There’s a lot of discussion on the web about ‘solo female travel’ (SFT). Some disparage the act as if it’s travelling suicide whilst others argue its irrelevance in the face of contemporary gender equalities. “What is it about this label that makes my vagina-bedecked brethren cling to it like jelly?” asks Will Peach in his characteristically eloquent style “Is it that they believe that men, or society at large, doesn’t believe that women are capable, in this day and age, of jumping on a flight and travelling through Southeast Asia on their lonesome?”
Indeed, is it so unusual in the 21st century for a woman to take to the world stage without a male chaperone? This isn’t Victorian England, after all.
“The truth is” writes Stephanie Yonder, “Solo travel isn’t just something you do when you can’t find anyone else to come along. It’s an incredibly rewarding and enlightening experience in its own right.” This, of course, disperses Peaches gendered argument. Solo travel, regardless of gender, gives a sense of independence and peace of mind that simply can’t be achieved when travelling in a group. However, IMO, an experience shared is an experience enriched. I want someone to reminisce with. I want “in” jokes. I want to feel that kind of worldly connection (or perhaps I’m just needy).
Regardless of my personal issues, if you believed everything the internet told you, you’d never leave the house, particularly if you’re a woman. According to a number of the SFT myths, unaccompanied ladies will encounter a deprave world of immoral men, conspiracy theorists and seductive swindlers, dead set on ruining their lives. But doesn’t this sound just a little bit like hyperbole? In any case, the terrible things we see on the news are cherry-picked based on how terrible they are. Is the real world that dangerous? No, says Nomadic Chick, who’s keen to dispel these SFT folklores, “The more you experience the world, you’ll discover that universally, everyone truly wants the same things we do; love, family, security and happiness.”
However, in some parts of the world, women are not afforded the same rights as they are in the West (which in itself is by no means perfect). In many countries, particularly the orthodoxly religious, women are allocated traditional roles. First and foremost, they are wives and then they are mothers. Therefore, it’s no wonder some western women encounter problems when they’re travelling alone. The world is a multicultural melting pot of social expectations and religious beliefs. The best advice an SFT can abide by is the common sense law. Showing respect and cultural sensitivity should be a no brainer and yet unfortunately, many travellers (female or otherwise) stumble at the first instance of a cultural clash.
Although opinions are polarised, women should make up their own minds. We are all individuals and this effects how we deal with stressful situations and independent action. For some, travelling solo might seem like an absolute nightmare. Many people need the direction and comfort granted by a travelling companion. However, others may really value an opportunity to release themselves unto world. There’s a plethora of experiences to be had out there. How you choose to enjoy them is totally up to you.