"She was free in her wildness. She was a wanderess, a drop of free water. She belonged to no man and no city."
It's 2015. Women have made strides in so many areas of the workforce: tech, politics, pop culture, business etc. And the way that the world views women is changing. But why is it that people always advise against women traveling on their own? Still some of my friends and family are baffled at my choices, even in a year and age where we've come so far. When I make travel decisions, I make them on my own and for myself. I ask permission of no one. I consult no one. I just do it. The fact is that, in 2015, women are still having to ask for permission. We need to stop telling women that they shouldn't travel alone because women (and men) should not have to ask permission or anyone's opinions before traveling alone. If I'm putting my life in supposed jeopardy, at least I've done it on my own terms and not the terms of anybody else. Don't let someone else's opinion dilute your experience.
I haven't always been a champion of independence. In fact, I probably had one of the worst cases of FOMO that anyone has ever had. I used to surround myself with others, constantly feeding off how many friends I had at any given time. I wouldn't go anywhere without them, terrified of what others would think.
In general, I think women are afraid of looking like a loser. It's the eating dinner alone complex - how people are terrified of looking as if they have no one. But I've never felt less alone than when I travel on my own. Because I'm not alone. I have so many people that love and adore me. I travel alone because I don't have to answer to anyone. I don't have to make decisions based on what other people want. I can stuff my face with pierogis, or sleep in, or go clubbing, or do whatever I want to without having to ask other permission. Maybe that's slightly self indulgent, because it's not that I don't have friends or anyone to join me, it's that I just don't care. Sure, company is nice, but if I'm by myself, I can do whatever I want to on my own terms and that's the way I'm going to live my life (for now). But how horrifying of a woman to make her own way!!
Another reason that we need to stop telling women that they shouldn't travel alone is because traveling alone is not very dangerous. This is a blatant myth that must stop. It's not very dangerous especially when we compare it to other things.
Here are a list of things that some of us do that are more dangerous than traveling alone (not statistically accurate):
- Driving in a car.
- Voting for Donald Trump.
- Eating a hot dog with bacon on it.
- Tree climbing.
- Eating undercooked meat.
- Being in a relationship.
The fact is that women and men have the exact same mental capacity, relatively speaking. If you have your wits about you, pay attention to your intuition, and trust yourself and instincts, traveling alone is safe. So there is no reason to tell a woman that she shouldn't travel alone if a man can do it.
Also, telling women that they shouldn't travel alone completely ignores the root of the issue. If we transfer over the same logic about women traveling alone to other things, let's see how that turns out.
If, hypothetically, there is a large increase of domestic violence cases, and men are constantly abusing women, should we tell a woman that they should "stop being annoying" to solve the problem?
No. Obviously that is ridiculous.
But it's a similar situation. Telling women that they shouldn't travel alone is straight up, without a doubt, victim blaming. (I don't like that term in this situation, as it implies that all women are victims, but in a way, it is a form of victim blaming.) It ignores the root of the problem, which is men (and other women) committing forms of violence on other women. We wouldn't tell a woman to "stop being annoying" to prevent domestic violence, just as we wouldn't tell a woman to "stop traveling alone" in order to prevent violence against women while traveling. It's just blatantly illogical.
Now in order to prevent that violence from occurring, we have a long way to go. But what we can do is be well aware of our surroundings. The world is just that - the world. It's made up of many countries (197, to be exact), each of which are extremely different. Each country has its own culture, ideals, religion, and standards of treating women. We have to be well aware of the differences, and be realistic with ourselves. There are places that I just simply would not go alone, because they are unsafe for women. Period. Full stop.
For example, Morocco and Haiti are two places that I've been in which I was extremely thankful that I traveled with a group. In Morocco in particular, the catcalling, names, and general vibe towards women was negative. I was in a group, so I felt safe and comfortable, but had I been traveling alone, it would have been a different situation.
But that's why, instead of making sweeping generalizations, we must be aware. To tell someone that women should not travel alone, the end, is making an assumption that all 197 countries in this world are dangerous, and we know that isn't true.
Instead of setting women back even further, be encouraging of the women in your life to travel alone. Have faith that the world is a good place, because in general, it is. Be supportive, encourage research, be kind, be understanding, and be a champion for their success.
If you're a woman wanting to travel alone, don't be afraid. You don't need to ask for anyone's permission, and if solo travel is something you want to explore, there is a whole community of women travelers out there who are excited for you and support you. Do your diva thang and get traveling.