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Sisterhood of the Traveling Strollers

I needed a tribe of other single Black moms. So, I built one — and we’re exploring the world together.

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For all the criticisms that exist about social media, it’s truly changed my life. Five years ago, I was 38, underemployed and a single mom-to-be, unsure of pretty much everything except, somehow, I was going to give my baby the very best life I could — and that was going to include international travel.

It was a gift I was given as a child, although I didn’t always appreciate it. I was a military brat who moved nine daggone times before the age of 18, from the infamous prison town of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to Würzburg in what was then still considered West Germany. The experience of meeting people from so many different backgrounds and sharing their diverse cultures instilled a lifelong confidence in me. The world is a very big place, chock full of opportunities. But to truly believe it, you have to see it.

As an adult, I’ve never taken my stamp-crowded passport for granted. Neither of my parents had passports growing up. Like many of us, my grandparents simply didn’t have the means to make overseas travel happen. So when my dad, who was a soldier, had an opportunity to go on leave from his assigned European base, my parents decided to skip the family reunions back home and take their four kids on vacation to places like Turkey or Morocco, Portugal or Austria, France or the Netherlands.

In Istanbul, my brothers and I petted muzzled bears being walked on leashes down the street. In Marrakech, we rode camels in the shadows of the Sahara desert and had pythons draped around our shoulders as snake charmers played instruments. In Vienna, we toured magnificent castles and practiced our German. Some of my best family memories are from the adventures we shared while traveling.

Fast-forward to my own years as a parent and those memories are the reason I wanted to be able to create the same kind of magic for my son, Solomon. But with one income and no one else to fold the stroller, book the excursions or rely on in case of emergency, I wasn’t confident I’d be able to pull it off.

I’ve long been a fan of vision boards. They’re a hodgepodge of words and images glued together to reflect one’s hopes and dreams and inspire the creator to achieve the things she deeply desires. When I was seven months pregnant, I made one for my unborn son. I filled it with pictures of smiling babies, healthy foods, books, toys and members of his family. I also added images of Disney World, Paris, London and some of the other places I planned to take him if I could.

That same month, I decided to create a Facebook group to hold myself accountable to my vision, figuring other moms and dads like me might be able to use the support. I named it Single Parents Who Travel, and what began with five curious strangers across the U.S. is now nearly 5,000 members around the world. Most of them are Black women, from Detroit to Atlanta, Cuba to Colombia, Zimbabwe to the Philippines. What we share is universal — a love for our children and a desire to help them see themselves beyond the prism of how society often sees them.

We organize family-friendly meetups and gatherings here in the States to show each other love: BBQs in the park, trips to arcades, children’s plays and musicals on Broadway. Last year, more than 40 of us sailed on a cruise to the Caribbean, spending hours on the beach or eating meals as one big family. My experiences with my group have also been more intimate.

When Solomon was 3, I decided to conquer my fear of traveling to the other side of the world with a small child. It was like my fellow group member and now good girlfriend, Stephanie, read my mind. She also lived in the Washington, D.C., area and had a 3-year-old son, and she posted that she was planning to take a trip with him to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. She asked if any other parent wanted to come and I raised my virtual hand. After introducing ourselves and our sons and spending about a month organizing the details, we set out on our Arabian adventure.

Much like a married couple might have done, we shared all the travel fees, logistical responsibilities and caretaking for our children. Our boys rode camels and jumped the sand dunes in ATVs, marveled at the sharks in the aquarium and underwater zoo and ran through Legoland Dubai until they passed out in their strollers. Since we returned to the States, they’ve remained the best of friends. Years later, we go to water parks together during the summer; host playdates, birthday parties and sleepovers in each other’s homes; and check out the latest Disney movies together.

Creating my tribe has allowed me to create a tribe for Solomon, as well. The vision board I put together with intention and love has come alive, and it’s allowed me to give my son the same kind of magical adventures I had when I was a child. Seeing the world through his eyes is a new perspective, but it’s as much of a gift to me as it is to him.