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Rachel Jean-Baptiste…I’m All Lady, Lesbian, And Love Living And Travelling Abroad!

As the world becomes smaller, it is important that we acknowledge our differences as well as our similarities. While living and working in South Korea, I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely young lady whom I consider a sister-friend, Ms. Rachel Jean-Baptiste. Rachel is a beautiful spirit that you can always find capturing life’s little moments with her big camera. I wanted to take some time and interview her because I think she is a great person, she always has something great to say, but, more importantly, I think she can help someone finally coming out of their cocoon who is trying to spread their wings—begin to fly. Although, I will admit that her sexual orientation means nothing to me, I wanted her to tell her story because I feel  some of my readers would love to hear and see more of themselves when researching expat life. So, for all my LGBTQIA sisters, this is for you. Enjoy!

Age: Dirty 30!

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in New York, NY.

Where are you currently living?

I’m back in America. South Carolina is my home base for the next few months.

What do you love about travelling?

I really enjoy tasting the culture through the local spices of new places! I am a non- dairy pescatarian, so I often have to get creative with recipes that involve a combination of fun textures and delectable tastes.

Where have you lived (abroad)?

I have lived in Debrecen, Hungary; Budapest, Hungary; Ocho Rios, Jamaica;  Salamanca, Spain; Seoul, South Korea; and Gifu, Japan.

Where have you travelled (abroad)?

In addition to local cities in Hungary, Jamaica, Spain, South Korea, Japan, I’ve also been to Switzerland and China, thus far!

Why do you love travelling?

I seriously do not know life without it. I have been travelling away from home since the tender age of eight. I mostly enjoy tapping into a different side of me that tends not to live completely in the large, busy city. Travel fosters my imagination, holistic being, and free bohemian spirit. I love it. She loves it. Even my puppies love seeing me when I get back! Each and every time I fall deeper in love with myself. I used to think I was looking to escape something. As a young adult, I realized, I rather travel to embrace something!

On Traveling as a Lesbian

I know that you are a part of the gay community (the happiest person I know, actually), but do you ever feel there are limitations in where you can travel because you identify as a lesbian?

Why thank you! I have been told I have a “glow!” So it’s nice to know that even you feel the joy I exude. Now, as far as being limited with locations, I don’t feel we have many. Any place is what we create our experience to be. It’ll be naive of me, if I failed to mention that there are certainly several places with zero tolerance to the gay community despite laws of inclusion and protection. These places probably won’t be seeing us only because we aren’t interested in pretending we are just friends while on the vacation because we, too, paid our hard earned money. There is a fine line between respecting other’s cultures and respecting their comfort.

There is a fine line between respecting other’s cultures and respecting their comfort.

What is the most difficult thing you have dealt with travelling (period)?

Geeze. I don’t really like to go back to this time and place, but it was the time I experienced blatant racism. In brief, my host sister had a house party while the parents left for the weekend. Many of her friends never saw a black person before, aside from in the media. Well, after the minors consumed their illegal alcohol all hell broke loose. I didn’t speak much Hungarian, but from the corners of my bedroom I made out words like, “KKK, Africa, Kill”, things of that sort. They used knives to unlock my door. Unsuccessful, they banged and taunted for hours on end. My phone line was unplugged and at that moment I went into survival mode. I started packing essentials to jump two stories out the window and run away. Where to? IDK. Away from there!

Amidst everything, they got the door open and I kicked it shut! My foot went toe first through the frosted glass and left me needing serious medical attention. That’s when the entire party split home and the host sister trashed any sign of foul play. Jumping out the window was now a distant option, so I wrapped up my foot and ran out the front door bags in tow. This was the scariest situation by far. I wound up getting stitches and then being threatened to return home after my hotel stay! The host family claimed I was dangerous, violent and probably had a gun! Yup. All my stellar credentials meant nothing because no one believed my side, except my friends and family. Yet, I pleaded my case and reaped all my scholarship had afforded me at the artist camp with living with locals. Crutches and all, no one puts baby in the corner!

 Your passport doesn’t get a special stamp, so you are essentially in control.

I know there are several LGBTQIA women, especially those of color who want to travel, but might fear going to certain locations because of their sexual orientation. What would you say about that, and how would you encourage them to consider travelling the world without limitations?

Wow. This is a hard one because we still deal with it every time we travel. To family out there I say, understand that being flamboyant in other countries is just not acceptable. Find your healthy medium and turn down for a second. Absolutely, do not return to the closet if you feel it will only leave you miserable and resentful of the country. Singles, be smart about dating apps, dancing, flirting with locals and their tolerance. Lovebirds, the same applies, but be mindful of your PDA (public displays of affection). There is a time and a place for everything. Most importantly, JUST TRAVEL! Your passport doesn’t get a special stamp, so you are essentially in control.

I don’t want to make this entire conversation all about your sexual orientation, but I would really like for you to help anyone who would love to travel and identifies as being a part of the LGBTQIA community. I think it’s really important for people to see themselves in others. So, is there a place that you have traveled, which you felt was more accepting? A place you felt comfortable being open to express yourself albeit holding hands, kissing, or cuddling?

Unfortunately, America has yet to be topped; New York City, specifically. We’ve been to several places together and felt TOLERATED or IGNORED. In NYC, our relations were ACKNOWLEDGED, RESPECTED and WELCOMED. Seeing two people, giddy in love almost all the time, how could one hate?!

For those wondering, are there any major challenges around being open, gay and travelling? And if so, what would you say they are?

To be honest, the biggest challenge is overcoming our own FEAR. She assumes a very masculine figure and demeanor, despite her lovely curves. Onlookers easily assume we are a couple. With the world in the state of emergency the way it is now, it is often in the back of our minds if we would be the next victims of a hate crime.

What is the best thing about being able to travel with your fiancée openly, that may have been very challenging several years ago, or is there a big difference in your opinion?

The best thing about travelling together, nowadays, is that more people are not assuming we are sisters, but rather complementing our love openly. We’ve even had others start conversations with the basis of being an encouragement to them. We don’t often do PDA’s, but when we do, WE DO. However, more people are apt to smile, nod, and even offer to take a picture for us! It’s really sweet and makes me feel like the Queen that she treats me as!

The million dollar dilemma remains, figuring out how life as an expat will accommodate the entire family and foster a loving and forever lasting marriage.

I know for some time you lived in several other countries, while you were in a long distance relationship. How did you maintain the relationship from afar for so long?

 Yes! We have been in a long distance relationship for over six years now! Honestly, it was not a cake walk. From conception, there was a full verbal commitment to put forth effort in being together and then to see what happens. Well, some trial had textbook solutions, while others were stumbled over, but brought us closer together.

Trust and communication has always been key, and that is ever evolving with our experiences and personalities! That being said, it was important to us both that our families knew of each other, as not being a phase. This warranted respect and understanding when she would give notice of travelling overseas to see me every few months, or when I would use my little vacation time to see her in between visits. Even now, when we see each other it feels like puppy love! We get to do all the corny courtship things we didn’t do years ago. One of my most favorite things is her gentlewoman chivalrous ways; getting my door, paying without discussion, etc.!

I understand you are engaged. When are you playing on getting married and how will marriage play a role in if your travels, or will it?

Indeed I am! It was made official on November 15, 2015! We have already chosen a date for next year! But of course, things are still in the infant stages of planning, so I won’t be spilling any more beans just yet.

As for my expat life, I am actually back in the states working on being more of a nomad in my own country! It has really allowed us to travel more as a family with our three yorkies. Creating experiences together is the main goal, despite where we are.  The million dollar dilemma remains, figuring out how life as an expat will accommodate the entire family and foster a loving and forever lasting marriage.

Do you plan to ever live abroad again? If so, where would you like to live next?

OF COURSE! We are uncertain as to where we’ll settle next. However, if money was no object, I would really want to live in Costa Rica or Thailand! My soul has been drawn there for years! They seem very open and accepting. The culture is vibrant and wholesome from the overwhelming reviews I’ve received from fellow nomads. I also would like to trial life in Doha, Qatar. I’m just not so certain they are keen on the lifestyle and ain’t nobody got time to be living in no closet! Hpmh.

Tell me, so what you are currently doing?

First and foremost, I am a domestic goddess, mother of three fur babies and a newly engaged woman! That in itself is a full time job that takes some adjusting to. Haha! However, as of late, I am a freelance model, author and photographer. I have also been working in the public relations department for our family restaurant. What has mainly been consuming my time is local travels regarding my Haitian ancestry search!

Is there anything else that you would want my readers to know?

It always gets better. If it doesn’t, it’s not the end! Know your truth and live life on your own terms being true to who you really are!

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