“The woman who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The woman who walks alone is likely to find herself in places no one has ever been before.” – Albert Einstein
Unfortunately, when a girl or woman states that she is going to travel alone, it is nearly always still met with an abundance of criticism and concern from both parents and peers. But does this stem from the media demonizing people from other countries, or is it a relevant worry?
When something bad happens to a woman, it’s often blamed on her. A woman gets raped; it’s her fault for her demeanor. A woman gets abused; it’s her fault for being weak. A woman travels alone; it’s her fault for getting murdered.
With recent stories, such as Hannah Gavios, a 23-year-old woman who was molested after breaking her back jumping off a cliff to escape the attacker and 21-year-old Mia Ayliffe-Chung (one close to home, as a Derbyshire girl myself), stabbed to death in a hostel by an Islamic extremist, fear is painfully eminent among female travellers.
Sometimes awful things happen, it’s true. But is it not a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not that of being a solo female traveller? The same fate could have just as easily befallen these two young ladies at home, but instead they are criticized for their decision to travel solo.
There is clear victim blaming with the headlines covering these stories, such as:
- ‘Female backpacker, 23, breaks her back’ – The Mirror. No mention of the sexual attacker, or how her tour guide molested her after helplessly injured.
- ‘Hero Brit who died after trying to save backpacker Mia Ayliffe-Chung’ – The Mirror, again… Of course, Tom Jackson’s life is just as important, but yet again the woman is depicted as the helpless victim.
I have been made to fear travelling alone because of the portrayal of solo travelling in the media and my family’s persistent lessons in safety. Previously, my mothers concerns and intimidating news stories used to frighten me, I was afraid of the world. But now, they frustrate me. The world can be dark, yes, but it also beautiful. And if women cannot experience that because it’s deemed ‘appropriate’ for a women to travel solo, then that is a shameful situation in society. Unfortunately, anxiety does still take over me when I am walking at night, or going through an isolated part of town. But that fear is prevalent in any country.
I have been lucky enough to find an online community ‘Girls LOVE travel’, where females support one another in their solo pursuits and share their epic adventures, without fear of men or their families criticising them. These women are not reckless, and are aware relevant dangers, but they do not let this hinder them on their journeys.
Rather than wishing women to ‘stay safe’ and ‘take care’, the world should be teaching it’s men to take responsibility for their actions. However, this sadly is not something that is going to happen over night. In the meantime, women need to tell their stories, share their advice and look out for each other both at home and abroad, as no country has yet found a remedy to this inequality.
All travelers should take precautions, but everyone should be aware of the dangers in their own home countries too, as well as around the world.