I was recently reading my favourite blog, The Vagenda, and they had posted an article about women travelling alone: http://vagendamag.blogspot.ca/2013/01/ovaries-in-transit.html Inevitably, this caused me to reflect a lot upon the topic. So much so that I feel it necessary to respond and contribute.
Travelling alone has never been an issue for me. In fact, it’s never even occurred to me that travelling alone, as a woman, is actually a big deal. At the age of 8 I was put on a plane by myself to go to Israel to visit my half-sister. Ever since, I was desperate to get away and explore, away from the parents, and away from the English. I used to become so elated in these other cultures that upon my return I would cry for days (realistically, it was more like one day), miserable with the fact that I was back at home, stuck with the parents and stuck with the English all over again.
However, on these trips I was never truly alone, there was always someone I knew around to take care of me. I remember on one occasion in Israel, a little older, maybe 14/15, I wanted to visit my friend who lived a bus ride away. But no one would go with me, I had to go alone or not go at all. I was petrified. Somehow I’d have to find the correct bus stop, get on the correct bus, try and speak Hebrew and figure out which stop to get off at. After much pleading and despairing I eventually accepted the fact that I would have to do this and I would do it alone. And I managed it. Of course I did. I overcame the fear of being alone whilst trying to figure out a foreign bus system and being surrounded by others who speak a different language than I. The fear wasn’t of being alone in itself, but simply of how I would get from A to B.
On my travels, I have of course encountered fear, but for me, that fear is a result of worrying about how will I get to point B? What if I miss the bus? What if I get on the wrong bus? What if I get off at the wrong stop? Unusually, I have never been that concerned with safety, which is what the article talks about a lot, and why I was taken by surprise. But, as the article states, as a human being, I have common sense and that’s pretty much all I have ever needed and relied upon as a solo traveller. Of course, there are risks, it is a risk to walk out of your front door in the morning. Some take bigger risks than others. Yet I am constantly surrounded by people who say, don’t go to Glasgow, you’ll get stabbed. Don’t go to Detroit, you’ll get shot. Don’t go to Israel, you’ll get bombed. The excuses are endless, but they are unrealistic. Bad things can happen anywhere. People live, work, eat and sleep. Some people happen to do so in more dangerous places than others, but if you happen to find yourself somewhere you had been advised to avoid, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that most of the people who live there are the most wondrous people of all.
The article then goes on to mention how one woman accepted a lift with a strange man who turned aggressive. It says that it wasn’t stupid because she was a woman, it was stupid, period. I don’t particularly see this as being stupid, she simply put her trust in this man to give her a lift. I believe that it is never stupid to trust someone, especially a stranger. For me, putting faith in people and trusting that they will help me has always worked wonders. What is so wonderful is that you don’t know anything about a stranger, they may have done bad things in the past, they may have mental health problems, they may be feeling completely hopeless in the depths of their despair, but as soon as someone believes in the simple fact that they will help them, people generally reciprocate. I will never forget what happened to a friend of mine who was alone in Glasgow. He found himself being approached by a gang and instead of panicing and running away, thereby encouraging them to act out their role as a gang, he asked them for directions. They helped him, simple as that. It’s amazing how actions can be changed so radically just by another’s belief in that person.
You may call me naive, you may call me lucky, but safety is not a concern of mine. Don’t worry, no matter how badly I want to hitchhike, I’m not going to do it alone. With couchsurfing on the other hand, I can ridesurf to my heart’s content.