I am not going to unconditionally tout the upsides of solo travel. Because, frankly, I am quite tired with doing it myself. But I have done it a HELL of a lot more than most people I know, and if I hadn’t… well, here’s the list of places I wouldn’t have seen if I had let the lack of traveling companion get in my way:
A lot of people are concerned about safety — particularly as a woman, and, in my case, a young woman. Sure. This makes sense. But I have to say, given the sad state of the world at times, unfortunately no woman is apparently safe, even in her hometown — hell, even in her home. Morbid and scary? Yes. A reason to hunker down and never breathe the air?
Be smart — book a hotel/hostel in a good neighborhood (confession: I have definitely not always done this), dress and behave as much like the locals as possible (confession: I am a white girl and for the life of me can’t blend in in Tanzania. But I can dress respectfully, learn some of the language, and not flaunt money or skin), and never drink or otherwise party too much in the company of total strangers (the same rule I use at home… always be able to get yourself home. Have a map, money, and a phone).
However, here I have to sigh and be little bit angry at myself.
It just isn’t fair that women unfairly bear the burden of behaving well in foreign countries. How often does anyone advise men to cover up, speak softly, and be careful in bars — in the US or abroad? I am a radical feminist, don’t misunderstand, and I want to be able to tell the women of the world to “take back the night,” and all of that. And in a cultural context where I understand the implications of my actions, I do generally feel free to say, wear, and do whatever I damn well please.
But let’s get real — apparently, the world isn’t evolved quite enough to catch up to the strong-minded women that decide they are going to travel the world solo. And so, even as I carry my cell phone in my hand walking around at night in Boston, I’ll do the same anywhere else. Because there’s just no reason to expose yourself to unnecessary risk.
That said (and in the wake of Lara Logan and her shameful attack in Cairo), here’s a message to all the abusers in the world: STOP IT. Just stop. Let us walk freely in our own hometowns, and in the places we evidently care about and respect enough to visit. We, the solo female travelers of the world, promise to leave you alone in exchange.