Relaxed after a second cruise of the Caribbean, I told friends that I now had Japan ahead of me, Tokyo in the main. Yet most of them knew I was heading first to Croatia, because I’d been open about it.

I blame a close friend for my decision to go there.

But I have no second thoughts about his choice, particularly since he got the blessing of his wife and two boys to join my on this journey abroad. 

Maybe I’m not a lousy travel companion after all, eh? I’ll have to wait for him to say.

Like me, he’s a Black man who writes; at 39, he’s got a bestseller in his portfolio that shows how well he does. He’s heard me call Black men who travel “black rhinos,” meaning they’re the rarest of species.

I’m uncertain, however, how many others understand the comparison. I’m also uncertain how many realize what exploring life beyond these U.S. borders can do for their perspective on the American way and, more importantly, on their lives.

I can promise them my travels have broadened my outlook. I’ve found people, skin color notwithstanding, whom I’ve had more in common than not. I’ve met folk who had no reason to embrace me; nevertheless, they did.

My trip to Egypt illustrates the point. I befriended a family in Cairo that ran a camel business around the Pyramids. I had a niece introduce me to the Hameds, whose patriarch fed me and a cousin at his house one evening.

The man’s eldest son, who was getting married, invited me to his wedding. I had to decline; I was headed back to The States on the Friday he was — how should I put it? — tying the knot.

I can’t possibly forget the two Black women from Chicago whom I met on a wine tour in South Africa or the white, 19-year-old blues musician, a solo traveler who reached out to me on a bus ride to Tuscany.

Abroad for the first time, he’d left his small-town Ohio roots with fear of the unknown. His fear didn’t last. He found what I’d found: Fear is seldom justified.

After my last cruise, I texted photos of the sun-drenched Caribbean islands to dozens of friends and posted even more photographs on Facebook. I wrote them this: I’m really becoming a Renaissance man, and if I could ever see a baseball game in Japan, I would be one!!!

In my mind, I didn’t think anyone would respond. Surprisingly, a few people did, including a Black man who sees me as his mentor.

He wrote: Justice in all seriousness, I need to get experiences like these. Can we plan a trip? I’d like to tag along with you and expand my horizons.

He’s 28 and hasn’t explored the world. Until last fall, he’d been west of Chicago once; he’s never been east of New York City. His horizons need broadening. He’s going to be a worldlier man when they are.

The idea of travel frightens him, though. He might never shake his fear; he might let loose of it tomorrow.

Regardless, he can’t allow fear to paralyze him. If he does, he’ll never become the global citizen a Black man needs to become in this millennium.

I wish I’d discovered the world at 28. I wish I’d discovered it at 39.