Welcome to this episode of the Why We Travel Podcast. This episode features a conversation with Ucman Scher and we talk about Travel racism and traveling as a refugee.
I am Ucman and I go by the name of BrownBoyTravels on social media. I started traveling as a refugee and recently visited my 72nd country.
I love exploring new and off-the-beaten-path destinations. I have always found it fascinating how I am treated as a brown person, especially with most of the other travelers around white.
At the end of the day, I love exploring, eating, and learning.
On the Show Today You’ll Learn:
- Travel Racism: How to handle it
- Being in environments where you stand out and you feel not included
- What is the difference between metropolitan areas and rural areas? Is one friendlier than the other?
- How to deal with racists
- Why free walking tours are the best way to meet new people
- And more
Links & Resources
YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/brownboytravels
Claus Lauter: Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Why We Travel Today we want to talk about a bit of a serious, topic about racism while traveling, but also a very exciting topic because we have someone who traveled quite extensively. So I have Ucman with me today. He has been to more than 70 countries, so he has a vast experience in traveling and also to go into places that are not completely the normal way.
So a bit of off beaten destination. So we wanna learn more about this, , hello Oman. How are you today?
Ucman Scher: Hello? Hi. I’m good, thank you. How about.
Claus Lauter: All good. Ucman, give me a bit of background. What got you into traveling? How did you become a traveler?
Ucman Scher: , to be honest, I grew up in Pakistan, I felt quite claustrophobic when I was younger because it’s not a lot you can do. You can’t really get out of the country. The options are fairly limited. So, I moved to UK and I got a chance , to go around actually, , my first place.
Munich, which I went and I absolutely loved it so much that I just got into it more and more. And then, once I kind of started then there was no looking back and I’m really happy that I got it, on that path. And yeah, it’s been like 12 years since then. And yeah, I haven’t stopped at this, no plan to stop.
Claus Lauter: Okay, so yeah, perpetual traveler, are you more a solo traveler, individual traveler, an adventure traveler? what’s your style of travel?
Ucman Scher: definitely solo. I do most of my trips on my own. , I started with, like going with friends and all, but I soon realized that they can’t keep up with me, so, Especially the whole so thing, but I do add like a little bit of whatever, I mean, depending on the destination. , but it’s a, beach place I’d love to go.
Snor playing, see some marine life. If it’s a place where I could go hiking, I absolutely love to do that. So I add, depending on the country, I just change plans according. So that’s the idea behind, you know, go mingle. go with an empty, clean slate and then see what you can learn from the people.
And, , yeah. What else? You can see.
Claus Lauter: Okay, so we are diving a little bit of a more serious topic today. It’s about racism and being a traveler, being in environment societies where you stand out and you’re not part of, the culture, and you have some experience on that one. So give me a bit of a background. What happened, what got you into this topic?
Ucman Scher: I went to, it was actually the height of, , Syrian war and I visited Vienna, at the time and I was treated , quite badly actually. , and it wasn’t just the general population. I got pretty harsh treatment from the border agency in Vienna as well, even though I legally entered and legally.
It was not a good experience and before that, I hadn’t paid much attention. So when I came back I was not really happy with the experience and I got talking to a few of the friends who expressed similar things. So that got me into, , the idea that how people differ when it comes to, , traveling and how you’re treated based on the color of your skin.
So I have a good. And her girlfriend is, white. She is mixed. , English Caribbean and the stories that I heard from her, like obviously I travel solo, so I had experienced this entirely mine, but if you’re traveling with someone who’s white, she actively told me like people would approach her, they would give the bills to her, or they would completely ignore her, , or, pretend that she’s not even there.
So then that got me thinking and , I realized that it’s, actually looking back some of the experiences I’ve had. Because know, I looked a certain way, so we believe it treated me really well because I was exotic or treated me poorly because they had the preconceived notion of what I should be based on the stereotype they had seen in the TV or the movie or some what someone told you visited Middle East or whatever.
So, it is, , quite a different thing depending on the destination. Again, some places, , there’s a positive discrimination. I’m half Iranian, , half Pakistani, so I get quite a lot of, , like, Oh, Iran, or, Oh, Pakistan’s dangerous, or, , Iran’s so beautiful. So depending on, , what side of the thing, the story they’ve heard.
So I get treated accordingly. . like, sometimes it’s financial. , but people think that white tourists have more money. They will tip them better. So they gear towards them more, leaving you behind. And sometimes it’s , just racism. There’s no other way to describe it.
But it comes in different flavors, different forms. Some are more bearable,
Ucman Scher: like the, financial part. That’s fine. I don’t really generally care too much about that. , but racism part is the one that’s actually quite hurtful.
Claus Lauter: Okay. That would bring me to my next question. So do you think are there certain areas where you think it happens more? I mean, you travel extensively with, more than 70 countries, obviously your experience might be very different from area to area. So I’m talking about continents or not specific countries.
So do you think that’s something that has more to do with. Society, how they perceive someone who looks different, Or is it the individual where you just bumped into and it’s just like , a singular event? What do you think? , where does that come from?
Ucman Scher: Generally I discount all individual experiences because every country has good and bad people. you’d have racist people in Brazil, which is one of the friendliest countries I’ve been to. its the same as having really nice people at Vienna, which obviously, which is the most racist place I’ve been to.
So individual experiences I generally tend to discount, but overall on the whole, its more of an experience like, How you feel throughout the trip and at the end of it, when you’re taking stock, it’s like, okay, that was not so great, or people are not friendly here. , I generally base it on that rather than individual experiences.
Claus Lauter: Yeah, no, it’s more individual experiences, that’s for sure. when you travel, you have some, very off to beaten past destinations. Do you think there people are more welcoming, more open, more curious about you than metropolitan regions, which have a complete different flare and wipe to it?
Ucman Scher: I’m gonna be honest. , generally, and there are obviously exceptions to this, but generally, , more off the beaten path countries, countries that are still developing, people are friendlier and like I said, there’s obviously exceptions to that, but most of the places I’ve been to that are not on the mainstream tourist map, people have been amazing.
People are really friendly in for example, Brazil, again, I’ll give you an example. It’s quite a touristy place, Rio, but it was really easy to mingle with people. Really friendly, Everyone’s really get along. But I went to, and I’m gonna sing out BU airs because the rest of Argentina was pretty good, but BU airs, they tend to think of themselves as Italians and Spaniards of South America.
So they have a tip on their shoulder, which I find ironic because Italians and funnier are the friendliest people in. And they’re the least friendliest people in South America.
That’s generally what I’ve seen, so.
Claus Lauter: Yeah. Once you’re in a situation where you see there is somebody who has some kind of, , wrong thinking, how do you circumnavigate it? What’s your tactic there? Your strategy?
Ucman Scher: , it really depends on two things. One, is it because of ignorance, , or lack of exposure? Yes, I would love , to correct or, have a general discussion, because that gets people defensive. So if I’ve stayed with someone who think, people from Middle East are XYZ or they’re aggressive or this or that, so I.
Think that then they would be able to see that, hey, there’s a non aggressive, guy who came through. So that might change their opinion, but if someone is aggressive and like they already have a opinion informed, like, Hey, go back to your own country or whatever, I just tend not to engage because, , I feel like that point , it’s a lost cause because I’m not there to, , do therapy for someone who’s angry for some other reason that’s been misdirected based on.
Stereotypes. So it’s not my job , to be there and help them with that. So iEngage, I don’t like to communicate that’s my way of dealing.
Claus Lauter: No, I think that’s the right approach. I would deal exactly the same way. And interesting enough, you said it’s not only, , people of color, it’s also white people. I mean, even I have, , had situations where you can feel racism and when it actually comes through. , and then the best way is yeah, just not to engage.
You can’t change the world and as you said, there’s the good, the bad, the ugly in every place no matter where you are. And it’s just something you have to deal with, But on a lighter note, , obviously with traveling, and I see , for you also as part of food is a big part of every journey.
Any particular, , experiences that stick out where people should go and, , explore the country? Not only cause of the food, but maybe go there and try the food
Ucman Scher: People tend to think of places they have associations based on certain senses. For me, it’s always been the taste. , so I love remembering, you know, I had that food there, X, Y, Z love exploring , the local food there. So the biggest surprise for me was actually Georgia.
and I am really surprised that it’s not so mainstream here, but Georgia had amazing food, , and it’s, actually quite distinctive, , from other ex Soviet countries. So the food is really good. It’s quite experimental as well. Like they had this. Garlic milk, garlic chicken, which sounds horrible on paper, but it was actually really delicious.
They also do really fun dumplings, but usually you get dumplings in soup. They put the soup inside the dumpling, , which is really good. They also do, hot, which is like this bread, which is either stuffed or they create a boat with cheese and eggs.
, it’s quite an amazing cuisine. I had a lot of fun when I was trying that. So that’s one thing, , I’m a huge fan of Big Cuisine, which I just came back from. And honestly after Pakistani food, Iranian food, because these are quite meat heavy, cuisines, but I thought, like, hey, a fans do it, or, you know, Iranians or Pakistan used to do the meat so well.
But I was really surprised that it was break because. They take things to another level and I had such a good time eating and I didn’t mind putting on weight when I was there. But yeah, I was had really amazing, so I’m really, really impressed with that as well. So if you get a geor was, these are like my really destinations
Claus Lauter: Yeah, I will put it on my list. , thanks for the tip. I really appreciate that. , also notion that a lot of people who do not travel extensively, they always have the sort of, Of idea that you don’t get any food anywhere. So it’s like, how do you survive in , this far away place?
And you go there and they have amazing food. So it’s interesting
Ucman Scher: Sometimes it is a bit of a quiet taste, but I guess you get on if you have like, Okay, I can deal with this. So then you get on. Otherwise, sometimes you do suffer at places. Unfortunately,
Claus Lauter: Yeah. With all the traveling, how does that, or has that changed you as a person over the.
Ucman Scher: I feel like I become a lot more. Distance from the mass consumption economy. I realized that been out on , travels for two, three months with just a small trolley and a backpack and I realized that’s actually more than enough for me. I’ve tend to distance a little bit from the materialistic side.
I’ve become like more comfort oriented and fashion over time, and most of all, it’s become easier to go to places without a lot of expectations and keep an open mind. So that’s been the biggest takeaway. to go back a little bit and just realize, Okay, just because I think this is right, or just because I think in order to be civilized, you need to eat with fork and knife and spoons. That doesn’t necessarily count as civilized other parts of the country world where they eat community and they’re happy so all these things that opens your mind to different , cultures, languages.
I also realize, it’s not an achievement to correct them if they don’t speak good English. It’s really nice that they do, and they’re speaking more languages than I do. It is an appreciative thing. So keeping an open mind has been , the biggest thing for me, , that I feel like that has changed me.
Claus Lauter: Okay. What would you recommend or a gold nugget that you would give someone who wants to start traveling extensively? So someone who has not been to many countries, wants to become a solo traveler. What would be your, advice there?
Ucman Scher: Two things I would mention, created a couple of videos around, being safe or how to start solo traveling. You can check them on my YouTube. I, , I did that specifically because I get that asked lot. Hey, how can you go to the Tajikistan on your own?
Or Hey, how are you going to Ghana on your own? Was it not dangerous? So, two things people. Am I gonna be lonely? How do I cope with that? And the second one is, is it going to be safe if I do that on my own? So for the safety part, I think generally it really depends on the destination and if you have anything that’s flashy or like, I tend to travel really simple.
So that actually helps , quite a lot with safety. Second thing is if you do a little bit of research and if you’re conscious of how you, , approach people, the information you need to give out or withhold, that helps quite a lot. But again, that’s a question based on destination I don’t think I have felt unsafe anywhere so far.
Even in Africa, I just got into a couple of tight spots, but it was still not, to the extent that I would be like, Hey, I’m not gonna go anymore. , but yeah, there, are dangerous places like I’m planning, , to go to a Afghanistan next year and , I am thinking, hard about it because is not a place you would want to be stuck at.
Are, get into trouble.
other part is the part where you feel like, Oh, I’m gonna feel lonely so I think this solo kind of has this idea. If you’re traveling, you’re on your own at all types. That’s not the case. It’s actually a big advantage of solo traveling is that you meet other people and new people.
I’m really glad that I met so many people throughout the time that I was traveling and made new friends, and that would not happen if I was traveling with my own friends because then you don’t tend to look. Side your group, right? You’re just comfortable with the situation. So it was good because I met so many other solo travelers or other people who gave me recommendations.
I was in Belize and I met a really nice couple who did Sri Lanka and I was going there next. So they helped me get in touch with the person who took me around, and he became a good friend as well. It’s these type of things that help and
I always find free walking tours are the best thing to meet new people, to get to know other solo travelers or, , get that feeling of, you’re with other people. And I always download like plenty of stuff too, I’m really comfortable eating on my own. It feels awkward a few times, but then you’re fine, eating on your own.
You already care what people are saying or how they look at you or what they perceive of you if you don’t care. I don’t think. Cares either It’s on your head. There’s a lot more to this. I’m afraid it will take a lot more time to discuss that.
Claus Lauter: No. , great advice there. And I love that you mentioned free walking tours, which I have done ton on. I don’t know how many cities, and it’s definitely a good way to connect with other travelers. So you mentioned your YouTube channel. Where can people find. More about you and can get in touch with you.
Ucman Scher: It’s all under the same name, so I do some short sort of stories on TikTok Brown Boy Travels, that’s on YouTube, on TikTok, on Instagram. you can also write to me, my email is on my profile, so if you need any help, I always like it when people approach me like, Hey, I’m going Toban, or I’m going to XY z done.
Or, you know, I have this question. So I love, , getting those type. Emails because I like that people are going to have the same experience as me, but, not the same. And I’m helping them prepare for it. So that always, makes me happy. So I always love to hear about that.
Claus Lauter: Cool. I will pull the link in the show notes and people can read you with just one click. You can take it from there.
Thanks so much for your time.
Ucman Scher: Thank you very much. The pleasure is all mine have a good day.
Claus Lauter: Me too.
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