I always knew I’d study abroad in college; even though I had no idea where I wanted to go, which semester I’d go, or how I’d get the money to support myself while abroad. After transferring universities, I was two classes short from graduating on time. I decided going abroad the summer after my junior year would be the perfect; that way I’d get the experience of living abroad and fulfilling my credit requirements to graduate.

Once everything was set, I had to figure out what I’d do with my hair. Since I started transitioning in June of my sophomore year, my hair was very fragile. So I had to pick a hairstyle that wouldn’t take too much time to maintain, needed limited products and lasted long.

What is transitioning?

In the natural hair world, transitioning means you stop doing whatever it’s that got your hair in its damaged state – letting your natural hair grow out. So if you’re getting relaxers, you stop getting touch-up’s and let your natural hair grow. If you constantly straighten your hair, you transition from heat damaged hair. Transitioning is the alternative from going natural through a big chop (BC). A BC is when you get rid of your damaged hair and start fresh with a short cut. In my case, I was transitioning from a relaxer.

Why do people transition their hair?

Everyone’s natural hair story is different, so I can’t speak for anyone else besides myself; I wanted to transition because I was tired of the long and tedious touch-up routine. Every 3 months I’d waste 5+ hours in the salon getting “creamy crack” (relaxer) in my hair. Dealing with the burning scalp that came with relaxers. Sitting under a dryer indefinitely, then leaving the salon with a headache and almost $100 down the drain. And for what? I couldn’t fully enjoy life with a relaxer; Having to avoid sweating, swimming or any other form of precipitation. I realized that relaxers weren’t ideal for my lifestyle, limited time and income. I also wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and knew I had to give up relaxers. There’s many health-related issues associated with perms and I knew I didn’t want any of that.

How long do people transition?

It varies on how long someone wants their natural hair to be, after chopping off their relaxed ends. My goal was to transition for 1 year and 6 months (super specific I know); I did make it to that goal, but not without some bumps in the road.

How did I prepare my transitioning hair?

I figured a protective style would be the best idea for my transitioning hair while abroad; so I decided to get senegalese twists. You can read more about things to consider when traveling with natural hair here. I packed: oils, shampoo, conditioner, gel (for my edges) and a spray specifically for the extensions. I made sure to wash my hair weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how my hair felt; some weeks using shampoo, other weeks using a conditioner and water mix. I felt like I did everything correctly; but there were a few things I didn’t anticipate:

What happened during my time abroad?

A day trip to CercedillaFail #1: Never dealing with synthetic braiding hair prior to going abroad.

For some reason, I didn’t test how synthetic braiding hair would react with my hair. I didn’t realize my scalp would react negatively and get EXTREMELY itchy and flaky with the synthetic hair. I found myself frequently washing my hair because my scalp was itchy and the oils were creating more build-up.

Fail #2: Not bringing a deep conditioning (DC) treatment!

In hindsight, I’m really unsure why I didn’t bring a DC product; seeing as I did this treatment weekly during my transitioning process 😓. So I didn’t DC my hair the entire time I studied abroad, which was a recipe for disaster.

Fail #3: Being impatient during the take down process.

After studying abroad, I went straight to Miami for a few days; but I couldn’t deal with the extensions any longer so I started taking out the synthetic hair. Since I didn’t moisturize my hair underneath when taking the synthetic hair out, the relaxed ends started to break off. The same day, I went to a stylist who claimed to have knowledge in transitioning hair; I should’ve known she was sketchy. Once I sat in her chair she took a comb through my dry hair! Basically ripping out most of my relaxed ends 😒.

I hope this post helps anyone who is traveling for an extensive period of time with transitioning hair. It’s possible to travel with two hair textures, as long as you probably care for it; and make sure to not make the same mistakes I did 😞.

The only fortunate thing that came from this was that my transitioning process was almost over. I was a year and one month into my process, so my hair wasn’t really short. Once I got home, I went to my TRUSTED stylist to give me a proper trim. There were still a few strings of relaxed ends left, but at least my hair wasn’t completely ruined from the entire ordeal.

Did you had any horror stories while transitioning?

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