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Imani Bashir - Escaping Racism in the US through Digital Nomadism

Imani Bashir, Travel Writer | Credit: Parent Map

Imani Bashir, a Black Muslim woman from PG County, Maryland, was a college-educated woman juggling three jobs, relying on food stamps, and trying to navigate a career in broadcasting with an extremely bleak outlook. And then there was Sandra Bland, a Black woman who died while in police custody following a "routine traffic stop.” Hearing Sandra’s story, amongst the many others who have been murdered at the hands of police or racist vigilantes, drove Imani into a state of anxiety and made her reach a decision that she wasn’t going to put up with leaving in fear each day anymore.

Imani booked her one-way flight out of America and went on to meet her husband in Cairo, Egypt which served as a confirmation to her that the digital nomad lifestyle was possible. Her husband, who is also a Black American, also shared her instinct of not wanting to start a family in the US. Just like her, he had to leave because of the pain and anxiety he felt as a result of the constant police brutality and a desire to protect their children's future.

Since she got married to her husband and had their first son, they have lived in Poland, Malaysia and two Chinese cities -- including Wuhan which was the original epicenter of COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, Imani and her family were displaced from their home in Wuhan and had to live from hotel to hotel till they finally found themselves back in the US against their will when her husband, who worked as a coach for American pro football abroad, had his season cancelled.

It was in May, right around the time that George Floyd (and so many others) were brutally murdered and protests broke out all across the nation, reminding them of the reasons they had originally decided to leave. The fact that Black people were being killed by COVID in large numbers and at a disproportionate rate rekindled her worry to the point where she had scheduled an appointment for an EKG after having bad chest pains that made her think she was having a heart attack. She immediately started looking into which nations accepted travelers so they could leave again. Their whole reason for living abroad was to extend their lives and she just couldn’t continue to be in America while trying to stay sane and function as a full-time employee, mother and wife.

So their next stop was Mexico. In early June, they landed in Cancún and started living there. Imani had been working full-time remotely as a travel writer but unfortunately had her employment rescinded as soon as she landed in Mexico because the offer was supposedly U.S.-based and they could not “support an international employee.” This came as a shock to her because when she interviewed, her living abroad was celebrated and her editors seemed to think that it added value to her role. And yet, here she was seemingly being fired for the same reason she was hired, for travelling and living internationally.

Imani says “Black women are often made to feel that they are not trusted to perform the basic functions of their job compared to their non-Black counterparts.” She continues her search for a new job but is clear on one thing going forward - she will continue to be unapologetic about her lifestyle, safety, and livelihood as a Black American woman. She says “No company is worth compromising my safety for. As long as Black men and women continue to be killed by police on the streets, in their beds, and at their jobs, I will not live in the United States. I know it’s not safe to come home.”

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