Here is a true travel story from the heart, Sorangi a daughter of two Dominican immigrants shares her upbringing and how travel has allowed her to enlighten her community – meet Sorangi and follow her @theglobalchica
My name is Sorangi. I am the daughter of Dominican immigrants. I grew up in a hood of Miami called Carol City. My father was that strict machista that kept me in the house with a ball and chain while my two older brothers got the liberty to do most of what they wanted. Growing up, it felt like everyone from the Dominican Republic stayed at our house when they visited the US. Of course, my room was the original AirBnb. At one point, when my family migrated to the states, we were eleven people living in a three bedroom home and I slept on the floor of my parent’s bedroom for years. We weren’t poor, but we didn’t have a lot.
One day, my father decided to move back to his motherland. I remember looking out of the window on the plane, with puddles in my eyes, until I couldn’t see Miami anymore. When we landed, a band playing perico ripiao greeted us as we entered the airport. That’s when it hit me that I would spend the next year of life fully immersed in Dominican culture. Of course, I made friends, got acclimated to going to school in Spanish (with no AC) and fell in love with the island. We took road trips that allowed me to see most of the country. I discovered my favorite beach in the world: Boca Chica. It was different than life in the states but I was privileged there; my mom didn’t have to work and we had a housekeeper. This is a real come up because before we left the US, my mom was a housekeeper! However, our time in DR was short lived as the economy suffered, government corruption increased and my father’s business encountered some failures causing him to take a hit financially so we ultimately moved back to the states. We found ourselves back in that same hood in Miami but now in a trailer park.
I’m the only person that I know that had to apply to college behind their father’s back. My father being the strict dictator he is, had plans for me already. His orders were that I would go to DR for college and when I begged him to let me go on a high school field trip to the University of Florida (UF), he let me go and said that when I got back I was to forget about UF because “tu mueres aqui”, while pointing to his chest. I cried almost every day of my senior year and threatened my mom that I would run away. He stifled my attempt to graduate first in my class because I wasn’t allowed to take dual enrollment classes and be on a college campus. I finished third in my class; both valedictorian and salutatorian took dual enrollment to boost my gpa. Thankfully, my good grades opened the door for me to go to UF with a generous scholarship and the situation in DR wasn’t favorable due to crime. My father had to reconsider.
When I arrived at UF, traveling and exploring the world was a far-fetched dream I couldn’t fathom being a reality. I associated it with something that only rich (and white) people could do. I was just a girl from Carol City and girls like me don’t get to travel the world like that. In 2011, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college. I was enrolled in the combined degree program and started working on my Master’s while getting my Bachelors. When one of my friends in grad school decided to take a study abroad course, I did too. Studying abroad was a goal for me in undergrad, but I just couldn’t afford it. This time, I wasn’t afraid to take a student loan. I took my first trip to Europe! I spent 3 weeks in Germany and went to about 11 different cities. It was the most amazing experience and worth the extra couple of stacks of loans I took out! I was blown away by the differences; how they preserved their buildings, kept their country clean, prioritized recycling and I actually liked drinking their beer (coming from a girl who swears by Presidente). I saw amazing castles and more snow, up in the mountains, than I ever care to see again in life. I made many friends on the German side of the exchange program. I even met my best friend, Tine, in this program. Taking that trip was the best decision ever because it birthed in me a desire to see more of the world and nothing could take away my new found sense of freedom.
During this time, my career was also taking off. While in grad school, I got a job as a Human Resources Assistant at the UF Foundation. I had no idea that people worked to get private financial support so that the university could offer students the best resources. I thought it would be just a gig to get me through school but I was moved by the work they did and I ultimately worked my way up to become the Associate Director of Development for the College of Journalism and Communications by the age of 24! I thought it would be cool to get paid to travel and meet with alumni and friends of the university, cultivate relationships and ultimately, ask them for significant donations to move the vision and mission of the university and impact first-generation students like myself. My career goal was an uphill battle though! I spent three years applying for countless jobs as an internal candidate; I was always a finalist but never the finalist. I was working as a temporary employee and financially things were really tight. My dream was to be in a position where I was in the frontlines; not behind a desk. I wanted to meet with people face to face and ask for the big bucks. They finally granted me an Assistant Director title that was still behind a desk. Six months later, I saw someone get hired due to nepotism and land my dream job with no real experience. It broke my heart. My whole life I had heard that as a woman of color I would have to work twice as hard to get to the same level as my white counterpart. At that moment, I realized that I would work twice as hard and still not reach that level. I turned that hurt and anger into motivation and three months later I got my dream job. I began traveling around Florida and Georgia on behalf of the university. In the years following, my territory would expand to include travel just about everywhere in the US.
The fulfillment I got from my work was amazing. I helped create the first scholarship for black students, Hispanic students and for study abroad in the college I worked for! Second, the benefits were amazing. Twenty-two paid vacation days, plus 11 holidays a year! As you can tell, I’m that employee that uses all of those days! Not to mention, I travel for work and get to explore cities on my job’s dime too. The best part is that I am good at it! Alumni would pour out confirmations to me that I was exactly where I belonged.
No te equivoques, don’t get it twisted, this salaried job didn’t mean that I was ballin’! I had student loans, credit card debt (because I couldn’t call Mami and Papi for anything besides “La Bendicion” in college) and bills to cover. Even still, I was committed to saving money every year to travel the world with my friends. I didn’t have cable or wifi in my apartment. I paid my upstairs neighbors 1/3 of their bill for the code to the wifi. I used my cousin’s Netflix (confession: I still do that!). I drove my ’03 Sonata that made the highest pitched noises when I turned on the AC and led me to do a quick prayer every time I put the key in the ignition so that it would actually turn on. I didn’t go out on weekends to avoid spending money on bar tabs and the likes. I sacrificed what I could and started to look at every expense asking: how many flights could I purchase with this money? I saved half of my income tax refund for travel, and Tine and I soon began to plan our first major international trip together to Thailand and Cambodia. Tip: to save money, I chose a flight with a long layover in London. I recommend doing this to get a bonus trip out of the experience! I had 12 hours in London; enough time to leave the airport, take a tour and spend the day in the country.
My love for travel only grew deeper! I always skip the tourist traps and immerse myself in authentic experiences. I interact with people and I try to learn important phrases in their language. I research the best experiences to have in order to experience their culture and practice responsible and respectful tourism as much as possible. You likely won’t catch me in that expensive 5-star hotel full of tourists! I want to stay and buy locally owned if possible to give my money to the people. When I went to Cuba, I hired underground taxis and bought my cigars from farmers in Viñales. I’ve had many life highlights abroad including going to Kenya and realizing that the music was familiar and the food tasted like what my mom always made me; it was definitely the birthplace of my Caribbean culture and being called Africana by the locals made me feel so connected to the motherland. I’ve made friends in almost every country I’ve visited that have offered me a place to stay for next time.
I got smarter and more stable with my finances as the years went by. I started to acquire a lot of hotels and car rental points through my work travel and used it for my personal travel. I also got the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and took point finessing to the next level. My work requires me to pay for my work expenses and then get reimbursed. The Chase card gives me 3x the points on any travel and dining related purchase. Ca-ching baby!
Soon, I realized that my travels weren’t just for me. I was inspiring others to feel like they too could explore their curiosities and travel. One year, three close friends told me that my travels inspired them to get a passport. I would be with two of them for their first stamps! My mom, who would worry and never understand why I had to choose locations to visit that were so far away, finally got a dose of travel when I brought her on a trip with me to Paris, Switzerland and a surprise stop in Rome. Now all she wants to do is travel every year; she’s caught the travel bug! I began sharing tips via my Instagram page under TheGlobalChica. My goal is simply to share my travels as an afrolatina exploring the world in hopes to inspire diversity in travel. I’ve been to 18 countries so far and I’ll keep traveling “hasta que se seque el malecon.” It turns out travel isn’t reserved for the white and the rich, and Dominican girls from Carol City can travel like that.
I hope you catch my Travel Tuesday posts on IG @theglobalchica!Connect with Soragni via our Comunidad Viajerx! Follow her Travel Tuesday tips on her Instagram – @theglobalchica