When I connect with Devon Davis Kitzo-Creed through Zoom, it’s 7:00 p.m. in Central Europe for her and 1:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the States for me. Devon has immigrated abroad and is pursuing midwifery studies. Yes– the age-old profession of bringing life into the world. Her partner and her four-legged creatures are her companions, and their road has just begun. I want her to share her story with me ‘cause, well, things at home lately are looking a bit bleak.
It was in 2020 when Devon and her partner decided to leave the States for good. You recall the climate: a virus whose threat level we had yet come to know was flooding hospitals with patients; there were several high-profile killings of Black Americans: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd; and protestors were being violently punished for manifesting their discontent. It was in that spirit of the era that Devon set her mind to escape the psychological violence and anxiety we all witnessed domestically.
Since that time, I’m not so certain to what extent we’ve improved. A brief recap of recent years gone by: widespread vaccine skepticism, the fatal January 6th, 2021 insurrection, mass shootings on the rise, book bans… Again, in a word: bleak. Can we blame anyone for wanting to leave?
I wondered if Devon had a long history of international travel that made making these bold decisions easier. Her parents’ roots are on the east coast in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Rochelle, New York. She tells me that within her family there are many “resort travelers”– the type that take languid vacations that offer massages, facials, and fruity drinks on tropical beaches. The Bahamas, for example, was a place that Devon had known for days at a time, but she had not made it to a new continent. For Devon, a brief and sunny jaunt to the Caribbean is now yesterday’s news. Today she’s away for months and years at a time. Instead of bar service on the sands and working on a tan, she’s dragging luggage upstairs in buildings with no elevators, researching leases, navigating language barriers, and making sure her pets get the right immunizations to cross the same borders that she does.
Devon’s first stop out of the United States was Ecuador, a South American country named after the equator and known for its Indigenous population, the Andes Mountains, Charles Darwin’s writings on evolution from the Galápagos Islands, brilliantly colored textiles, and coca leaves. She teaches me that Ecuador is a popular destination for people from the U.S. that want to relocate permanently and about the country’s rich biodiversity, mentioning cows that roam freely on its beaches. She’s effusive with her praise in sharing how much she loved living there. It reaffirmed a focus on community orientation and taught her to slow down, reducing the sense of urgency associated with the insistent, breakneck speed of capitalism. “It was everything I didn’t know I needed,” she says, and she would not have left had she not been seeking a chance to further her educational opportunities.
Devon worked in the United States as a birth & postpartum doula and childbirth educator for five years before leaving the States and tells me that at the time of her departure, business was “booming.” Safety surrounding Black people giving birth remains shamefully and statistically dangerous and Devon has been one of a chosen few who has stepped into the gap to turn that tide. Her search for an English-language program that would expand her clinical knowledge in her field next led her to Hungary. She crossed the Atlantic and made for the land of goulash, Houdini, and Dracula. If there was any culture shock, it came in the form of Devon’s realization that a diverse populace– something Hungary would not offer– was high on her list of priorities. She has had a few encounters there that have made her feel less than welcome like getting kicked off a train and turned away from a beauty technician as a new client. These moments have proven that xenophobia, the fear of the other, is real, despite the fact that Europe is continually a site of multicultural contact, a phenomenon that will only increase the deeper we delve into the 21st century. Europe’s legacies of colonialism have hastened immigration patterns from the Global South; its low domestic natality rates create the economic need of the “Other”; and globalization, which is moving at breakneck speed, refuses to slow down. Devon’s presence in Europe, and the presence of people who look like her, therefore, herald a path of no return.
Demonstrating the resilience that Black women, willingly or not, have come to be known for, Devon has taken to social media to educate others who may want to follow a similar path. She came to me first via my TikTok feed from the @devon_dkc handle and spoke about what it means to be a Black American living elsewhere. She can tell her audience about the variety of visas available to folks traveling abroad: tourist, student, family reunification, and more. She speaks carefully about the connotations of terms like “immigrant” vs. “expatriate.” And she provides reviews of avant garde fine dining restaurants found in Budapest. With Devon, there’s no want of adventure, discovery, and novelty. I was therefore 0% surprised and 100% delighted to find out about her Spotify podcast Fat Girls Traveling, which she co-hosts with Annette Richmond, another Black woman traveler who is based in Mexico. It is once again representative of what I admire most about her: she places no limitations on what she can do, where she can be, or how she’ll tell the story of her lived experiences. The title of the podcast gives a lot of information away: it consists of conversations in which women living in bodies outside of the conventional, Western beauty norm seize opportunities and lifestyles often and popularly afforded and ascribed to people who are slim and slight of frame. She, wittingly or not, is teaching others, too, to be boundless.
I knew the answer to my last question for Devon before I asked it: “Do you suspect this is your final stop?” Negative. Hardly. She’ll complete her midwifery studies in England and there’s no telling where she’ll end up next. Together we’re just glad to be along for the ride.