Women and travelling solo
Women have been travelling and exploring the world alone for generations, maybe longer. Alexandra David-Néel walked into Lhasa, Tibet disguised as a man in 1924, when it was closed to foreigners, and lived in a cave in Sikkim. Freya Stark, like me, was obsessed with the 1,001 Tales of the Arabian Nights when she was a child. She became an explorer and in the 1930s trekked into areas of Iran and Arabia that no foreigners had seen. Dervla Murphy rode her bike, Roz, from Ireland to India in 1963. And these are just the ones we know about, the celebrated ones.
In this day and age there are thousands, perhaps millions, of women travelling the globe solo, and many of them are travel bloggers like myself. We are the new “lady travellers.” But the recent tragic death of a young American woman in Turkey, and the vicious and much-publicized gang rape in Delhi, has some people wondering if women should be travelling alone. To this, we say WeGoSolo! Read on to find out more about this new movement, and how it is supporting and encouraging women to travel safely. And why travel, and travelling solo, is not the problem.
Be sure to follow the #WeGoSolo hashtag on Twitter and join the conversation every Wednesday at 11 a.m. EST. And join the WeGoSolo Facebook page. And check out the Storify page for the #WeGoSolo
Travel Safety discussion.
The WeGoSolo movement is born
In the wake of the Delhi Gang Rape (December 16, 2012), there was outrage, protests and the beginnings of a paradigm shift in an inherently sexist country. I was in India at the time, and interviewed and asked if I still felt safe travelling in India; and saw on social media that some women were rethinking their travel plans to visit India. Around the same time, the One Billion Rising movement started to take hold. More recently, a young American woman named Sarai Sierra was murdered while travelling solo in Turkey, and there was a backlash against the idea of women travelling alone.
Like attitudes around rape in India (and elsewhere), there were those who tried to blame the victim. “Why was she out at night?” and “Why was she travelling alone?” were some of the obnoxious questions asked. The real question is, “Why are men harming women?” As travel blogger Jodi Ettenberg so brilliantly points out in this article, Revisiting the solo female travel experience; and Christine Gilbert in this post, The Women Traveling Solo Question, the problem isn’t women travelling solo — it’s violence against women. In fact, women are MUCH more likely to be assaulted and killed by their partners, in their own homes, than they are while travelling the world. Women are much more often the victims of domestic violence. And this is true everywhere.
So, yesterday morning I felt I had had enough. I felt it was time for women travellers to “take back the world” and I suggested we start a blog tag on a popular travel bloggers forum. The idea caught on, and we created the hashtag #WeGoSolo, and started to post our blogs, thoughts and tips on Twitter. The idea of #WeGoSolo is to promote and encourage women to travel safely, and to shine a spotlight on the real problem: world-wide domestic violence against women.
I am writing this about 24 hours after I wrote the first #WeGoSolo tweet, which was
And in that space of time — less than 24 hours, the hashtag has exploded. Last time a report was pulled, about 20 hours after it launched, #WeGoSolo generated 4.4 million tweet impressions and reached 861,000 people via 1,086 tweets from 474 people. Wow.
The idea of #WeGoSolo has had overwhelming support on Twitter — with many travel bloggers writing blogs, and others posting links and resources to help women travel safely, and I am going to keep a running list of them below (add any I have missed to comments, please, and I will edit them in).
There have been the usual naysayers, who do not understand why we even need to talk about this issue. They assume “it’s over, women are liberated, let’s get on with our lives and stop dwelling on an outdated topic.” To paraphrase some of the tweets I have read. I wish that were true. I was in India and saw firsthand the backlash to the vicious gang rape. Many believe women “ask for it” by wearing western clothing or going out at night. And here in the west, the backlash to Sarai Sierra’s death in Turkey shows that many people still hold repressive and regressive attitudes towards women — instead of pointing the finger at the real problem, violence perpetrated by men against women.
#WeGoSolo is catching fire because we still need it. That’s the truth. There are still women who are afraid to travel, afraid to travel alone; and many women who are just plain afraid. Violence against women is a kind of terrorism. It’s sexual terrorism. And like terrorism, giving in to fear and staying home means “they have won.” And staying home isn’t the solution for another reason: it’s less safe than going out.
Finally, this entire blog is about how I crawled out from my tomb-like apartment, where I was nursing the blows of several devastating losses and stuck in a deep depression. Though afraid, I felt compelled to travel to India, and stay for six months. I had never done anything like this before; and I frankly did not even know if I would live through the experience. In fact, it became the best thing I have ever done, and restarted my life in ways too numerous to list.
Travelling solo saved my life, and changed my life. And it can do the same for you. Don’t hesitate to go — just use common sense, do your research, and read travel safety tips like these.
(As an interesting aside, three of the main people behind the #WeGoSolo movement are from Toronto. Janice Waugh of SoloTraveler created the forum I posted on, and supported the idea immediately; and Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman came up with the catchy hashtag and has given the movement tons of great support. There are lots of other great supporters too, including many men, like Keith Jenkins of VelvetEscape, but just thought the Toronto connection was cool.)
So, here are the blogs, please tweet, retweet, add your own, use the hashtag #WeGoSolo and dive in and join the movement.
Blog posts about women, travel, safety and going solo
Top safety tips for women travelling in India (and elsewhere)
Solo Travel Safety – a link that takes you to 31 posts about solo travel safety.
A Dangerous Business
Katie Going Global
Flora The Explorer
Hole In The Donut Cultural Travel
Spunky Girl Monologues
Journalist in Turkey
Sante Fe Travelers
Don’t be afraid to travel alone (original in French)
Women on the road
131313 Sketchbook Project
Travel Made Simple
Girl be trippin
Indie Travel Podcast
Y Travel Blog
Nicole is the New Black
A Pair of Boots and a Backpack
Laura Walker guest post on Nomadic Matt
Why I love Traveling Alone
The Grown Up Gap Year
The Wayfarer Diaries
Solo female travel: Don’t be afraid to go it alone
Meet, Plan, Go
As We Travel
Laura Bly, USA Today
Wanderlust and Lipstick
Women on the Road
Simply Three Cents
Nerd’s Eye View
Stars on the Ceiling
Candice Walsh, guest post on Asia Rooms
The Barefoot Beat
2 Live Abroad
Oneika the Traveller
Lynne P Nieman
Travel with Kat
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