When I decided to venture solo off to the mystical land of Peru, some friends and family members expressed concerns, a few expressed astonishment and a lot of folks reminded me to “be careful.” While I certainly appreciate the consideration, I think the overzealous warnings from loved ones can be a bit misguided. Here is why:
Despite being the fool-hearty adventurous type, I have often considered myself rather timid and awkward. I’m possessed of an inner dialogue that years for adventure and wildness, simultaneously crippled by anxious rumination about whether or not I possess the heartiness to go out and seek it.
Perhaps the timid voice is simply an internalized manifestation of our paranoid culture. (I will take responsibility for the awkward one). A culture that reinforces the notion that women have to be extra careful, vigilant and scared while traveling alone. For women, internalized weakness turns basic vacation and trip decision-making into a life or death scenario, often causing unnecessary anxiety. Not only is this fear-mongering rarely directed at men, rarely is it directed at the riskiest, yet most mundane of behaviors-driving, eating sugar, not getting adequate sleep, etc.
Yes, the world is dangerous. But I’m tired about worrying whether behind every kind gesture there is a rapist. About whether behind every shadowy alleyway, a predator. It is clear why many women choose to ignore their yearning for adventure, to believe in their own weakness rather than their own strength. It also is clear why a simple act such as going on a solo vacation seems profound and utterly courageous.
We can and should raise the bar. Telling a woman going a trip alone is “brave” may sound kind, and likely the intention is, but it can also be condescending. I know the risks of traveling alone. Just like I know the risk of eating sugar (it’s bad). Or not getting enough sleep (really bad). Or driving. (crazy super bad).
Our culture sees going on a trip alone as a woman as brave. But I wish it didn’t. As long as courage is measured differently between women and men, we have a long ways to go.