I’ve touched on this subject before, but I feel compelled to write about it again, because it drives me INSANE the way “women” travelers (always “women” travelers, never just travelers) are discussed in the American media, even by reputable sources that I like.
Context: I’m a subscriber to National Geographic and therefore get eleventy-billion emails from them. Recently I got an email about their Intelligent Travel blog, which I have read a lot and generally like, but one of the headlines highlighted in the email was “For Women who (want to) Travel Alone,” an article from 2013 (I’m not going to link to it because I think it’s terrible and don’t want more people to read it). Written by a veteran traveller, it begins with the story of her being robbed and includes mention of how “we’ve all heard” about women being abducted, raped, and murdered while traveling alone. While it provides straightforward suggestions on how to start traveling by yourself–that would apply to men as well as women–by beginning with a tale of having her possessions stolen and including those oft-cited but never specified tales of abduction, rape, and murder the article perpetuates the fear-mongering that characterizes nearly all articles of this type. They tell women: go travel, but be wary! Remember that some women, somewhere have had bad things happen to them! Keep safety the number one priority! When, oh WHEN I ask you was a man counseled to keep safety the number one priority in a travel article?
Just once I would like to read an article about women traveling alone that doesn’t allude to dangers or the rare (extremely rare) instances where terrible things have happened. Because, let’s face it, terrible things can happen when traveling alone, or they can happen in your own home, on your college campus, in your neighborhood, or at work. They can and do happen anywhere, but there aren’t articles about how women shouldn’t go to college by themselves, or shouldn’t go to work by themselves. But over and over articles about women traveling alone are couched in terms of how dangerous it can be. Let’s all decide this is bullshit and knock it off. Let’s celebrate the wonderfulness of solo travel for individuals of any gender or sex. Let’s stop thinking about how women traveling alone are “women” travelers and thus have special womanly needs and instead start thinking of them as simply travelers without any modifiers related to their biology. Let’s stop the fear and the fear-mongering. Because honestly the same travel advice applies to everyone regardless of their genitalia: Be smart about your person and possessions, make decisions you’re comfortable with, and make sure you have photocopies of your passport and financial info stowed in multiple bags so if you lose one or it’s stolen you still have that info somewhere. Basta, enough. That’s all the advice you need to travel alone.
* And just for reference: I have traveled alone to multiple countries. I will travel alone in the future (including in about a month when I start another Italy trip by myself). I have experienced moments of uncomfortableness in a few places, but I have experienced the same uncomfortableness walking around in cities in the US, in my small Kansas hometown, and while in school. True facts: bad shit can happen anywhere, so the options are: never go anywhere (boooo) or go anyway. I vote for go anyway every. single. time.