It seems that almost every time I start to plan a new trip, some well meaning soul will decide it is their obligation to forewarn me of the dangers of solo travel as a woman. They tell me stories of urban legends, freak accidents, and legitimate cultural quirks that I’m usually already aware of.
The first time I traveled alone I went to Thailand. I was a woman, alone in Bangkok and it was the single most uplifting thing I had done in my life to that point. I booked my ticket with a travel agent, and started planning and packing my bags. I told my mum what my plans were, I expected she would be proud of me. Instead, she reacted the way any worried parent might. “Who are you going with? Where will you stay? What will you do? Will you be safe?”I had no answers for her questions, and as my departure date grew closer and the answers still didn’t come she became increasingly anxious. All I knew was that Bangkok was the gateway to South East Asia, and it was calling for me.
I answered boldly. I went confidently forward, and looking back on that first time by myself I laugh at all the extra precautions I took simply because I wanted to be safe, as a woman. We are conditioned from the time we are able to walk and talk to never go anywhere alone, because it’s not safe for girls.
The truth is you are just as safe or unsafe in any city in the world.
Growing up, we are conditioned to never go alone anywhere. We can’t walk to school alone, we can’t catch a taxi alone. Simply being a woman is to be a target for rape and assault. And the stats back it up, we are more likely to be the target of gendered violence. Now I’m gonna say it again – because no doubt someone will make a comment if I don’t. I am NOT advocating that men do not experience violence, I am simply stating that the TYPE of violence experienced by men is different to that experienced by women.
My moments traveling through what are now considered off limited countries – places like Syria, Jordan and Egypt or Kenya and Tanzania – have been both empowering and liberating. My travel experiences remind me that being a woman isn’t a cautionary tale. We are the substance that every living thing is made out of. Women are life’s essence and we deserve and are entitled to be anywhere we want to be.
While the reality of being safe is obviously important, being safe does not negate the importance of independence, intelligence and confidence when traveling abroad. And it should not stop you from going. Those things people tell you, about how dangerous it is or how reckless you’re being or asking why you won’t take friends with you? I find it generally stems from jealousy. And for me, that’s everyone else issue – not mine.
So don’t make it yours. Don’t listen to those that would restrict you and keep you close. Roam free little birds, let the wind take you far and wide. Experience the joy that is travelling alone. Bear witness to the global female solidarity you’ll find in women all over the world.