I walk into a hostel in Italy and the common room is filled with people for the free dinner. I scan the room quickly. There is one other person of colour. I walk into a hostel in Thailand. I hang out in what is literally one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia for five days and meet no other people of colour. I walk into a hostel in Macedonia and people look at me with intrusive curiosity that makes me feel embarrassed. Of course, I am the only person of colour.
I was 22, sunbaking on the islands of Thailand, when I realised that travel is different for white women and brown women. I am privileged in that I am a light-skinned brown woman; some people just think I have an envious, year-long tan. However, my skin colour is loaded with meaning because nationality, and by extension race, are central talking points in travel.
I have been the first Nepali person many travellers have told me that they have met, and they do not hesitate to project their cultural and racial stereotypes onto me. They are very excited, so I ask them if they want an autograph. They proceed to ask me a thousand random questions about Nepal and are disappointed when I say that I am not from a tiny village in the Himalayas and that I did not have to walk hours on treacherous roads to get to school every day.