Erick Prince-Heaggans is the creative force behind MinorityNomad.com. He’s visited 73 countries on five continents and recently launched a campaign to become the first African-American to visit every country in the world. Erick still has a passion for exploration and wants to share his travel experiences with you. He’s also the founder of A World Beyond Youth Exploration, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching and exposing low income students to photojournalism and travel.
How did you get into traveling?
I started traveling during my military service. I served a bit over ten years in the US military and later created a career for myself which sees me traveling the world 11 months a year. I’m currently trying to become the first African-American to visit every country.
What was your most intense culture shock experience? What did you learn from it?
While on a R&R trip to Samarkand, Uzbekistan during the war, I was yelled at and called “Mike Tyson” by local children. I then was told I was one of the first black man they had ever seen. Later that day I was introduced to a college professor in his 50s who had never met an African-American either. Coming from the US this caught me by surprise as we largely interact with people from all races. Even growing up in a 99.9% black community I interacted with Spanish, Asian, and Middle Eastern people regularly. I learned how large the world really is and how small I am. Prior to travel I felt like the center of the universe. Travel quickly changes that perception.
Any tips for someone going through culture shock for the first time? What helped you?
Culture shock isn’t something to fear. It’s something to pursue. Having culture shock means you’re learning and discovering something new which is important not only in travel but everyday life. It builds perception, empathy and understanding – which make us all better people. I saw my culture shock as a transition into adulthood.
What has reverse culture shock been like for you?
Reverse culture shock has been annoying. I love my country but we have some seriously ignorant people in the US. I mean destructively so. I never noticed that before I began traveling and they’re one of the things I dread most about going home. Self-serving ignorance. On a side note, it’s motivated me to become more than a traveler but an educator as well.
What is your favorite travel learning experience? Anything that triggered a profound shift?
Getting lost is by far my favorite travel learning experience. I’ve discovered some of my favorite places in the world by just picking a direction and walking. People tend to fear the unknown, I seek it out. I also love when people ask about my culture. African-Americans don’t travel as much as many others and most of what people “know” about us is from the ridiculous media. I enjoy educating people. Most conversations start like this, “Can I ask you a question and I mean no offense?”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
It’s important for people to not fear the unknown and challenge what we’ve been programmed to believe. Even well-meaning family and friends can paint a biased and slanted view of people, places and events. See it for yourself and make your own choice.