“That’s so brave of you to travel by yourself! It’s so dangerous for a girl!”
I’ve heard many iterations of this exclamation from people I’ve met on the road. I almost expect people to be amazed or worried when I tell them I’m traveling on my own. But I also wonder how those same people would react if I were a guy. Would they be just as worried, just as shocked?
My guess is no, because truthfully, it is more dangerous for women to travel by themselves in many parts of the world. But not prohibitively so. I have travelled to many countries and continents and though I have been in unsafe situations, I’ve always escaped them with my mental and physical health intact.
The scariest situation I’ve ever been in occurred when I was living in Boston. A few blocks away from the finish line when the bomb went off on April 15, 2013, I will never forget feeling utterly helpless as hordes of people started running towards me and my friends.
Horrible things can happen in your hometown, but I refuse to live in fear of life. Even locking your doors and staying inside 24/7 won’t keep you safe in the long run. So why not go outside, far outside, to a different culture, eat unfathomable foods, and meet people who challenge your worldview? The world is unsafe for everyone at times; I think traveling can improve it.
To those who are still shocked by and doubtful of my decision to travel alone as a woman, I have one thing to say: So what?
So there’s a war in Ukraine. I don’t plan on going anywhere near the fighting. So Russians don’t like Americans, especially right now. I don’t plan on wearing an American flag bikini in the Red Square. So I have a vagina. So what?
I can carry my backpack for hours without a break, though I do get disgustingly sweaty. I can speak a couple languages, including English, which is a huge advantage when traveling. I can read situations (and a map!), and I trust my instincts. If I feel unsafe, I try to find a safe place, or seek help from other women.
There are thousands of women throughout history, and right now, who have traveled and do travel solo. They are safe, savvy, women, and have written so much about how to be safe as a female traveler (Try Adventurous Kate for inspiring stories of solo female travel and It’s One World…Travel for helpful information about birth control, peeing standing up, and more). I merely add my voice to theirs.
It always seems appropriate to end in song, so to everyone who doesn’t think women can travel solo safely:
Anywhere you can go, I can go, men folk.
I can go anywhere you can go too.