Why is it that people seem to think that only women travel alone?
When I told people that I was going off on my own for a few months I got the usual, “Oh that’s so brave”, “I could never do that by myself” and “Won’t you get lonely?” comments that I’m sure everyone gets, but in my case there was also an underlying tone lurking behind the eyes of my friends and colleagues that said, “Isn’t that a bit weird?”
This stems I believe, not from the fact that I am a 27 year old man-child who shouldn’t be quitting his job to travel, but from the widely perceived notion that only women tend to go it alone when deciding to forego their real world responsibilities, and run away from their problems for a few months like Eat Pray Love or Wild.
And when they do, women are met with cries of “You’re so independent”, “I wish I could do that”, and that testicle-shrinking buzzword for gym-nut alpha-males everywhere, “Empowered”. Any man who chooses the same path is a Billy-no-mates or a predator. And not the cool predator with the dreadlocks either.
But why can’t I be empowered?
Don’t get me wrong I fully understand that the risks for a lone woman roaming across the globe are far greater than any man can even begin to fathom, a point very elegantly highlighted to me through an overheard conversation at my hostel today (Nomadas in Merida if you’re playing along at home) where one guy asked his friend, “why do women get the choice of women-only dorms?” To which his friend quite rightly explained, “Because girls are very rarely sexually aggressive toward men”.
And this is a fair point, but the risks of travelling are still very much present for all of us. So far I have heard 2 separate stories of guys – a group in one case – being stopped by the police in Mexico and being extorted/robbed into being “let off” for a perceived slight; and one story of a man who was drugged in a bar in Asia. The latter was pointed out by another member of the group to probably have been a ploy to get ahold of his girlfriend but I am just pointing out that the dangers are real for us all.
I myself am a 5″4, 7.5 stone “man”. If someone were to decide to mug me I’m not sure the fact that I have external genitalia is going to put them off, unless of course I am expected to use them as some kind of mace, but so far I have been unable to locate the lever that detaches them, and I’ve spent a good fifteen years exploring the area.
I’m not trying to start competition or a gender war here – if you’re still reading thank you and my point is coming up I promise – but men are expected to be able to take care of themselves and are therefore rarely offered the assistance or advice to the contrary.
This was highlighted to me further when I looked into downloading some travel apps.
I was a little daunted by venturing out into the world and despite being the social little butterfly that I am, I was worried about how I’d meet people. Being a millennial I naturally turned to my smartphone for answers. After downloading almost all of the travel apps available in my first week (Travello, Wander, Meetup, Solo Traveller, Tripr, Backpackr) I noticed two things.
- They are all shit. This is a bugbear of mine and I will save the details for another blog post otherwise we’ll be here all day.
- Most of the features – groups, discussion pages and whatnot – are geared towards women only.
So like Chandler trying to give up smoking, I would either have to go it alone, or learn the mantra, I am a strong independent woman who does not need a home.
And here we come to the crux of my point. Cheers for sticking with me.
A travel forum of any kind isn’t just used as a Tinder for the adventurous. It’s a great way to get tips on places to go, places to avoid, travel routes, safety advice, accommodation info and a myriad of other wonderful knowledge nuggets that anyone on the road would find most useful indeed. The idea of Catfishing my way into groups and discussions just to get some decent information definitely wouldn’t help with the whole predator-on-the-road image that I am trying to avoid, but it appeared that these were the only useful places where I could get any adequate information.
In the end I forwent the whole app game entirely and decided to do it the old fashioned way: actually converse with real-life human faces. However for those less comfortable with pounding a few mid-afternoon encouragement beers to give you the stones to talk to the strangers in the communal area at dinner time; the options seem fairly limited.
On my journeys, be it here or anywhere else I have stayed in shared accommodation, I have met as many solo male travellers as I have solo female travellers and all of them are after the same things: a good time, some new experiences and to not be robbed or injured. I want to feel as empowered as the next gal-traveller and if someone thinks I’m weird it should really be because of my personality and not my gender.