Solo travel is not the same experience for women as it is for men. Men can be a little more spontaneous, a little more reckless than other genders. The majority of men don’t really concern themselves too much with the types of garments they wear, their marital status, or even begin to think about reproductive issues while traveling. They don’t have to worry too much about how safe they are if they’re somehow stranded and completely alone. They don’t really need to worry about “do I have some kind of weapon on me, just in case?”
This is a known generalization concerning cis, white men and women. It absolutely becomes more complicated when you identify as anything other than cis, and unfortunately, not white. However, this isn’t meant to scare off anyone, only a small blurb from my own experiences. I will only be writing from my own perspective from now on, fyi. I can’t speak for anyone else.
I’m not saying that men don’t have to worry about their safety while traveling, because you always have to! Everyone does! Even in your own home town! But for women this is a major issue. The majority of the world see women as a target, something to possess, own, and use. We are below worthless in some countries if we’re not married. Most websites will tell women to carry around a wedding band “just in case.”
When I lived abroad I made my own pepper spray after being attack one too many times while going about my daily routine in broad daylight. I also developed a good right hook when I caught a man masturbating while staring at me taking photos.
Buzzfeed put out an article called 46 Incredibly Useful Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone back in April and it’s a damn good resource if you’re new to this whole “real world” bullshit. Jessica Probus does a decent job laying out the best precautions to take when traveling alone. These tips could also be great for anyone of any gender, but especially for women. The very last tip she mentions “follow your instincts” and I couldn’t agree more. My gut has prevented some truly bad situations. It could be something someone you just met said off-hand, or the new group of people you’re walking with are taking a strange route to get to a new bar - your gut knows. Learn to trust that instinct before you leave for your trip. It’s both a treasure and a burden to be naive in certain situations, but know your limits and your “get out of here asap” exit strategies.
The comments on this article seem to either fight the idea that these kinds of precautions are necessary, are “idiotic” and common sense (which some are), or we only need these tips because, “[we] put [our]selves in that position.” AOINFODNFSDOISDNFODNSfosdmfoinsdfosndfsinf;dsnds;m;sd'sdnfs. No.
I wish we didn’t need this kind of a list. I wish we could focus more on teaching people that rape culture is not a culture to live by. I wish we didn’t have people creating nail polish that tells you if your drink is spiked, or wear a penis destroyer like a tampon, or even carry around a damn apple to bash someone’s face in “just in case.” But we do. Right now, with the way things are, and the way the majority of the world sees women, we need these lists. We need protection. We need hostel floors that are for women only. Back in the day, “women only” sections were there out of propriety, but now it’s because it’s a damn necessity for safety. Where’s the fairness in that? In BakPakGuide.com article about the female-only hostels, they try to make it sound like it’s a pretty pink, fluffy, time and that’s why they've created it - because women prefer the cleaner life. But then they have this little quote, “These hostels understand the concerns of female travelers and happily make safety a priority. Often this means having extra locks on the exterior of the hostel and extra security cameras. Another reason you can rest easy (in comfy beds of course).”
Yeah. More cameras. More security. What female travelers are looking for… Safety and travel for women go hand in hand. It's not something we can forego or wait to plan for last minute. It's something we have to prepare for in any country. HOWEVER - never let that stop you from traveling.
When you travel alone you want to feel like you can experience anything and everything, including the nightlife of whatever city you’re in, but as a women that just increases our chances of being harassed or attacked ten fold. When I lived in San Francisco I used to hold an apple in my hand when walking home from work - something that, unfortunately, was necessary a few times. I don’t like the idea of carrying an actual weapon, and that will usually cause you more trouble than you asked for. The old, tried, and true method of protection is placing your keys in between your knuckles and creating a deadly fist while walking swiftly. But, if you’ve seen the majority of keys in Europe, you’ll know they’re usually longer than your palm and make it a little too obvious.
I hope we can truly revolutionize the future so these methods aren’t something we have to consider as we cross borders, but until then, take heed and don’t be naive.