Why Women Should Travel Solo in an Age of Terrorism, Pandemic Disease and Regularized Rape Culture

By Re

Fear—it’s simultaneously idiosyncratic and indiscriminate, and neither tangible nor quantifiable. More often than not, it’s inexplicable. We can’t fathom fear like we conjure dreams, elate in ecstasy, wane in sadness, vilify in malevolence, commiserate in empathy or ripen in humiliation. We can give love without reason; we can’t fear without stimuli. It’s only deemed real by opposition—devoid of courage, we’re rendered afraid—and, yet, most of us are paradoxically well aware that fear is anything but antonymous for valor. So, what is fear?

While its manifestations are raw and validated through touch and tears and temperature and talk, fear itself is nothing but a debilitating piece of discourse. Fear is four letters ominously strung together and exhausted both by women and with regards to women. Especially anent solo travel.

As women, we are dauntless protagonists of our own inimitable lives but are nonetheless conditioned to fear the same horror stories. Because we boast an education system that fails to discipline our bullies, endorse a media landscape deficient in our voices but replete with those of our oppressors, foster faiths beset by bigotry and laud a legal structure perfused with patriarchy, women are inured to what could happen if we travel alone. We’re told to tolerate life as passive victims of traditions among boys who will be boys. And, in an age of endemic terrorist attacks, insurgency and a spate of pandemic diseases, only exacerbated by the objectification of our bodies as weapons of war, global gendercide, sex trafficking and the sheer notion that perhaps the most developed nation in the world chalks sexual assault up to “locker room talk,” solo travel is seldom advised.

We can’t fathom fear like we conjure dreams, elate in ecstasy, wane in sadness, vilify in malevolence, commiserate in empathy or ripen in humiliation.

But to generalize that women, as enabled adults, always hear the “advice” for which we listen only because it is almost always given, would be to abase the feminist agenda and discredit women’s headway thus far. A large majority of women today don’t travel alone not because society advises otherwise. We don’t do what we’re told for the sake of appeasing the masses. We are arrested every day in crowds sometimes larger and louder than that of our presidential inauguration because when our existence is not respected, our resistance is expected. We have been and continue to be formidable curators of the lives we want to live, but we rarely travel alone because we all too often advise ourselves otherwise.

When conditioned fear couples with a dwindling hope for deliverance in a world that promotes an agenda that too often negates our own, we become perpetually paralyzed by the thralldom of “what if.” What if we are taken? What if we do get raped? The politics of life with a vagina becomes the bane of our existence—but only when we allow it.

The truth is this: Independent travel is as equally critical to our own health as it is to the health of our democracy. The voyage is vital, even when the odds are against us.

Women are inherently empathetic, and our world is starved of altruism. Inundated with prejudices—every one contradictory of the next—our tolerance for diversity is indispensable. And because women are proven catalysts for change, it’s imperative that we travel and implore others who have the means to do so, too.

Moreover, it’s imperative that we travel alone. Our responses to cultures and opportunities are too often molded and thus tempered by the company we keep. Traveling alone makes friends of strangers and opens us up to experiences that ultimately culture us. And when we embrace those experiences on our own, we come home with new eyes; the places we’ve pinned become a part of us and we come back armed with understanding and modesty, appreciation and respect.

When conditioned fear couples with a dwindling hope for deliverance in a world that promotes an agenda that too often negates our own, we become perpetually paralyzed by the thralldom of “what if.”

Respect—it’s the mod podge that keeps us all sticking together like frail tissue in a papier mâché world of multifarious shapes and colors that nevertheless overlap. But in order to respect and be respected, we have to know each other well.

Women, not unlike the rest of the gender spectrum, have a responsibility to learn each other well. Speaking in binary terms, we are key contributing members of our communities, proven to donate to nonprofits more often than men, trade more conservatively and manage debt better than men. We’re, on average, more risk adverse and deemed smarter investors. Simply, we are fiscally responsible and, in our aptitude, boast the power to transform communities—but only when we are acutely aware of the dire needs of those communities. Through solo travel, our capacity to be engaged and edified grows bigger.

Of course, in doing so, we don’t only learn about other cultures and how we can lend help. We, too, discover ourselves and, likewise, how to help ourselves. Our children will, perhaps now more than ever, grow up in a place in which women are talked about like merchandise, assigned value based on our appearances. When we’re told we’re not skinny enough, our breasts aren’t big enough, our legs aren’t tall enough, our skin isn’t white enough, when movies don’t cast actresses who look like us and when music values voluptuousness over virtually everything else, we must find new ways to love ourselves. We must, for our own sakes and sanity, be self-sufficiently happy.

When we travel alone—when we depend on only ourselves and are responsible for only ourselves—we start to trust your own instincts, discover our own strengths, limits, likes and dislikes, and reflect on all of it unencumbered by the unsolicited opinions of people to whom we almost always listen—the media, the White House, the individuals in our social circles who, consciously or subconsciously, regurgitate and reinforce perceived standards of beauty that just aren’t beautiful to all of us, or enough for a lot of us, or possible for some of us.

Respect—it’s the mod podge that keeps us all sticking together like frail tissue in a papier mâché world of multifarious shapes and colors that nevertheless overlap. But in order to respect and be respected, we have to know each other well.

But when we learn to love ourselves more profoundly, those affirmative beliefs about our characters are manifested through revolution. When we feel relegated to certain jobs, bound to underpaid salaries, obliged to what should be shared responsibilities in our homes, we need self-love. When we have it, we say no. We say more. We say I can instead of I cannot, I am instead of I am not.

Confidence is our strongest tool. And, when we obtain it, we inspire it in others like the first neighbor to hang holiday lights.

We inspire it in the women who don’t have the liberty to travel solo, not because they fear it, but because they actually were taken, sold into sex slavery or married off. Or they have been raped and forced to care after the children of their oppressors because they’re blamed for sex outside of marriage and maternal healthcare is inadequate anyway. Or they don’t have the funds regardless because they are indeed single-handedly feeding their families in those underpaid jobs to which they’ve been relegated—relegated because they never got the education their brothers were afforded.

Women, who can, have one obligation in life and it is not to be a mother, a trophy wife or anything that society expects them to be. A woman’s obligation is to be the one thing society does not expect of her. Our obligation is to be fearless.

And because we’re expected not to, traveling solo—for the sake of ourselves, for democracy and for intersectional feminism—is one surefire way to be the change we wish to see in this world.

Leave a Reply