There’s been headlines in the news about women encountering danger abroad. Last December, a nation was awakened when a local physiognamy intern in Delhi, accidentally boarded a private bus with a friend and was raped by six men. Then, the body of 33-year old Sarai Sierra was found in Turkey after she had gone missing for two weeks.
It’s made the public and media becry – Is it safe for women to travel alone?
Obviously, a large part of me got heated by this.
Firstly, when women are treated abusively or violently, it infuriates me. But I’ve traveled in India twice now and love it and despite this news, will be returning solo in the future.
Table of Contents: Is Solo Travel Safe for Women?
When has living ever been safe for a woman?
Like most women, I measure and weigh my options. I take calculated risks when necessary. But often, the risk is more in my mind than it is in reality.
I started solo traveling in 2009. Either travel alone or don’t travel at all. Those were my two options and it wasn’t an easy choice. Telling me to fear solo travel because I am single and a woman, is like telling me not to breath, to go back to the days of foot binding and corsets and wait for a big, strong man to walk into my life and say “Let’s go traveling, babe“.
I don’t dismiss that danger is possible when you travel.
But the absolute truth is that as women, danger is a possibility in every corner of our lives. Solo or not, with crimes and violence on the rise, we must practice safety everywhere. There’s date rape, car hijackings , road rage, getting mugged and raped while jogging in the park or in your neighborhood, being with abusive partners, spouses or male colleagues at work, etc…
“Danger” is built into every woman’s history, the homes we supposedly find safety in and the cities we live in… it’s in our daily lifestyle.
So what makes travel different?
Why should danger only target solo female travelers abroad?
Although I have my share of scary travel stories, I’ll be honest… so far, most of the dangers I experienced in travel, came mostly from self-doubt, a fear of things “foreign” (read Twenty-Something Travel here) and the lack of confidence I occasionally have as a solo traveler.
The largest danger was my own head.
The shocking irony is that the real life danger I’ve actually experienced has been mostly …in my home country.
I lived in smack dab in the middle of Watts when the 1992 Rodney King/L.A. Riots broke out- talk about fleeing burning buildings and angry looters. Then there was 9/11 after I had just moved to New York in 2001. And in 2005, I had an ex-convict pervert stalk me on the fire escape of my Manhattan apartment, only to one day, grow enough courage to knock on my door, while standing in his birthday suit.
Is travel safe for solo women? Well, I hope it’s safer than living at home in the U.S.!
I am Jane … not Tarzan
Many outsiders look at solo travel through a warped mirror. There are many aspects to safety and solo travel.
The biggest fears arising out of this idea are largely, due to the fact, women let societal conditioning get the better of them. Women often see themselves as incompetent Tarzans of a ‘Jane story’. Thus, many women (myself included) live under the assumptions we’re “victims”, the moment we consider travel. Throw the alone part in there and the fear raises exponentially, due to second guessing and self doubts.
Women aren’t known to be natural adventurers. Many women are more than happy with declining an adventurous role, because it’s mostly attributed to the image of macho men. But this doesn’t mean women are incapable or risk-averse. Women actually assume wise and cautious roles where risk is concerned. They possess strong survival instincts, endurance, intelligence and willpower. They’ll take calculated risks if they’re certain of their abilities or a good outcome. But it’s challenging for them to trust their wisdom and instinct as equivalent to a man’s strength.
Thus, the only way to enter solo travel is seemingly to’ take a leap of faith’. But how do you do that?
Is female solo travel safe?
Consider the ‘other’ perspective
If there are no guarantees in life, why do we expect guarantees in travel?
Each day, you’ll encounter bad folk and good. …Today you can be happily married, tomorrow, divorced. Employed one day, fired the next. Today healthy, tomorrow, hit by a car. You see where I’m going with this?
Whether locked into a boring routine in your home country or an unfamiliar country– there will be a lesson in survival and the possibility of danger. When I traveled Turkey in the height of Isis news hitting CNN on a daily basis, I was petrified traveling there. I already booked my trip to Greece to attend my first travel blogger conference. Turkey was so close by. I asked a Spanish travel blogging friend, whom had just returned from Turkey, what he thought. No worries he claimed- it’s safe as long as long as you don’t go out of your way to go off-the-beaten path. (Did he say that because he was Spanish and a male?) I did my research, checked travel warnings.
I spent half my trip worried, hiding the fact I was an American and looking for any anti-American hatred tendencies in every warm and friendly face. Every Turkish person I met was so hospitable. It made me realize, the media shows us the most sensational fragment of a country, but I ultimately create my own impression and trip. Being paranoid was a waste of my time as locals were debunking my fears. Needless to say, I had an stupendously amazing time!
So your glass is either half full or half empty? What you choose to see is the perspective that will make your brain obsess falsely.
Check travel warnings
I agree there are countries, which are highly dangerous and ill-advised for solo women to travel to. This is why its important for travelers to do their research beforehand and check travel warnings.
Research tourist scams
I engineer my safety by learning about the potential dangers, risks and scams of the country. I also learn about how to recognize them and how to deal with them. Just google “tourist scams + (name of country)” and it will pop up travel warnings. For instance, I read Athens had a bad pickpocketing problem on metros. I avoided traveling during rush hour and when the metro was crowded, I swiveled my backpack to my front to keep an eye on it.
Take responsibility for your solo traveling safety
Personally, I feel like solo travel is safe because I try my best to take preventative caution in my choices. I think of the consequences of my actions when I weigh my decisions. I’m sure this puts a damper on impulsive fun, but bad risk is something I don’t want to take. Read ways to prevent danger: solo travel safety tips.
Cultivate safe spontaneity
I’ve had girlfriends whose primary objective for going to a nightclub was to get drunk, hook up with a guy and have sex. Some travelers like to party at bars like it’s spring break… While I’m not saying you can’t have fun or be spontaneous as a solo traveler, the above mentioned are risky moves when you’re in unfamiliar territory. There are ways to have fun but be safe. If you want to go nightclubbing, why not make friends from your hostel. I almost got caught in a scam in Bangkok but at least I had other hostel friends along with me to get out together. Here’s a list of fun ways to spend your nights alone.
Safe and culturally connected options: taking interactive workshops to learn about a culture, exploring the streets and practicing your photography, taking a day or walking tour.
Do not confuse unfamiliar with unsafe.
If you watch my video, I actually share a lot more than I will in writing,… But most Americans think going abroad is unsafe, simply because it’s what our media feeds us in daily news and a foreign country is rife with unfamiliar customs, languages, foods, culture, etc… They’re afraid not necessarily because it’s unsafe, but outside of their comfort zone.
If you look at American living, the United States is much more rife with crime than a lot of other countries. Of crimes, we have white collar, blue collar crime, underworld, gangs, domestic , tourist, internet, etc.. Visiting Los Angeles, I might be cautious of gang violence, random shootings, car jackings, pickpocketing, muggings, theft, tourist scams, rape, prostitution, etc… But the difference for Americans is that it’s part of our home country. Home is considered to be safe, whereas everything outside, is cautioned as potentially unsafe.
How do I create safe travels?
To continue how I engineer my solo travels, visit my next chapter of Solo Travel Saftey Tips..
Is it solo travel safe for women?
Best Travel Insurance for Solo Travelers
American travelers often pay a premium on travel insurance. World Nomads offers economic solutions for travelers who seek security and peace of mind. It covers 150 countries.