Women Can't Travel Alone
To say my six months of travel in the US had a little effect on me would be a wide understatement. I've never felt such a strong level of wanderlust, the travel bug begging to be satiated with plans for my next trip or through boring my friends with tales of the great country of America. I've written blogs about my favourite places, thrown back to good memories on Instagram and listened to roadtrip or nostalgic playlists on repeat. I read Jack Kerouac's Dharma Buns from the shores of Santa Monica to the poolside back home. I finally finished watching Into the Wild and reblogged my fair share of screencaps and quotes on Tumblr. I've researched every text available mimicking that sense of destinationless adventure and nomadic life that I so crave - and have felt so empowered and inspired to achieve. But there is virtually no text that have offered that for women.
I know, there's been Wild and the film adaptation too that gained quite a lot of traction. And though I haven't read or seen it, I get the impression its much more about her midlife crisis than anything. Other than that, every other great adventure hero has always been male.
And that in itself isn't the patriarchy, its the fact that women are in fact less likely to travel alone. So by numbers, the representation is fine. But the reason that this is an accepted fact is where the inequity exists - that we are taught to fear travelling alone.
we are taught to fear travelling alone.
It surprised me that I would take on this recklessness. Yes, I'm an avid feminist and determined to strive for the things that seem only reserved for men. I resent the fact that we're taught to be timid and apologetic and always looking over our shoulders for the next rapist or purse snatcher that may come along. We're taught not to trust, and time and time again are shown examples of the very men - both in the news and at the end of catcalls - we are meant to fear.
Yet, I've been blinded by a sense of female empowerment and go-gettingness that I could break down the glass ceilings at the airport and embark on crazy adventures by myself. It's never far from my mind that, though I've made some incredible and lifelong friends from my travel that I still see on a regular basis back home as well, I virtually did the whole exchange trip by myself - and survived.
Over the past few weeks I've been writing for Pink Pangea - a community of fellow female travellers who have similarly taken on the bravery and bravado of venturing into the world alone as a woman which has only fuelled my recklessness. I forget that I felt safe overseas because of the people and situations and the fact that Madison was such a small, college town that I knew everyone I'd see still out at 2am.
It wasn't until I read this article however that I was reminded about why everyone gets taken aback when I say I'm going to travel by myself, when I told them I was studying abroad. I've been lucky to surround myself with people with similar ambitions or experiences like mine - lucky that we've never fell victim to the many dangers we've been warned about.
But the reality is that those dangers exist, because men like that still exist. When can we stop looking over our shoulders? When can we trust that kindhearted people may take in a nomad?
When would a traveller be seen as a mere traveller and not as prey because she's female?
This is not to diminish the dangers that face men too. They're real and poignant too. But I can't help but remember when people thought it'd be weird for me to walk the one block back to the hostel by myself; or remember that the freeing, adventure I took in Death Valley would have never been possible or wise if it weren't for the two male companions with me.
I resent the fact that I'm not safe, even when I feel the most free.
There are no texts for female travellers, because the fearless female traveller cannot exist in this world.