Traveling While Natural: The Art of Protective Styles

May your fro grow and your skin glow.

Ladies, let’s face it.  How many times have we let our hair dictate our activities instead of just going for it?  Want to go swimming but afraid your leave-out will revert?  Trust me, I have been there.  I was worried about how I was going to style my VERY natural hair while abroad in Europe for 40 days.   I didn’t know if I wanted braids, a weave, my hair, or anything in between.  It was a stressful thought process when I should have been basking in the moment of preparing for my most epic summer to date.

With that being said, what I do NOT want for you fellow traveler, is to waste too much time agonizing over what to do with your natural hair while preparing for a trip.  As India Arie once said, “I am not my hair”, but since you are here, let’s break down some of the methods I have used and will use for my upcoming travels.

Related Post: The Emancipation of My Afro In Europe

Protective Styles

Marley Twists / Box Braids

I went to Belize in October 2015 for a five-day, four-night solo adventure and knew that I would spend most, if not all, of my time basking in the sun.  It was still hurricane season and during my time there I managed to make it past a tropical storm.  Needless to say, it was humid!

Pros: Morning fuss not needed! Get up and go was activated. I could wear it up, down, or in-between. They will last quite awhile if you take proper care of them.

Cons: Admittedly, when I went to Belize it was the first time my stylist had done Marley twists so they probably weren’t 100% legit.  I will also say that because I was in the water, I would have done a better job sticking with black like I did when I went to Puerto Rico the first time.  My roots got noticeably puffy and contrasted against the red.

Wigs

Probably, my new favorite. To me, wigs are old faithful. I used to wear half-wigs religiously in college and while I am sure some fellas did not like it, -my- hair flourished underneath.  

Pros: You can snatch it off (which feels amazing)! I also love the fact that you can switch up your look without putting color / other chemicals on your natural hair.

Cons: Finding one that looks good on you and blends well can be a task.  Sometimes going through TSA can also be a pain, but at this stage of the game, it is like that for many travelers with natural hair.

Sew-In's

I am ashamed to admit it, but I am probably my laziest with hair care when I have a sew-in.  I cannot explain what it is but I am at ease and since I typically have a bundle with a curly pattern, I do not feel the pressure to style it. If I choose to add in some flexi-rods or another curl, that is simply because I am feeling fancy.

Pros: My hair is secure! I am not worried about it being gone with the wind. They last for quite awhile if you take proper care of it. This is one of my "get up and go" styles. 

Cons: Depending upon the braid-down pattern and amount of hair left out, you will be limited to the styles you can wear. It is also difficult to get to your scalp when your hair begins to itch. 

Au Naturale

I was shocked when I ultimately went with the decision to wear my natural hair abroad in Europe.  While flying into Portugal I was sporting a fresh blowout, by the time I left I had been weeks into wearing twistout’s and wash & go’s.  

Pros: It’s all you.  You have no issues with the breeze being intense and can walk with an extra bounce because you is fierce, you is sexy, and you is powerful.

Cons: Sometimes your twistout just will NOT get right, and you need a backup plan or you will simply have to suck it up. I also grew tired of twisting my hair at night and having to fight security to let me keep my gel in my carry-on (yes, it was travel sized).

Related Post: 35 Protective Styles That Will Save You Hours of Styling Time (Pop Sugar)

Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Natural Hair Before Your Trip Abroad

What will the climate of my destination be like?

How much time am I willing to spend on my hair while abroad?

Am I comfortable with standing out with my natural hair while abroad? Would I like the extra attention?

What natural hairstyle makes me feel sexiest / the most comfortable?  

As trivial as it may seem, these are real questions that you need to ask yourself. Everybody has a different threshold for discomfort and everybody is not comfortable with their 'fro yet. And quite frankly, while abroad, some people just do not feel like being BOTHERED with strangers poking and touching such a personal object. You want to ensure that you are having fun and not spending the bulk of your time looking in the mirror with insecurity.  That's no fun at all!

My Final Tips on Traveling While Natural

Finding natural hair products while abroad can seem like a daunting task. Naturally, I would consult Yelp to see if there were any stores nearby my hostel.  Throw in a store description in English if I was lucky.  My next best bet was to consult Trip Advisor or the various travel communities I am in on Facebook. And at the end of the day, the locals are your best bet. They will typically lead you in the right direction and can give you some suggestions. Shoutout to the random sisters in Lisbon for hooking me up. You can also hit a quick Google search for salons nearby.

If you know good and well your hair will not function properly without a certain product, put it in a carry-on sized container and take it with you.  Yes, you might have to ration it out a bit (or you can create two bottles of the same product) but it will help keep you sane.  Little did I know how far clear gel could go until I was forced to maintain.

Research your electricity needs before relying on a style. Yes, your bundles might be on fleek once you pass the flat iron over it, but will you even be able to plug in your hairstyling tool in that new country? Good adapters are key and you do not want to risk having issues with voltage. Make sure you think about the activities on your itinerary before making a decision.  If you know that you will be jet-skiing, a wig probably won’t be a good idea, sis.

Whatever style you choose, rock it with CONFIDENCE.  If you hate it, you can always switch it up later.  You make the hair, don’t let it make you or your trip.  You are bound to have a wonderful time and should never feel limited in your options due to a hair style.  Get busy living!


The bigger the hair, the harder they stare.
How many times have we let our hair dictate our activities instead of just going for it?  Want to go swimming but afraid your leave-out will revert?  Trust me, I have been there.  I was worried about how I was going to style my VERY natural hair while abroad in Europe for 40 days.   I didn’t know if I wanted braids, a weave, my hair, or anything in between.  It was a stressful thought process when I should have been basking in the moment of preparing for my most epic summer to date. Read more about the art of traveling while natural on www.thirty30courtney.com

How many times have we let our hair dictate our activities instead of just going for it?  Want to go swimming but afraid your leave-out will revert?  Trust me, I have been there.  I was worried about how I was going to style my VERY natural hair while abroad in Europe for 40 days.   I didn’t know if I wanted braids, a weave, my hair, or anything in between.  It was a stressful thought process when I should have been basking in the moment of preparing for my most epic summer to date. Read more about the art of traveling while natural on www.thirty30courtney.com

What do you think, ladies? What is your preferred protective style when traveling while natural? Does it depend upon where you are going? Do you have some tips you'd like to leave in the comments? Let's chat!

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