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« News on solo travel from Reuters | Main | Travelers stranded solo in big snow = a blast »

February 03, 2010

Comments

Kim

I agree with you - women can travel solo in most parts of the world quite safely (I've met ladies who have done Africa north to south solo), but there are more dangers in certain parts of the world to women than men and some areas are just not fun to travel solo (Arab countries for eg). In the example above, it is less likely that the luggage would've been stolen if it was the dad watching the luggage and the mom buying the snacks. The physical threat to women is far greater because we're less able to fight back and the ever present threat of rape (stuff is replacable, this isn't). The best thing you can do as a single woman is to be aware of your surroundings and don't go to places that are not safe (by local standards) alone, especially at night.
Know where you're going and where to stay away from. There are no-go area's in any city / country and remember that your radar will probably not be as sensitive as a locals in any circumstances.

Ellen

Kim,

All good points. Women have to be careful and act in a way that keeps them safe. I just don't want solo travelers to get paranoid by what they read in the newspapers and use that to stay home. Those stories are ALWAYS going to focus on the dangers.
Thanks for writing.

Ellen

Ted

The article would have been even more effective if you had omitted the word "female" from the headline.

Although women have a very understandable deep-seated fear of particular types of violent assaults, the fact is that solo travelers of either gender are at greater risk of crime than those traveling with others. A soloist is more easily distracted and more easily victimized, in the absence of those additional sets of eyes to look out for trouble.

The most likely threat a solo traveler will encounter is the "clever thief," the pickpocket, or perhaps the mugger. Perhaps such criminals might perceive a solo woman as a more tempting target than a solo man, but the solo traveler of either gender is inherently more vulnerable. There's safety in numbers, after all.

That said, your message is an appropriate one for solo travelers of either gender (or should that be "any gender"?). Neither the solo male nor the solo female should let safety concerns put the world off limits. Reasonable precautions apply to everyone. The operative word is "wary" rather than "worry."

My local bookstore puts the (few) books about solo travel in the section labeled "Women's Travel." If mainstream guidebooks mention solo travel at all, you'll typically find it under the heading "For Women Traveling Alone." Even Rick Steves, otherwise a paragon of inclusiveness, describes solo travel as a "women's issue" in his "Europe Through the Back Door," and brings in a female associate to write the applicable chapter because he can't adequately address it (notwithstanding his own extensive solo travel experience).

I feel marginalized and stigmatized enough as a solo traveler (especially in the United States). Seeing it continually portrayed as a "women's issue" doesn't help at all. Solo travel is for anyone who revels in the freedom and sheer exhilaration of independent exploration-- or who at least refuses to let the lack of an available companion force him or her to stay home! And nearly all the challenges and risks that face the solo traveler apply to both sexes, as does the advice for dealing with them.

And by the way, men can be victims of sexual assault, just as women can be amazingly effective at defending themselves against those assaults.

Ellen

Ted,

I addressed "solo female travelers" because the article I was quoting was about solo women on the road.
I agree that men have to be careful too and not take unnecessary risks.
Eyes open everyone!

Paz

Great post. And it is so true! People hear one story and just write the entire location off. Bad stories always travel faster and further than the good ones...people should always keep that in mind.

Ellen

Paz,

Exactly! And I'm often guilty of the same thing - but then I get over it.

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