Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, a woman.
I slept on the bottom bunk, beneath Katie, a solo traveler too afraid to tell her mom she quit her job as a nanny to a French child who insisted on being Satan. For a month she’s been unemployed, and using the money she saved up to travel the world before returning to rural Massachusetts to resume a “mundane life.” This was London, after Bangkok, Barcelona, Vietnam, Monaco, and Amsterdam.
It was the Southern American accent that caught her attention, and we talked for an hour about things to do in London, her former job, the evil child, and her med school plans in the coming year. Then I asked “you aren’t afraid to travel alone?” The look on her face was enough of an answer, but she went on to tell me how she’d miss out on life if she lived in that kind of fear; like her sister, who refuses to leave Massachusetts. She also suffers from the travel condition I hear about so often: “My friends are always putting trips together, and last minutes, they drop out one-by-one, leaving me upset. I prefer going alone. Nothing’s gonna happen to me.”
(Juanisha – Dubai, UAE)
I’m an advocate for “most people are good,” but being from America, it’s rare to meet someone who shares that thought. I’ve hitched rides cross-country, given rides cross-country, slept in houses with strangers, and eaten off the hands of wanderers. Most people are good.
Since starting this travel stuff, my gal friends often ask, “where’s a safe place to go as a woman?” I tell them “anyplace safe for humans to go.” They never believe me, citing off stories they read about victims of acid splashing, rape, hair pulling, etc., and while these things are happening around the world, they’re also happening at home. The possibility of it happening to you abroad is probably just as slim as it happening to you in your own home (I refuse to look up this stat. If I’m wrong, let me know).
After I explain to these gal pals of mine that they are free to travel anywhere humans are free to travel, and they still don’t believe me, I respond with “well, the safest places for you to go, then, is to your bathroom.”
The funny thing is I meet more women solo travelers while I’m out and about than men. My favorite was the woman I met in Bogotá, Colombia who was one day from going back to Kansas after a year and a half of traveling through all of South America, alone. She made friends along the way who kept her company, met chefs who fed her when street food wasn’t enough, and found enough wi-fi to update her mother on her safety at least twice a week.
It just hit me while writing that last paragraph: traveling solo can definitely be dangerous for anyone who plans to travel outside of those all-inclusive american-like resorts if they are not resourceful.
Let it be known that I’m fully aware of how women are treated in many parts of the world, and how the terror levels are often a color higher than men. But I’m also an advocate for “fuck fear,” because sitting still thinking about things that probably won’t happen is for the birds. I have no other way to say that without it being terribly misconstrued.
(Candrice – London, UK)
American women, especially American Black women, when traveling outside of the U.S., you will more than likely get more looks and attention than you’re used to. There will be people who want to touch your hair (Rio), and ask for your hand in marriage from three cars away (Dubai), and offer to buy your whole grilled fish and sit with you while you eat it (Johannesburg), and compare your complexion to theirs (Hong Kong). Get over it, and live. Take in these experiences and share the story later. When you’re outside of America, you are in the rest of the world. Understand the culture in which you’re submerged and draw a realistic line that should not be crossed (i.e. ass grabbing, unsolicited massages, pulling, etc.).
So women, you resourceful, amazing animals, go into the world, wherever it is you want to go, and come back with stories for other women who are afraid to do the same. Talk to my friend Tiffany Lanette who’s doing it often, and Rachel (Rachel Travels), and Zakiyyah Myers, and the many other women travelers who inspire me so often.
Group trips are amazing, but solo trips are fucking spiritual.
Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.