Sonja Anneli Sjogren asks the age old question of whether it is safe for women to travel alone, even in this age of equality and social empowerment through technology and social media.
As travel becomes more accessible and increasingly commonplace, it seems as if safety has become one of our smallest concerns.
We may have begun to various destinations where the threat of terrorism has grown higher, but in general, it could be argued that safety is not of major concern when booking a trip.
Rather than not going, people seem to prepare by telling themselves to take care of their belongings and not to move alone, especially at night.
The internet, of course, has been a great tool for letting loved ones know where we are. But is it enough?
Two Argentinian women, Marina Menegazzo and María José Coni, were killed in Ecuador last February while they were on their holidays.
The murders were not really reported in the Western press and the surrounding circumstances seem to be a bit of a blur.
Following these tragic deaths, the women of Latin America have taken to Twitter and shared their travel stories with the #yoviajosola. Yo viajo sola is Spanish for ‘I travel alone’.
This violence against women is especially prominent in Latin America, but is not alien to the Western world, or society as a whole.
Women traveling through Northern America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia face greater challenges than their male counterparts, often due to cultural biases.
It is frequently recommended that women do not travel alone because they face the risk of being harassed, mugged, raped or even killed. The harsh truth is that this world is more dangerous for a lone woman than a man.
“There was this one case where I was feeling a bit unsafe with this one guy. He was staying in the same hostel and he was acting a bit threatening. He was really drunk so maybe I felt a bit insecure about the situation. It wasn’t very comfortable,” Heidi Saarinen, a Finnish student who traveled alone to Australia last year said.
She said that, in general, she wasn’t scared, mainly because she traveled to a Western country. “I think it might have been a very different scenario if I went to Middle East or something.”
Aura McMenamin, who is also a student, said that she felt kind of helpless in an unfamiliar and unfriendly neighborhood in Warsaw, where she was followed by a man at night. “I was lost and didn’t know the area very well.”
“It can be a bit scary for a lone female traveler, but I find that in smaller countries it feels a bit safer,” Aura said.
However, there are so many positive things to traveling alone, and the #yoviajosola was also created to celebrate women’s ability to travel the world solo.
Heidi thinks that making new friends is the best part about traveling alone. “After some point you kind of just start talking to people.”
“Traveling alone scary, but it’s really rewarding. The thing is you can do whatever you want. With company you always have to make compromises, but when you’re alone, you can exactly what you want and exactly when you want to,” Heidi added.
“The best part of traveling alone is having to rely on yourself. You don’t have any friends organising things for you or correcting your mistakes. You really have to stay focused and it’s up to you to research a country and get immersed in the culture,” Aura said.
Perhaps with greater knowledge of the challenges facing women in certain cultures, we can help make the world of travel a safer space for the female adventurer.
With the pool of resources available on the internet, the foundations for safe travel are certainly in place, provided people head the warnings of organisations such as the Department of Foreign Affairs and their colour-coded security alerts.
So, in short, check before you travel, and let friends and family know where you are headed at all times. Even if travel is such a wonderfully enriching experience, you can never be too safe.