News of the death of an American woman vacationing in Turkey made headlines across the country, but her tragic death also raises an important question because the mother of two – who was missing for nearly two weeks before police found her body over the weekend – was traveling by herself.
So it begs the question, should women travel alone?
Heading off on a solo voyage naturally comes with some safety risks regardless of gender, but it does seem like women have it worse. For one thing, muggers and criminals may see solo women as walking targets since they’re less likely to fight back than a male. And for another, there are the cultural differences. While we might view women as being equal to men, there are many parts of the world where old-fashioned attitudes persist. In some countries, women that are traveling by themselves may be viewed as having “loose morals,” for want of a better term, and as a result, they may attract negative attention from men.
Traveling by yourself as a woman also means you may hesitate to do things you would otherwise jump at the chance to do if you were in a group. Got invited to a local party? Or asked back to someone’s house for dinner? These kinds of things can be great opportunities to immerse oneself in local culture, but as a solo woman, the opportunities come laced with risks. Even simply going out to enjoy local nightlife means having to contend with unwanted – and potentially dangerous – attention from men.On the other hand, solo travel comes with its benefits. Ask anyone who’s done it (myself included) and they’ll tell you that hitting the road on your own is extremely rewarding. Traveling by yourself successfully can be a real confidence booster, helping you realize you’re capable of much more than you thought. Solo travel also has a way of forcing you out of your shell. Even if you’re shy or quiet, you’ll meet so many more people – travelers and locals alike – since it’s a lot less daunting to approach and befriend a solo traveler than a big group of tourists. And let’s not forget that sometimes traveling alone is your only choice – if you don’t have anyone who’ll accompany you, it’s either go by yourself or don’t go at all.
At the end of the day though, here’s the best reason I can offer for traveling alone: you can do what you want, when you want, how you want. So while you might be faced with some obstacles, don’t let the risks put you off from making that amazing solo journey. Remember that bad things can happen to you anywhere, including in your hometown – so fear shouldn’t stop you from living your travel dreams. As long as you use some common sense and take a few precautions, you should be perfectly fine.
5 Quick Tips for Staying Safe
1. Start small. If you haven’t traveled by yourself before, start by visiting countries that are used to seeing women out and about on their own. For example, Australia, England and Scandinavia are all destinations that are accepting of female independence. They’re also culturally similar and easy to get around, making them a good starting point for newbie solo travelers.
2. Dress modestly. You don’t have to walk around in a burqa, but avoid wearing any kind of clothing that might draw unwanted attention. You also want to make sure you’re respecting the local culture by covering your shoulders or knees if that’s what’s expected. This is a thoughtful thing to do whether you’re by yourself or not.
3. Don’t say you’re alone. If you’re feeling vulnerable, avoid telling strangers that you’re traveling by yourself. Pretend that you’re meeting friends or better still, your husband. Wearing a fake wedding band can do wonders to deter unwanted suitors.
4. Avoid wandering around by yourself at night. Women are certainly going to be more vulnerable walking down dark, isolated streets. If you do want to go out in the evenings, stick to well-populated areas, don’t get too drunk, and have a plan for how to get back to your hotel.
5. Take public transport. Taxis might be convenient, but being alone in a car with a stranger carries its risks – some travelers get mugged, or worse. Taking a crowded bus or subway might be more hassle, but there’s safety in numbers. Of course, this is a tough one to generalize since not all public transit stops are located in safe areas and not all taxi drivers are dodgy – at the end of the day you’ll have to listen to your gut about what’s safe and what’s not.
Do you think it’s a good idea for women to travel alone? Share your thoughts in the comments!
[Photo Credit: Flickr users Garry Knight; Daran Kandasamy]