Why female solo travel should be encouraged, not feared
PUBLISHED: 07:10 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:51 15 March 2019
The world isn't always safe, especially not for women, but that doesn't mean we should fear exploring it, says Emily Cotton - plus the 11 destinations voted best for female solo travel
When I first said I was going abroad alone at the age of 21, a good proportion of my family and friends were a little shocked. Some asked ‘won’t you be lonely?’, while others questioned me on if I was scared. I even remember being told I was brave. Why is it though, that when a woman travels alone it’s perceived to be “brave”, whereas if it was a man, the act would be almost unremarkable?
Woman who choose to travel alone, even if only for a long weekend exploring the wonders of Paris or Rome, are seen to courageous, simply (and sadly) because of how dangerous the world and a small number of people in it are perceived to be.
And while there are likely hundreds of thousands of women of all ages safely exploring new countries and continents right now, these stories go unheard in favour of the ones that don’t end so well. The stories of 23-year-old Brit Catherine Shaw who went missing and was then found dead in Guatemala earlier this month, and 21-year-old Grace Millane, who was murdered in west Auckland in New Zealand last December, for example.
When incidents happen to young women abroad, the instinct is almost always to highlight how they should have avoided danger – the main comment being maybe they shouldn’t have been alone in the first place. But, like each and every other individual, females have the right to be able to move through the world unharmed. Were women to avoid travelling to every country in which they could be put at risk of danger or violence, we’d struggle to find anywhere in the world we could visit.
These stories paint travelling as a scary act, but the joys of travel are truly manifold. It allows you discover new landscapes, indulge in new cultures and experience everything the world has to offer firsthand – and to do it all alone, relying entirely on yourself, brings no greater sense of achievement.
While it could be described as selfish, for me solo travel is hedonistic. Being alone means there are no compromises with companions or obligations to others, and every day becomes your own itinerary. When solo you’ll never have to weigh up the sightseeing options and if you want to change your plans, you can easily do so without the worry of disappointing anyone else.
Women have to take more measures when travelling alone, yes (you always need to understand what the perception of women is in the culture you’re in), but that’s common sense. And, in reality, if us females want to travel but we don’t have a partner, a friend or a family member willing to accompany us, what’s our alternative to going it alone? Stay at home and never see the world? I think not.
Every incident that has happened to a woman when travelling – whether an accident or an attack – is a terrible tragedy and it saddens me to think that, as a result, there may be many women who now feel deterred from the taking the opportunities they have to travel. Of course, we cannot be blind to the world we live in; there is danger wherever you go and risks whichever country you head to and yes, often these are higher for women. But unfortunately these horrible things can happen on our very own doorsteps too. We are not meant to live our lives in fear, shackled by the fear of “what might happen”. Lots of things can happen when we travel, and the majority of them are incredible.
The best places to visit as a female solo traveller
A survey conducted by Culture Trip found that of the 10,500 respondents, one in three women (34%) said they were interested in taking a solo trip in the near future. If you’re interested in seeing a little more of the world by yourself, these 11 places have been voted as some of the best for solo female travel.
How many are on your bucket list?