There has been a mountain of posts written about solo female travel of late.
Following on the heels of the horrible murder of Sarai Sierra there has been an outcry against women traveling solo. I've read posts that have been full of paranoia. I've read articles reporting on the situation with comments from readers that not only suggest that solo travel is dangerous but also propose that women should not travel alone – ever.
There have also been articles like the one by Laura Bly, travel writer for USA Today, that are more balanced. And there was a discussion on the Solo Travel Society on Facebook that really had solo travel in perspective.
Travel bloggers, in general, tend to fall into this “more balanced” category.
Follow the #WeGoSolo hashtag on Twitter and you'll see an online version of “Take Back the Night”, a movement that started in the 70's. Travel bloggers, women and some men who travel solo, are writing to defend their right to do so. They are writing against those in society who would challenge that right or seek to intimidate them. And they are writing with advice on how to travel solo safely. Other travelers are chiming in with enthusiasm for the movement.
Let's not blame the victim
Like many of the bloggers who have written about this topic, I see solo travel as safe. There are certainly dangers but, as Jodi Ettenberg points out:
US citizens die at home and, less frequently, they die in foreign countries. Stating that Sarai was murdered because she was abroad, as many comments have done, detracts from the real concern: that of violence against women worldwide.
Yes, traveling, whether with others or alone (for many acts of violence against tourists happen to more than one person at a time) is not the problem. The problem is a society – not Turkish society or American or French… – but almost all societies that seem to make such violence possible.
So let's not blame the victim. Let's not blame travel or even solo travel. Let's be smart and take responsibility for the changes that are needed.
Let's take responsibility
Let's take responsibility for ourselves and for each other – for our sisters, brothers, children, parents and friends. Maybe it's a Polyanna view of the world but I believe that if we work towards a better world, we'll get there.
This can happen in small acts.
In the 1980's I was walking along a Vancouver street alone at night. There was a man following me. Not following me but just following me – he was behind me by chance. He spoke up and said “I'm going to pass you so that you can feel more comfortable”. I really appreciated this small courtesy. It may be sad that it was needed but his small act made me feel safe. I taught my sons to do the same.
Many small acts add up to change. So let's incorporate them into our lives.
Taking responsibility as a daily practice:
- Care and support those around you.
- Model an inclusive approach to the world in your actions.
- Choose language that is respectful to all.
- Speak up against misogynous and xenophobic comments and behavior.
- Participate in programs that take a peaceful approach to improving our communities.
Taking responsibility as a way of travel.
- Travel with an awareness of safety. If you need advice, here's a link to 30 articles on solo travel safety.
- Travel to places within your experience and comfort zone. Here's an article on how to choose the solo travel destination that's right for you.
- Be proactive with the good that is in the world. Look for it and use it.
Clearly, I believe that traveling solo is safe. I wouldn't be doing so otherwise. My sons have already lost their father prematurely. My number one rule is that I will, in no way, take risks that could cause them to lose their mother.