These childhood adventures have shaped how I view the world today. I will always carry their wanderlust ways with me. In fact, I have taken my toddler on several road trips across the East Coast in the spirit of infusing a love for travel into our family ethos.
But if I am being completely honest, safety and belonging are two concerns that I have to acknowledge and address each time we travel. Before departing, I research the destinations and activities along our chosen route to get a better sense of how welcomed we will feel.
This is our current reality. But it doesn’t have to be.
I would feel safe if destinations and travel organizations expressed their willingness to welcome people of all backgrounds on their websites and promotional materials. I would feel a stronger sense of belonging if there were people of different backgrounds and abilities integrated into genuine marketing campaigns. I would feel welcome and safe if I was asked for my opinion as a traveler of color.
My love for adventure and travel is ingrained into my being. This will never change.
But, what if…
What if the travel community committed to doing the work to catalyze true sentiments of safety and belonging?
Travelers - new and experienced - would be more inclined to be adventurous, to travel, to learn and appreciate all the endless natural beauty that this country has to offer.
How wonderful would it be to host an ecosystem of outdoor classrooms where everyone felt like they could learn and experience natures’ gifts without fear or hesitation?