I rarely think about the fact that I am a woman and that at times I travel alone. It has, for me, become the way things are. Years before, they were two things that did not go together. I recall my hesitation at venturing out to Latin America on my own, fearing my own femininity. But I dared to anyway, and I discovered the only thing to be afraid of out in the big, bad world are my own fears.
There is such a thing as “women solo travel,’ I would imagine there are websites catering to such inquiries. Providing women with advice and cautionary tales about what to do, how to behave and what precautions to take. I don’t know what they are, I had never bothered to find out. So, I’m afraid I might be giving the idea that solo travel for a woman is as piece of cake. Because, it really is.
When I was 20 years old I was living in Spain and more than eager to go on a solo adventure. Embracing the open road, taking myself wherever my heart desired and embarking on a journey as carefree as I could make it. I was so eager to go solo that although the trip was planned for me to meet with my best friend, I decided to fly to Paris earlier to have a few days alone.
For days I explored the city of Paris, getting lost often that I gave in to the concrete reality that I had no idea where I was going. With that at hand, things became much easier. There were times that I had to double-check my decisions. Was it really wise to still be walking around past 10 in the evening alone? Should I sit in the area or move somewhere with more people? I have been so conditioned to believe that in every corner lurks someone ready and willing to harm me that while I feel my natural inclination is to feel unafraid, my mind automatically assumes the danger.
No harm came to me then, and whether it was luck or the facts of statistics on my side that it is more common for women to travel alone than men, I’ll never truly know.
What I do know is that when I took up the opportunity to travel alone to go to Montevideo, Uruguay and begin what would turn out to be a 4 country trip, I only began to hesitate because many of my friends had voiced their concerns about a 25 year old traveling alone in South America. I heeded their warnings and became slightly worried but I must have been too excited to care and a combination of enough naivete and confidence that I didn’t put much thought into it.
Throughout all my travels however, I haven’t had anything awful happen, though by luck or chance, I have experienced mostly the goodness from strangers. Whether it’s from a strange man who shares their blanket on a cold bus in Bolivia or discovering other fellow travelers who become friends. It’s not to say that I don’t recognize the possibilities of danger, and I’m sure it all varies on the destination and many other factors but I’m grateful that I have, through experience, been freed from fear of traveling alone as a woman.
Perhaps I only have a false sense of safety because I happened to go to the right places, or have just had extremely good luck but for the moment, I believe that women don’t have much to be afraid of. I hope it stays that way for a long time.