Yes, I Am A Woman Who Travels Alone
By Leslie Dawe
Traveling. Bliss. Where I am happiest. Although it is harder to be a traveler as a woman than it should be, it was not all that long ago I had been flying to Ottawa, Ontario. I packed my things and got ready to fly, not too difficult. I grabbed my boarding passes after checking in and went to security with my carry-ons. Not bad. But then it was time to go through security. I had to have a pat down. It never bothered me to get one done, it was simply just another procedure. But this time I was alone and I felt vulnerable.
As a young woman, you are seen and assumed to be more vulnerable which can lead to dangerous situations. Normally the lonely woman is always the most helpless. Often times people take advantage of this reality and try to rip you off, while others may scare you with ideas that may never actually come true in order to sell you safety.
There will always be the fear, and possibility, of sexual harassment or rape while traveling alone. One day you may be in the wrong place at the wrong time and things may get out of control. Sexual harassment and rape may happen and has happened to female travelers, for example, according to the Washington Post, “Sarah Brady spent seven weeks studying Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in 2011. Then 29, the student walked to class every day, a 20-minute route that involved a long, uphill climb, intense heat and a barrage of harassment from men. Male pedestrians would shout lewd comments, and drivers would honk their horns or slowly roll alongside her. One man pretended to stumble and fall on her…”. While certain countries with megacities such as Delhi are getting bad press because of this. As shared by a study by the Reuters Foundation, they ranked Delhi the most dangerous to women of the world’s 19 largest megacities. Living in fear is never the way to go, it is harder to be happy if you never get out of your bubble and learn.
When you travel alone, people assume you are a lonely woman or the type that is not good enough to marry, and even pity you, especially if you are a young woman. It’s common to meet other solo female travelers. In many places around the world we are a rare sight for the local people. In some cultures where you can travel to, you are easily labeled as too young to be traveling alone and too old to be unmarried. It is not uncommon for people to tell you how you are brave, but will then feel pity on you for choosing to travel over having a family.
Often times, you can not do everything that you want to do because of the fear that comes from the dangers of traveling. Everyone always dares to do more when they are with other people, it doesn’t have to be men, it could be anyone. Also, in some cultures, being a woman means you have to follow certain rules, which means it is a good idea to know about the culture you’re visiting in order to avoid problems or misunderstandings with the locals. For example, you can’t go inside a temple when you are on your period in Bali, or in Buddhist countries such as Thailand, you cannot touch or sit beside the monks. You get a lot of unwanted attention and this means sometimes you can’t just relax. If you are a woman traveling alone you stick out in the crowd, especially in countries where your physical appearance is different. Almost every time a woman sits alone somewhere they are approached by men wanting to make conversation, more often than if they had a traveling partner.
All this said, every woman has a different comfort zone, experiences, knowledge and ability to handle themselves well and it will vary from woman to woman. This should stop any girl from traveling. As a travelling lover, believing that the world is a safe place is how I feel at peace while on my journeys. As women, we must watch out for different things, but the rewards of being a solo female traveler outweigh all these truths.
Travel on your journeys with the courage of learning something new, that is the fun part. Make memories, take pictures and live.