Source: Wikimedia Commons

The lone female traveller

The summer, those four wonderful months of freedom; no lectures or revision just lots of sunshine (hopefully), walks and frolicking at outdoor social events. Whether you’re a first year, second year or finalist, the summer months can provide a great opportunity to go out and see more of the world. Pick your destination, pack your travelling bag and before you know it you’re off exploring the sites.

Source: Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Whilst many students choose to travel in groups, many decide to travel alone. Whilst travelling solo offers a whole range of incredible opportunities, unfortunately there are incredible differences between a male travelling alone and a female journeying individually. Unlike the male solo explorer, the lone female traveller can often experience a great deal of prejudice, even before she sets out on her great voyage.

I’ve read a good few blogs by women who travel alone, and the main theme drawn from each appears to show great similarities. The idea of a female travelling alone can, and often does, initiate great waves of concern. Friends and family can find it difficult to comprehend why an educated female would want to risk her life travelling alone, and more often than not, these concerns are rooted in gender inequality issues, which unfortunately are still very prominent today.

In January of this year, a 51 year old Danish female was attacked and gang raped in Delhi, India. In 2013, a student was similarly gang raped in Delhi; a city renowned for its drink and drug usage, and where attacks on females have shown a recent increase. Of course, Delhi is not the only place where attacks on solo female travellers occur. Unfortunately, crime can, and does, take place in each and every country. However, this is not to say that nowhere is safe. The advice is simply to travel with increased caution within particularly vulnerable areas.

I decided to unpick this topic further, and started to ask a few of my female friends who often travel solo, how they felt about their travelling experiences and whether being a female actually played more of a part in their insecurities than the idea of travelling solo itself. The responses I received were fascinating. Some commented on how being a woman played little part in their choice of places to travel to, however being a woman who was travelling alone did. Many have altered their travelling times and places to visit as lone female travellers – with these choices similarly impacted by race and the further fear of ‘standing out’.

“It is always necessary to be on guard. A woman alone can’t relax whilst travelling in the same way a solo man can.” – French student, year abroad.

This fear for the solo female traveller inevitably influences the whole travelling experience: where she decides to travel, and whether to go out alone or not at night. Written in a blog and supported through one of my responses, one of my female friends commented how during her individual travelling she would often tell people that her boyfriend was waiting for her back at the hotel, in efforts to ensure her personal safety and security. This might seem extreme, but if it’s going to safeguard a woman against attack then it’s more than worth it.

From reading around the topic, the general advice that many of the lone female bloggers give is one of education; understanding the culture of the area you’ll be travelling to, the relationships between men and women, and being adamant in your sole strength. Just because you’re a female, travelling alone does not mean you are immediately incapable of surviving the struggles that any traveller, male or female can encounter.

Whilst individual female travelling can provide a plethora of incredible experiences, one of my friends provides the following advice which I’m sure many will agree with:

“Don’t let being a woman put you off from visiting all the places you want to go. However, you need to have a confident and resistant personality and you need to make sure you take steps to protect yourself from unwanted attention. In this day and age it shouldn’t be necessary but unfortunately, it is, especially in parts of the world where women are considered second-class citizens.”

So, for those of you females considering travelling solo as an option during this summer, the key message is to be aware of your surroundings, understanding the cultural gender differences and try to organise your itinerary so you’re in a place at a time where you feel the safest. Also consider transport times if you want to avoid commuting alone at night.

Ultimately it is important to remember to enjoy the experience. Travelling alone provides a vast array of different opportunities that you may not find whilst travelling in a couple, or even group of people. Be sure to enjoy the amazing experience, it won’t last forever.

By Laura Butler

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