The Myth of the Female Solo Traveler

Something has been bothering me for a while. As I sit on my cozy couch in Florida, counting down the days until I get to hit the unpause button and resume my life, I find myself perusing various travel blogs and travel sites in general. I’ve got to find some way to fill the time.

But I keep coming across these articles all focused around the same topic: solo female travel. I see no articles on solo male travel, so why is there so much attention paid to a woman traveling alone? I feel that there is a fear being spread, but the ones who are perpetuating this fear are the females themselves. Females advising other females on what precautions to take on the road. Women telling other women how to keep themselves safe. Girls telling girls you can do it, BUT…

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things every solo traveler should know. You don’t always have someone else by your side to watch each other’s backs. Of course every solo traveler must keep in mind many things that pairs or groups can feel free to ignore, or pay little attention to. But this is for EVERY solo traveler, not just us women.

Ladies, I’d like to tell you some things:

  1. Most people have no desire to rape you. And if they do want to rape you, they probably still won’t.
  2. You are strong. And I think we can be pretty certain that even a weak woman would become the Hulk when fighting for her life.
  3. Instincts are important, but this applies to both women and men. Trust your instincts. Don’t get into a car or situation that you feel uncomfortable getting into. Get out of a car or situation you feel uncomfortable in. It doesn’t matter what gender you are.
  4. If you are a pretty girl, men will hit on you. So sue them! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t flirt with some guy you find ridiculously attractive. Once again, just ‘cause a guy might make some remarks that are mildly creepy, does not mean they are going to jump you. They’re just hoping you might jump them.
  5. Men also get hit on by other men (or women!), and sometimes even get asked for sexual favors. It happens. This is not something unique that happens only to women.
  6. I think we can all agree in this day in age that women are not second to men. We are just as strong, both physically and mentally. Okay, so maybe a lot of men can overpower our flimsy biceps (although I have a friend who’s a black belt, and another one who can lift her own bodyweight, and they’re both teeny tiny things!), but we’re clever, and we sure can yell loudly if we want to. We are all powerful creatures – both men and women.

Ladies, we can vote, we can be political leaders, we can be CEOs of corporations, and we can most certainly travel the world all by ourselves, without any men to help us out. There are no added precautions to being a female solo traveler.

To be a solo traveler, of any gender, you need one single thing:  TO LISTEN TO YOUR GUT.

That’s it. So stop pretending you’re a second rate creature. Ignore all those travel articles geared at women. You are a human, and you have the power to do whatever you desire without anyone by your side to protect you. You are your best protector.

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  • 22 Comments:

    1. love the way you look at life and living! Also, like the shot of Niagara Falls. Used to live there.
      Be safe and travel well. Life IS the adventure.

    2. Hi! Where can I get a hat like that? Ha, ha! I love it!
      I enjoyed this post and I loved the things you had to say to us women. I completely relate to what you’re saying. Yes, women should be careful and always be aware of our surroundings but we shouldn’t allow fear to stop us from living life. Great post❣

      • Oh my god if I knew where to buy that hat, I would have my entire backpack filled with nothing but them! A friend gave it to me, and now bunny hat has traveled the world! And thanks for the kind words – we’ve all got to be careful, but us ladies are pretty damn strong!

    3. Cool hair color! And yes I definitely agree that we shouldn’t let fear stop us from doing anything and that we should always listen to our instincts. Bad things can happen anywhere. So being alert can really help and knowing what to do in case something happens.

    4. Very well said I agree with you in many points.

    5. I agree that instincts are important wherever you are and this applies to men and women. I rarely think of myself as a solo female traveler, just a solo traveler. But I have been traveling for decades. Inspiring post!

      • Exactly as I feel – we are solo travellers, but the gender doesn’t matter; we deal with the same things and have to have our wits about us whether male or female.

    6. Listening to your gut is the perfect piece of advice! Loved this honest post, thanks for sharing.

    7. You’re so right! No one ever celebrates / encourages / criticises / dissuades men from travelling solo, so why the big deal with women?! You can’t let fear stop you from doing what you want to do. Happy travels!

    8. You’re right! The idea of solo travel strikes fear in a lot of people. I can’t begin to recount all the times people questioned me for taking off across the ocean by myself. But I see it like this. Would these people dissuade you from walking around your own town alone or going to a nearby city by yourself? Probably not. So why not other cities? In the end, it is about your instincts and your street smarts rather than your gender.

    9. Firstly, very cute picture of you!
      Also I agree! many success stories of women travelling alone are not shared enough! Not so sure about the rape one though as it happened to more than one friend. Many cases are not talked about and kept secret out of embarrassment to the victim so it seems like its not happening, it is more ‘common’ than we think. There are still people without morals out there, we just got pay more attention to our guts, like you said.

    10. I love the spirit of this post but I think it’s important to put solo female travel into historical context. Many women remember a time where it was considered scandalous, even traitorous, for a woman to deviate from the path expected or even demanded of her. It was common and even encouraged for men to have a grand global adventure- but women were expected to go to finishing school, care for younger siblings or ailing relatives, and prepare themselves for marriage.

      In many parts of the world, this has thankfully changed, as you’ve pointed out, but this isn’t the case in many countries where the socio-economic factors that contribute to unequal gender roles remain strong. It isn’t easy to travel and discover a country’s many riches while you are treated to relentless sexual and verbal harassment. It has nothing to do with pretty girls getting inevitable attention.

      A primary reason women can travel so much more freely and with so much more confidence, especially in more challenging areas, is possible due to an incredible generation of women who came before us to had the courage to shake off everything society expected of them and to face many daunting challenges. I’d encourage anyone to check out the work of Evelyn Hannon of Journeywoman. She runs possibly the longest continuous travel blog in the world and is credited by tens of thousands of women for giving them the practical tools and emotional support to travel.

      If we want the literature presented to women who travel to be updated and reflect more modern times, we also have to do some work at home first. I agree that most men aren’t looking to rape a female traveler. But until we can openly talk and acknowledge that the vast majority of women who face danger do so from the men closest to them in their life – their spouses, their friends, their family members – the model of ‘stranger danger’ will continue as it is much more comfortable for us to imagine a person in a far-away land posing danger as opposed to someone much closer at home.

      There is a growing genre that celebrates and encourages solo male travel and literature to support their adventures. Many men do face challenges, and even dangers, as a result of their race, their sexuality, or even their position on human rights.

      I frequently travel solo and I love the exhilaration of it – it is what reminds me that I can indeed do anything and it gives me the confidence and energy to tackle new challenges at home. I just think it’s important to remember that these well-meaning advice posts aren’t being unnecessarily fussy or self-defeating – they come from an important and significant place.

      • Wow. Beautifully written. And you’re right, we are so fortunate so be in an age that women did fight for us to get where we are. We are not seen as lesser beings because women before us refused for that to be the case. And I know, in some countries it’s still not up to par, but hopefully we will get there. Thanks for the amazing comments

    11. THANK YOU! I hate the paranoia perpetuated. Why do people think that women are just walking victims and everyone is out to rape and murder them?

      • Exactly! We are strong bitches, and men get into situations just as much as we do! It’s all about following your instincts, no matter your gender.

    12. “You are your best protector” I totally agree! Great post, thanks for sharing 🙂

    13. Great post! I just tried hitchhiking last month in Romania and Bulgaria. And I proved your theory. No man raped me. Well, they tried to persuade me to do things but it’s just not my style to do it with some people that I just met. So in the end, I arrived safely at home and met all of my friends who warned me to not hitchhike because the possibility getting killed or raped.
      Keep the spirit and maybe see you at some parts of the world! 🙂

      • That’s the spirit! I mean, I know I’ll get hit on and such, but doesn’t that happen in other situations too? Just because you’re being hit on, does not mean someone is going to force themselves on you, which so many people don’t seem to get. Keep being awesome and hitchhike away – and hopefully see you somewhere in the world!

    14. Gerald Erikson

      I get the feeling that most posters and you dear author feel like nothing can happen to you while traveling. I would like to hear your comments about (1) a girl hitching in Oregon was given a ride by a man and woman. Long story short she was held as a sex and household servant slave for about 8 years before she escaped. I can look up the story if someone wants me to. (2) This U.S. Marine veteran with served several tours in Iraq, and his Canadian girlfriend whose bodies were found this week in Belize , died of strangulation, both had duct tape wrapped around their wrists and was last seen leaving Scotty’s Bar and Grill in Corozal. So much for naive statements like: I hate the paranoia perpetuated. Why do people think that women are just walking victims and everyone is out to rape and murder them? No, but it does happen even to the physically strong. Please do not get over confident and feel like you are bullet proof and thus not being prepared for the worst which may or may not allow one to survive being forced into slavery or being murdered.

      • There are bad things that can come about from any situation; for example, hopping in a car can easily lead to a deadly car accident. I’m not saying I’m bulletproof, just that there is no difference being a woman on the road versus a man. I know many men who have been solicited for sex while hitchhiking, for example, showing it is not unique to women. The stories we hear on the news are the worst things that can happen, but they are oftentimes the exception, not the rule. So yes, you do have a point, but if we are to fear all the news stories we hear, then we better stay locked inside our houses.

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