“You Went Alone?” “Yes.” “REALLY?!” “Yes!”

Part 1 of a series of uncommon answers to common backpacker/ round the world questions

Solo traveler in Mostar, Bosnia- get used to asking someone to take the picture for you!

If I’m going to start going through all the questions people ask me about my travels, this is far and away the most common thing people are amazed by.  Lots of people travel solo long term and lots of travelers are women, but putting the two together?  It’s just not done by many, which is interesting because more women travel than men in the first place (just usually with a girlfriend, spouse, etc) and plenty travel alone for shorter stints.

Now to be fair I did meet a fair share of friends and family along the way, and wasn’t doing the rest of my time solo because of a huge urge to be antisocial or anything.  I did in fact invite more than a few people to come a-traveling but no one took me up on the offer for a myriad of reasons.  But what was I supposed to do, not go because no one else could come?  That would have made an awesome story for the grandkids someday!

The reason so few women travel solo is because it’s not considered safe- sounds obvious, but when I did a survey of my male counterparts they all pretty much agreed their questions focus more on the “don’t you get lonely?” angle than the safety one.  Which is a rather odd perception when you start to think about it- if you think it’s perfectly fine for me to live and wander alone in Cleveland like I do now then what’s the issue with the rest of the world?  An American city is far more dangerous than most places a traveler will ever go in the rest of the world, and I’m not in the habit of wandering down dark strange alleys at 2am.  Theft, by far the most common crime travelers experience, usually stems from a moment of opportunity that has next to nothing to do with gender- in fact the one time someone stole some money from me I was in a group of women, and someone from the group stole it!

Harassment is another thing people often worry about, particularly in some countries, though honestly most was from touts who just harass everybody anyway.  Unsavory comments can always be minimized by learning how the local girls dress and following through, but honestly the few I got anyway were so uneventful I’m having trouble remembering them.  In short, nothing I didn’t get used to being the only girl in my physics classes!  I never even had to make up a story about a fake boyfriend and I think the “fake wedding band” advice is a legend akin to that of Americans sewing Canadian flags on their backpacks as I never met anyone who did this (ie pretty darn rare).

Friends made in Queenstown, New Zealand on my first solo trip!

So if you’re a lady looking for an adventure and can round up your friends that’s cool, have a good time and send me a postcard!, but if not that shouldn’t mean the end of the journey.  The world isn’t half as scary as we make it out to be and you’ll meet a lot of awesome people you never would have otherwise, and your future grandkids will be glad they’re not subject to yarns that start out “and then a new Netflix DVD came in the mail…”

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