You can’t contain your excitement! You just booked your first solo trip and can’t wait to embark on the adventure ahead of you! You tell your friends and family and at every turn, you are met with exhausted questions and statements, “Isn’t that dangerous?” “Are you meeting someone there?” “Women can’t travel alone.” And my personal favorite, “Oh, I could never do that!” When I first jumped into the world of solo travel, I got these lines hurled my way and many more. While they can be perfectly normal concerns, it gets old once you have heard them a million times. We live in a society that thinks a woman should not venture outside the lines that were drawn for her hundreds of years ago. If we choose to question this barrier, we are often brushed aside. The world is changing slowly, which means more women are going off exploring on their own. I’m going to lay out the concerns that everyone and their mom seems to have about women traveling solo and then why shaming a woman for traveling alone is outdated.
One of the biggest concerns I get from anyone I tell I am traveling alone is for my safety. And while by itself seems harmless, let’s look at the bigger picture. For example, I live in a much bigger city now than where I grew up. My parents worry about me even living here, so you can imagine them when I travel solo. They tell me there are crazy people out there, which I don’t disagree with, however, there are also crazy people where I grew up. What’s the difference between me being in Clay City, IL than Minneapolis, MN, or even London, UK? The obvious answer is population, but I’m not going to stay in a little part of the world because I am scared something may or may not happen to me when I know it could happen to me there just the same. There are definitely precautions I take when traveling by myself, such as watching self-defense videos and learning the moves. I carry a self-defense tool. I always try to look like I know what I am doing when I am lost somewhere and try not to use my phone too much when getting from point A to point B. This is a scary aspect of traveling solo as a woman, but I hope I could ease your mind and give you some information to consider.
When I was returning from my first solo international trip, I couldn’t get over that I had spent 10 days, in a foreign place, by myself. Sure, I talked and made friends with people, but I went into it completely alone. It makes you realize just how capable you can be when you have to be. When I told the tales of my travels back home, I would be grinning from ear to ear, vividly explaining The Giant’s Causeway or struggling to rehash without laughing about the toddler I saw peeing in the streets of Glasgow. The response I would get back would be disheartening, to say the least. Being independent isn’t for the faint of heart. Trust me when I say I have felt every type of emotion during my travels: happy, sad, angry, and fear. But in feeling all of these, I grew as a person and as a traveler. I don’t think people have quite warmed up to the idea of a woman being an independent person. We are seen as the property of a man that is supposed to cook, clean, and care for the children and not question any of it. It does seem a little too 1950s for my liking, but this type of “life” is still out there. Women who have a mind of their own and travel outside the boundaries are considered modern-day spinsters. Let me tell you now if you are one of those women who are realizing her worth and are tip-toeing the line: keep going.
Now, you might think that once you are finally doing the damn thing; you are by yourself, traveling the world, that you would be in the clear, that all that negatively couldn’t possibly reach you: think again. Even while traveling alone as a woman, you have to deal with some unpleasant situations. Picture it: Belfast 2018. I was starting my day by climbing aboard a bus for a Game of Thrones day tour. I had just picked out the perfect seat: a window seat (of course!) near the back of the bus. I was excited and couldn’t wait to hit the open road. Out of the corner of my eye, I see it and then hear an “excuse me?”. Honestly, I was not expecting what I heard next out of this woman’s mouth, “We were wondering if my boyfriend and I might sit here? There is an open seat up near the front of the bus for you.”… I was too shocked to speak, so my autopilot kicked in, I got up, and moved seats. It really did work out for the best because I sat next to another solo female traveler and met two other women and we had the best day! But it still struck me as brazen of them. I do get it from their perspective. They saw an opportunity, and they took it. Switch over to the solo traveler side, and it paints a different picture. I was asked to move because I was a solo traveler. If there was someone next to me, this conversion never would have happened. Logically, I can look back and let bygones be bygones, however, the strong, independent, feminism in me turns into a mad woman. I wish I could say this is the only instance, but it can happen anywhere, anytime. I know I get single-shunned when I go out to eat. The host looks at me to answer their non-verbal question. In return, I get a puzzled look at my answer of one. You get side-eye glances from the other patrons while you are too busy drinking your glass of wine and eating the most delicious pizza. Eating by myself has turned into one of my guilty pleasures. I’m sure there are a million other stories of solo travelers being shamed for traveling alone, but it makes the lesson of this piece that much more important.
We, as humans, need to try to understand one another better. Be kind and show empathy. I, as a woman, want to be treated equally and not have to feel guilty about living my life the way a man would be given praise for. When I tell people of my travels, I want them to be just as excited for me as they are for the women getting married or having a baby. It’s 2022. Things are changing. Traveling alone as a woman should not be this unfathomable idea. I hope in the near future that more and more female travelers take that leap and leave their comfort zone to explore themselves and the world. Come on in, the water’s fine.
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