Mama Càx is the pen name of a writer and blogger—“a part-time traveler and full-time dreamer” in her words—who inspires us to hit the road. A Brooklyn native, raised in Haiti and Montréal, Càx was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer at age 15. She was given three weeks to live, but more than 10 years after that diagnosis she continues strong—exploring the world and bringing back dispatches that can be humorous, delightful, insightful and often brutally honest, with reflections on life, the world, and traveling with a prosthetic leg. She is a features writer for Pink Pangea, “the community for women who love to travel.” We sat down with Càx and asked her to share a few thoughts on her adventures around the world.
AFAR: Why is travel important to you?
Càx: As a child, my favorite subjects were art history and geography. Through these subjects, I daydreamed, hoping that one day I would see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, walk through a market in Lagos, or trek to Machu Picchu.
At 15, I was diagnosed with a severe form of bone cancer that metastasized to my lungs. I fought this disease for two years and promised myself that if I survived I would go see all the places I dreamt of visiting.
As soon as I turned 18, I started exploring the world and realized that while I loved that it gave me the opportunity to explore new cultures, it was also a way to explore myself. Traveling is my road to happiness. It’s vital.
AFAR: What lessons have you learned from traveling?
Càx: I have learned that I enjoy to travel alone. Traveling has taught me that no matter where you go, there will always be someone to lend a hand. There are good people out there.
Traveling alone as a woman with a disability is not easy. I found out that the world is not an accessible place and that sexual harassment is scarier in some places.
Traveling over the years has also taught me how brave and daring I can be.
AFAR: What advice would you give to someone nervous about traveling overseas?
Càx: You are getting ready for an amazing journey, and it’s okay to be nervous. Shortly after graduating from college I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. I traveled alone to a region I had never been before. I was nervous and had my doubts but it was probably the best thing I have ever done. My advice is to do some studying in advance—learn about the culture, as well as some key words in the local language. I read at least 20 travel blogs and a couple of books.
But, of course, my trip was not at all as I envisioned it would be; it was much better. I never thought I would get depressed or encounter so many physical challenges but I also never expected to become close friends with some of my hostel mates. It is true what they say, “When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”
AFAR: How do you prepare for a trip abroad?
Càx: How you prepare for a trip depends on your needs, what you prioritize, and how long the trip is. For me, my top priorities are always caring for my skin and packing extra crutch tips. In many countries, there aren’t cosmetic products for black people, and when I traveled to Southeast Asia I struggled because most products contained skin bleaching agents. I am also a crutch user and it’s imperative that I carry extra crutch tips with me as the rubber bottoms tend to wear off after a couple of months.
If I’m away for an extended period of time I make sure to sign up with the US embassy online. That way, if there’s ever any political unrest or a natural disaster, I can be evacuated by the U.S. Government.
AFAR: Where do you want to go next?
Càx: I would love to go to West Africa. Africa is the only continent that I have not visited. My ancestors came from West Africa and I think it would be such an emotional journey. I would probably spend my days eating and shopping for colorful fabrics.