Culture,  Travel

It isn't "brave" to travel solo as a woman. It's normal.

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:

Peru Alpaca Ali_7620
Here is me not getting murdered by this predatory alpaca

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.


  • Sara Wright

    I love this post… I too experience that fear about traveling and have terrible anxiety – I do think this ambivalence of ours is culturally constructed and created in part to keep women down… I think it is courageous to face our fears and travel anyway! I came to the desert two years ago at 71 and knew no one… it was scary and I am so glad I persevered!

  • Carol

    Brave a word often applied to me for selling up and moving to Thailand …I have experienced a whole new culture and having a wonderful adventure and experienced and done much I never dreamed of and some on my own…Brave are those men and women who rescued the cave boys here, brave are so many others who risk their lives to save others…We are just souls with a wanderlust and a need to explore and discover. Carry on travelling and dreaming …Thank you for following my blog ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Carine & Derek

    So well said! Apart from the obvious fact that people think it is dangerous for a woman to travel alone, I think a big part of it is that people are just afraid of things they donโ€™t know or have never tried… I think of couchsurfing (donโ€™t know if you have heard of it) but my husband and I have done it many times and always have a great experience. But when we tell people about us couchsurfing, they always think we are going to get murdered!
    People are naturally afraid of the unknown, which makes braving new experiences all the more enjoyable and rewarding in our opinion!

    • thecrookedtrailblog

      Thank you! I agree, people are afraid of the unknown, but the more we do things out of our comfort zone the more that fear breaks down. Keep doing what you’re doing! Hopefully more people will see that you can, indeed, trust strangers without getting murdered.

  • Ellen Hawley

    I met a woman once who was afraid to take public transportation. Some dangers are real. Others, though? We apply a multiplier effect, take our worst imaginings seriously, and mistake TV shows for the real world. Then we lock ourselves in our houses (and are probably terrified there). What a way to live.

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