“Aren’t you afraid?” If you have ever mentioned solo travelling to your friends and family, then, chances are that you have already heard this sentence! And maybe it got you worried. “Should I go on my own?”. Yes, solo travelling as a woman still seems like an act of bravery, and even sometimes transgression. However, nowadays, women are travelling solo more than men. According to a study made by Booking.com, 72 % of American women have already travelled without a partner.
So, why does the idea of a woman travelling alone still raises eyebrows? Why do we still question the ability of women to travel on their own?
The main reason why women might hesitate to travel alone, is the question of safety. This constant reminder that women won’t be safe when travelling on their own can be very intimidating. Women have been taught since childhood that the world is unsafe for them. But this isn’t news to any woman who has ever had to walk home alone at night. Of course, it also applies to traveling. This idea of constant danger has forced most women to think about this issue a lot. But the danger is not always where we think it is.
Indeed, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, sexual assault is a lot more often perpetrated by someone the victim already knows. When we look at rape, the fact is that 51,1% of the victims report being attacked by an intimate partner, and 40,8 % by an acquaintance.
This doesn’t mean that you are perfectly safe in the streets. But this idea that women are more likely to be victimized when they leave the house is not an accurate representation of the situation regarding Gender Based Violence.
However, we are taught to fear the outside. The responsibility of our safety falls on us as women, as if we were putting ourselves in danger by simply leaving the house unaccompanied. And fear makes it hard to break free from this injunction to stay put.
Saying that there is no danger out there for women would be totally untrue.
According to a NY Times article, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN-Women says, “We have evidence that shows that women face risks that men don’t face in public spaces, at home, wherever they may be.” And the important thing here is: “wherever they may be”. That is the point, wherever you are you will have to face risks that men simply don’t have to bother thinking about.
The fact that you have been careful about your safety for your whole life actually gives you an advantage when it comes to traveling. Because you have been taught to be “careful” whenever you are outside, you most certainly have developed a sort of sixth sense, an internal alarm that will warn you whenever you start to feel unsafe.
So, always listen to your instinct, it’s the best way to stay safe during your trip. According to Kristin Addis, solo female travel expert, “Staying safe on the road is all about trusting your intuition, behaving abroad like you would at home”. You already have the tools you need to stay safe! Indeed, according to Janice Holly Booth, author of: Only Pack what you can carry, “travelling solo calls for the same daily safety considerations you employ now”.
The idea that women are unsafe everywhere can deter women from embarking on a solo adventure. But, don’t let anyone tell you that travelling alone is reckless! Just because you are a woman does not mean that you should stay home!
The question of safety is not the only thing that can deter women from taking the leap. When compared to men, women have a tendency to lack confidence. And this is no coincidence. Since childhood, boys are more encouraged to be brave and girls to be obedient. And this difference in our education can have consequences all throughout our adult lives.
According to a study by Ypulse, the level of confidence in girls drops by 30% between the age of 8 to 14. Another troubling data this study shows is that boys aged 8 to 14 are far more likely than girls to describe themselves as confident, strong, adventurous and fearless.
The problem is, this lack of confidence often persists through adulthood. And when you don’t have enough confidence, it can be hard to take risks, to dare to do the things you really want to do.
But here is the thing: travelling on your own is exactly what you need to do in order to gain confidence. According to Addis: “The freedom it afforded me, the way it grew my confidence, and all of the new friends I made were huge benefits that wouldn’t have happened if I went with a group of friends.”
Traveling on your own can be very intimidating. And people around you will always remind you that the world is unsafe, and maybe you will think that you are not up to the task. Instead of limiting yourself because of your gender, use the experience you already have of an unsafe world to keep you from danger wherever you may be. Because in reality, this kind of statement discourages you from breaking free of gender norms.
And if you need a few extra tips to put your mind at ease, you can always follow the recommendations of the State Department on solo travel for women.
And if you are too scared to go, just remember that all solo travelers are scared. The confidence comes from solo travelling, it is not a prerequisite! Which is why very often, the hardest part is to actually book your ticket! You will soon realize that this adventure is not out of reach for you, and it will empower you and give you the confidence you need, on and off the road.
So, instead of waiting for that someone to embark on this journey with you, take the leap and book your ticket!
And if you still have doubts, think about what Koty Neelis, writer and advocate for female solo travelers says in a Thought Catalog article : “You should never let other people’s opinions over gender roles dictate what you do in life or where you should go. If you’re afraid of traveling alone or afraid of travel in general that’s one thing, but don’t be afraid to travel alone simply because of your gender.”