I have always thought that I would have crossed out my own solo female travel before I hit 30 in my bucket list. I still have two years, though, and maybe it might happen in those years, but I can’t help myself thinking why I didn’t push for it. I mean, if you want something, you’ll go for it, right? In my early 20s, I kept the blame to my strict parents. I remembered thinking that maybe when I get a little older and more responsible, I can skip the sermons and gain their trust. Then I got older, and even though I still wanted to make my parents as my excuse, I knew deep inside that it wasn’t the case anymore.
I’m afraid. Not of feeling alone on a trip but for my safety.
Two years ago, I had booked a round trip flight to Incheon, South Korea, for supposedly my first ever solo 26th birthday trip. I got in on sale (3,000 PHP, ehem, I’m good at times) and was excited about it. But as the travel date approaches, my excitement turns to anxiety and fear. I already had a list of my traveling solo argument points for my mom, yet I was not able to use it because I decided just to cancel the trip.
People around me usually know me as this strong independent woman who can and loves doing things alone. Yet what they didn’t know is that I’m also an over-planner and overthinker that lead me to decide that I’m not willing to take the risks that come with being a solo female traveler.
1. SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL COMES WITH A PRICE
The concept of solo traveling regardless of gender is more expensive than traveling with a group since you’re doing everything with no one to cut the cost with. But let’s be honest here, solo travel is pricier when you’re a girl. I need to invest a big amount of your travel money in good and safe accommodation.
I’m a budget traveler and not a picky lady; I’ve slept on accommodations that only costs P350/night and are far less than a 1-star motel. Inns, motels, Couchsurfing, hostels, and homestays are cheaper for a reason. They’re dirtier and less secured. I don’t mind much the dirty (as long as there are no cockroaches, jizz), but security is a big deal for me.
Can a woman just travel and stay on budget hotels without fearing that someone can break-in on it and be completely be the girl in the movie Taken?
2. OVERCAUTIOUS MAKES FOR A DULL TRAVEL
I’m an observant and cautious girl, for I live in a city where it is a necessity. Manila is technically not one of the safest cities in the world, so I know in my heart that I’m one trained woman in terms of being cautious in the streets. Years back, this scary video in South Korea went viral where a girl was stalked up to her front door in broad daylight in an attempt of rape. This is the situation that I, or every woman, has to fear in becoming a reality, especially in a new place. And as women start to be independent, empowered, and flies solo, these stalking for rape opportunities is also increasing because a solo female traveler, especially those on DIY, is an easy target, right?
But speaking on personal experience, it is hard to be alert when at the same time, you’re busy absorbing beautiful surroundings and culture. Seeing and experiencing a new city or local activities gives a liberating feeling where you usually just get consumed by it. So, I got scared. I’ve traveled enough in the past to know that when on a trip, I was not as cautious as I am back when I’m home. And I can’t go around traveling being paranoid of my surrounding, walking fast in the streets, and scared to meet locals I don’t know. It will just be a waste of everything. I want to be able to travel carefree without even worrying if someone is following me up to my accommodation.
3. And when worst come to worst, it will still be my fault
This is what I most fear of. Maybe, the first two reasons are products of my overthinking and paranoia, but this one I’m sure. When worst comes to worst, and I did get sexually-assaulted, raped, or even killed, the society will still blame me on that.
“Why is she traveling alone? Didn’t she know it isn’t safe? She did this to herself.”
“Is she wearing something decent? She did this to herself.”
“Why did she trust that stranger in the first place? She did this to herself.”
Victim-blaming is an evident toxic trait that this society still has. Imagine the pain that my family and I would need to go through if ever this happened, yet society still felt the need to add salt in the injury. Read this story in 2016, where two female backpackers were killed in Ecuador, and it went viral because people questioned why these girls were traveling solo, without guys. Crazy? It is! The suspects were caught, yet people are condemning these dead girls more on what happened.
The world is scary but is scarier for women.
This is the reality and basically the first reason why girls are scared to travel alone. That’s why every time I saw a friend or a fellow blogger traveling alone, I can’t help but feel proud and inspired by them. I know by the end of the day, solo female travel just needs a bigger faith, a little bravery, and lots of safety precaution research. But what I also think is important is continually raising awareness for women empowerment. With this, we can slowly break the stigma on solo female travel, victim-blaming, and change society’s mindset. And live in a world where a woman can travel alone on her own terms without worrying about her safety.
So if you’re a fellow travel girl who can relate to my fears that prevents me from enjoying myself or maybe have been sexually-assaulted during travel and felt hopeless, I invite you all to share your stories in the campaign #MayKwentoAko. It is a safe space where we, travel girls, can share our stories and experiences to encourage and inspire people to break the stigma on anything a woman unfairly experiences. Read other stories here: http://rh-care.info/maykwentoako.
This #MayKwentoAko campaign is organized by RH Care Info, a non-profit Reproductive Health Information Project by the Philippine Society for Responsible Parenthood, Inc. (PSRP), supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). You can also check out their interactive website aiming to educate and support everyone, old and young alike, about how every individual has the right to make their own choices about their sexual and reproductive health.
I believe that together, we women are stronger. So if you need help and feeling hopeless, you can also reach out to their social media accounts for free!