These days you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone not at least contemplating life outside of the United States. From racial tensions and political turmoil to rising costs and housing shortages, almost everyone feels the stress and strain of daily life in America – and we are tired. Now more than ever, Americans are looking towards other countries of a better quality of life and escape from the seemingly endless rat race. While moving abroad is not a new phenomenon for Black people, the rise of social media allows us to see other Black people doing it in real time, and that access has created a movement. One that Black women like Artemis Peacocke are proud to be a part of.
The New York-born, Atlanta-raised Zillenial didn’t have a plan when she first decided to move abroad with her husband, but she did know that the U.S. no longer felt like home. Lack of planning aside, the choice to leave the States was good. The decision has led Artemis to Turkey, where videos of her new life in a small village are followed by over 100,000 people on TikTok, who have fallen in love with her and her adopted Turkish family.
We caught up with the history and culture buff and archery enthusiast to learn more about her experience as a Black woman living abroad, what she thinks people can do to prepare for their journey, and what keeps her falling in love with Turkey.
Deciding to Leave and Choosing Turkey
I thought, “I don’t want to be here anymore.” So, I left like three months later. I wish I had a more logical or premeditated method to share, but I just caught a vibe one day and left. I didn’t know if I was going to stay gone, where I was going to live, or for how long I wanted to stay (I still don’t), but I knew that I had made the right decision the second I hopped on the plane with nothing but my husband, a single suitcase and my cat.
Living in a country that wasn’t built on systemic anti-Black racism was my most significant selling point. There aren’t many Black people in Turkey, but many Black people here are African students. So, this, along with basketball, are the most common stereotype for Black people in Turkey. This is a far cry from the massive negative stereotypes I constantly face in the States.
Preparing to Move Abroad
- The first step is to prepare for absolutely nothing to go to plan. Flight times, housing arrangements, residency applications, expect it all to get screwed up and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t.
- I’m being honest about this one- please get a therapist before you leave. Moving abroad is one of the hardest things someone can do, and that’s why most people don’t do it! If you’re mentally prepared, you can handle the logistic/bureaucratic preparations much easier.
- Meet people online who already live there. Their experience will differ from yours, but having a general idea of what to expect will make a move much easier for you.
Being a Natural Hair Girl Abroad
Maintaining natural hair in a place where the nearest stylist who has even touched my hair type before is 4 hours away is a challenge. Not to mention, Black hair products are either impossible to find or 2x times more expensive than they are back home. I narrowed down my regimen to only shampoo, conditioner, and leave-in. I can find the first two locally, but I force my mom to send me leave-in from the States. The biggest saving grace for my hair is that nobody here has seen natural Black hair before, so I can walk outside looking a hot mess and still get compliments. When you’re flexible with your definition of “presentable” is, you can keep it healthy through low manipulation.
On Having a TikTok Famous Turkish Family
They truly just do not get it. They don’t understand TikTok and don’t get why people are so interested in what’s considered average everyday life for them. Many people ask me if they know that I talk about them in my stories- they do. But none speak English, so they downloaded TikTok to use the in-app translation feature to read comments. I’ll come over and say, “TikTok loves you guys!” and show them how many people left sweet comments, and they’ll brush me off with the Turkish equivalent of “Damn, that’s crazy. Anyway, are you hungry?” Their blissful ignorance about what makes them so special is a part of their charm.
Being a part of a close-knit community is irreplaceable. In the States, I had to fight tooth and nail to build my community, and even then, I had to fight to keep it solid and safe. But here, the community is inherently ingrained into the culture. Not many people outside big cities can string together a sentence in English, but if you speak Turkish and accept Turkish culture, you’re a part of the community and will be cared for.
How the World Can Support Post-Earthquake Turkey
It was and still is hard for all of us; even though my community is physically safe, we are close to people who lost everything. I helped out a local disaster relief organization, and the amount of aid we got was huge. On a personal level, I was peer pressured (see also: forced) to move into a safer home with my Turkish family because of how bad my nightmares and anxiety became afterward. But that’s nothing compared to those who lost their lives, homes, and families. If you want to help from outside the country, you can donate to AFAD’s humanitarian aid campaign. Many people are contemplating whether to still come to Turkey for vacation this summer after the earthquakes- please do come! Tourism is a massive chunk of the local economy here, and major tourist destinations are unaffected.
Experiencing Turkey Beyond Tourist Attractions
First of all, leave Istanbul! Istanbul is home to 16 million people; it’s a mega-city full of rich history, so most tourists end up there. But there are so many beautiful places in the Black Sea region, in southern provinces like Antalya, Muğla, and Cappadocia.
Also, learn 10-20 common phrases in Turkish. The most beautiful thing about Turkey is the people here, so find simple terms you use daily in your native language and translate them. Even this minor effort will almost guarantee you’ll be invited back to some random person’s house or shop for tea if you’re chatty enough.
Going Viral For Racism in Rome
Like many Black Americans, I have a lot of trauma relating to racism, so it dug up a lot of old wounds that I haven’t had to deal with in a while. I’m trying not to let it affect how or where I travel too much because what I experienced in Rome was the first time I’ve ever experienced prejudice that blatant outside of America. I had also heard rumors about racism in other countries, but I ended up having a great time there, so I know that I won’t face racism everywhere that I go. Because of that, it’s a bummer that my videos went viral because I got a lot of comments from other Black people saying, “See, this is why I don’t travel!” when most places are less racist than America in my experience. I don’t want people to let fear of racism keep them from traveling because the world is enormous.
I’ve felt perfectly safe everywhere I’ve traveled except for Italy. I had particularly fantastic experiences in Greece and Costa Rica. I went outside alone and felt safe; everyone treated me like a friend. My biggest bucket-list destination is Japan! I spent years learning Japanese but haven’t gotten the chance to go.