Often times when women share their solo overseas travel plans with others they are met with some form well-meaning advice or warnings to maybe bring someone with you. These comments undoubtedly come from a place of concern and misunderstanding of the world around us. It is important to acknowledge the unique and sometimes dangerous circumstances that women face as the travel alone that men do not. It is important to work together as people to eliminate or minimize those actions and circumstances by standing up for all women of all nations and their right to be safe. As travelers we must understand our privilege and understand that the danger we face, real or perceived, is part of a larger problem that faces women the world over that we must be a part of changing.
Specifically, as it pertains to traveling as a solo woman, I thought it important and useful that we try to break down some of myths and misconceptions so women feel even more empowered to hit the road and see the world. When women are encouraged and empowered to explore the world around them, whether overseas or domestically, the social structures that bind us together will only be stronger. Here are some myths or misconceptions to consider.
You Will Be Sexually Harassed
One of the main reason’s women are advised not to travel alone, or to certain destinations, is because of sexual harassment. This is a very complex issue that has its roots in so many different cultures and cultural norms all over the world. If you ask any woman, anywhere in the world she is most likely going to tell you she has experienced sexual harassment in her own city and in her own home. It does not matter if you are traveling in Alaska, Nepal, or Turkey sadly this is part of everyday life for women. I think it is more constructive and more effective that we address this issue not as “how do I avoid sexual harassment when I travel?” but rather how to we change the paradigm for all women so they can feel safe all the time. Let’s set each other up with skills and advice that will help us feel more empowered in everyday life, and in turn be able to use those skills as we travel. Simple things like learning about the cultural norms of a place, if is there a certain dress code you should follow, and social etiquette. This can help you feel more comfortable no matter at home or abroad and help us begin to shift from a fear based thought process to a progress based model.
It’s Too Dangerous
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard from people around me “It’s not safe for solo female travelers” or “aren’t you afraid of being kidnaped?” The idea that any woman traveling alone in the world is going to be sold, kidnapped or hurt is quite honestly ridiculous. Yes, real danger exists in the world especially for women. Yes the world can feel like a dangerous place, especially if you are always listening to the news. Yes when we travel alone as women we are susceptible to increased risk factors. These are all true statements, but what we do with that information is what is important. First off, there is a difference between perceived danger and actual danger. I think most people’s level of the perceived danger in the world is wildly disproportionate to what is actually going on. This of course depends on location, time, and other factors. But on the whole the world is quite safe. The most important things is to stay up to date on current events on where your traveling, be aware of the risks, and practice the same common sense you would at home. It is important to be specific with our understanding and our discussion. Let’s as women encourage and inform rather than frighten. Simple things like asking locals if there are certain areas to avoid, times of day or night to be indoors, or how to use public transit can equip us with powerful tools. This is practical and useful information, not sensationalized irrationalities that help no one.
You Will Be Lonely
There is this idea that traveling solo means traveling alone or that you will be alone, that solo female travelers will be lonely and it is harder for them to make friends. This is far from the truth. I have found traveling alone it is easier to make friends and meet people to spend time with. People are more inviting and interested in what you are doing and willing to offer help to make sure you are well taken care of. If you are worried about being lonely when traveling there is always ways to meet other travelers wherever you are. Check in at a local hostel to see what types of event are happening. Choose to stay in a homestay and meet some of the locals. Strike up conversation with people at restaurants or cafes. Almost all the time people are excited to connect and show you their home town. Being solo gives you the freedom to let the experience take you and guide your adventure leaving you with a unique experience you can only get traveling solo.
We went all women not to feel dissuaded to go out and travel, especially solo. More importantly we as women travelers play a vital role in shifting the narrative about women’s rights to a safe world and the empowering of women regardless of their ethnic background, socioeconomic status, religion, or sexual orientation. Fighting for a more just, safe, and connected world for all women is huge part of choosing the Travel Life. We can participate in that fight simply by going out into the world, speaking up, and connecting with each other. Thanks for reading!