Jessie Lim reckons that travelling alone as a woman is really no big deal
You know how finding the right person to travel with can be such a pain? There’s always a range of factors to consider and questions to answer before you even decide who to go with. What if you both have very different budgets in mind? Or if they plan to spend their time shopping when you’d rather be hiking across the coast? What if they insist on staying in fancy hotels but you’re perfectly comfortable with backpacker hostels? Sometimes it really is easier to just make your own plans, pack your bags and go alone. After all, time is precious and it’s pointless to wait for things and people that might never come.
Even so, I must admit that I still find the prospect of travelling alone as a woman rather difficult. To be clear, I am neither afraid of travelling alone nor am I unable to look after myself. The reactions I get when I tell people I want to travel alone can be overwhelming, and often discourage me from actually going. I tend to worry a lot more about asking my parents about a solo getaway than about the actual trip itself. Even with friends, the same reasons as to why females should never travel alone come up time and time again (and a quick check with my fellow female travellers yields similar responses):
1: You will be raped.
2: You will be killed.
3: You are a girl.
Fortunately, not everyone is so negative: there are positive reactions, ranging from curiosity about my plans to admiration of my independence. However, the general reaction is usually shock that I, a young female student, will be going by myself.
Truth be told, I don’t think that travelling alone as a woman is worthy of the attention it receives. Women are increasingly travelling on their own nowadays, some of them even backpacking around numerous cities alone for several weeks or even months. There is nothing particularly brave or outstanding about the pursuit in itself, even if their experiences can be pretty impressive.
Of course, it’s understandable that friends and relatives (parents especially) will worry more when women travel alone. After all, females are still perceived to be more vulnerable and less able to defend themselves when alone. However, is it really necessary to discourage their adventures in an attempt to protect them?
In reality, the probability of getting pickpocketed, robbed, raped or killed while living in London for three years is still likely to be higher than by taking a week-long trip to Copenhagen. People need to accept that everyone is susceptible to these risks, no matter where they are, and often regardless of gender.
Nonetheless, all solo travellers, whether male or female, still need to be aware of the dangers of travelling alone. It would thoughtless to head out on a solo adventure without a clear plan or making necessary preparations (though some seasoned travellers may suggest that it’s often the best shortcut to “finding oneself”). While it shouldn’t be difficult or frightening to travel alone, even as a woman, it’s important to follow some obvious but crucial pieces of advice:
- Be smart on the road and trust your instincts. Consider taking up self-defense classes!
- Take care of your belongings, and always have some sort of backup (especially money).
- Make a list of phone numbers for emergency contacts (police, embassies etc.), so you know who to look to for help should you need it.
Language barriers are less of a problem with the rise of travel and language apps, and hopping on a plane back to relative safety has never been easier. Apart from your travelling necessities, all you really need is a little bit of courage, your wits about you, and an open mind. In the words of Chloé Sanguinetti from Voyages Solidaires: “Do not be scared; and even if you are, do not show it. Always look like you know where you are going and that you are in control of the situation. Be confident. And practice your death stare.”
With nothing and no one impeding you from indulging in your whims and fancies, girls, what more are you waiting for?
Featured image credit: Jessie Lim