Updated: Apr 13, 2021
I'm not a woman, that's rather obvious, nor do I pretend to understand what it's like to be one. I'm quite aware of the trials and tribulations that come with being a woman, yet there's a huge difference between knowledge and awareness.
Contrary to many authors out there I will not be attempting to tackle a subject I have zero expertise on and make a fool of myself. What I can do is share with you some realizations I've had by talking with women travelers throughout my life, hoping to shed some light in what I consider to be several issues. One of them very serious. Let us begin.
Hostels and Common Rooms
The beauty of a hostel is always expressed by its common room, that single please were all travelers meet to drink, share ideas, play games, drink more, plan travels, and enjoy a meal. It's the beating heart of a hostel, this is the reason why I named my streaming show "Common Room" it's an indispensable part of traveling.
Once in this magical place I've always had the pleasure to talk to women from varied backgrounds, normally about where they come from and why are they traveling. About half of them are experienced backpackers already preparing for the next trip, the other half are traveling for the first time in hopes to start an adventure and enjoy themselves.
But there're some things I often hear "It's my first trip alone, you know, it's hard to travel alone as a woman", "I finished a difficult relationship and was feeling down on myself, so I decided to take a trip", and the last one being "I lost someone, I decided to travel then".
Let's tackle each independently.
Grief, Loss and Travel
Losing a loved one is not easy. There isn't a way around this, no matter how emotionally strong you might consider yourself. There's a reason why the Five Stages of Grief exist.
I met a woman once, about the age of my mother, on a kayaking trip in Djurasevici. She had just lost her son a couple months ago and was on a journey around the world spreading her son's ashes on different countries, that was her son's last request. "It was my son's last gift, give me the means to go through his death easier", I can't imagine the sheer emotional strength one must need to do this.
In Kotor a met a girl on a Europe trip, after we spent some days hanging out together she told me the original plan was to journey through Europe with her twin sister. She had passed away. Still, she went through their plan alone, and enjoyed every second of it "That's what she would've wanted me to do!". She's definitely one of the strongest human beings I've ever had the pleasure to meet.
There's a phrase we've all heard at least once: you can't outrun your problems, however this isn't a fair comparison for what these women did. The courage it takes to journey into the world with the void in one's self after losing someone you love is immeasurable, I've never met a man that has done the same after going through what these two ladies had to, nor do I want to.
Ending a Relationship and Starting a Trip
Relationships are complicated, there isn't an exact science to them or at least I don't know about one. More often than not we find ourselves at the end of one, and it's hard. Everything reminds us of past times, happy memories, experiences spent together, specially if we stay at the place where we met and lived, it's only logical that travel then becomes a sort of "cure for heartbreak", often it is.
In Berlin a woman told me the story about her ex boyfriend, an emotionally abusive man that drained her of her self-esteem, after three years together she found the courage to leave him and decided to travel across Germany. "I wasn't myself anymore, it was like he owned me and I didn't matter. Just another object in his apartment" she said to me in tears the third day of our stay. I don't presume to be the sole owner of the absolute truth but in this case I don't know if I would like to hear "his side".
After seven years a man decided that he didn't want to marry his girlfriend and dumped her. I met said woman in the Balkans, a gorgeous heart she has, when she told me her story after we had a couple of drinks I was at a loss of words. I understand changing your mind, but never with such lack of empathy, thus she decided to travel and find that self-love for herself.
Lastly a story shared by two women, a divorce that ended with the decision of going on a dream voyage. One to London and the other to Bali. It's not uncommon to think that by the end of a divorce all problems have been solved and it's time to carry on, but emotions do not work like that. Occasionally people need more time and a different setting just to get their heads on straight again. A trip then sounds like just what the doctor ordered.
In this case I've heard about men traveling for this reason too, but never to the same amount of women. I reckon this is because women prefer to face the trauma of a failed relationship head on at some point whilst us men take more of a "bottle it up" approach. It isn't easy to leave behind a life to try to start another, even if that life is a mess of broken pieces.
Traveling Alone as a Woman it's Hard
Until now I have only shared with you stories and opinions, the next part is more complex and exactly what I wanted to arrive at. Why is it hard to travel alone as a woman?
Here's why: there're articles online titled "10 Safest Places to Travel as a Solo Woman" as well as "20 Most Dangerous Destinations to Travel as a Woman". Women traveling alone are three times more likely to be attacked. Certain countries don't allow women to walk on the streets alone. There's a subreddit about many women who have been sexually assaulted using Couchsurfing. A woman is less likely to stay with a male host, she's more likely to contact women travelers in Tripadvisor or Hostelworld to inquire if a place is safe. List goes on.
My goal here is not to fill you with fear, I don't want you to build a negative opinion out of this, but facts are facts and the only way we're going to solve this issue is facing them. The traveling community is an extremely open, tolerant, kindhearted, generous, and understanding one, we can't let this spoil and rot it. Women shouldn't have to fear travel, women shouldn't have to be afraid of the most beautiful activity in the world. Women shouldn't have to be brave to travel. This has to stop!
Women should feel Safe
Women can't travel scared. No one can. Travel should be a solution to fear and hate not something that causes it. Mark Twain said it best: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”.
The only thing that will ever beat hate is love, I've said this many times. As travelers, backpackers, couchsurfers, and hakawatis, we have a responsibility to care for our fellow men and women. It's 2021, there has to be change, and it will come from all of us, together.
To the women that are reading this, that I've met in my travels, that I've hosted, that have traveled with me, I would like to extend my gratitude and love once more. Having you in my life has been one of the greatest pleasures any man could ask for. I am both lucky and happy that our paths cross, may they cross again soon. Let's fight together for a better tomorrow! Muchas gracias.