Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem

Female Solo Travel is Not the Problem

I wasn’t going to write this article because once I get started it’s hard for me to stop, and suddenly I have pages and pages of an angry feminist travel manifesto. Which is not what I’m trying to do today, so I will restrain myself and just offer some opinions on what’s going on in the world today.

Lots of people are talking about the 33-year-old American woman, Sarai Sierra, who was found murdered in Istanbul last week. It’s a very sad situation that’s currently being investigated by both the local authorities and the FBI. At this point, it’s impossible to know what happened and why.

[UPDATE: Sierra was killed by a homeless man who attempted to sexually assault her. Her death was 100% not her fault and something that unfortunately happens on streets everywhere in the world]

Perhaps because there are so few details, the media has zeroed in on the idea of a pretty woman traveling in a foreign country alone. So you see articles telling us women’s solo travel is under scrutiny that contain quotes like “A woman has no business traveling alone,” and “No way I would even let my beautiful wife out the door to travel to any country alone.”

Pause a moment while I try not to rage smash my computer.

I find this infuriating not just because there are human beings who actually think that way in 2013 (I mean, thank god I’m not that guy’s wife- am I right ladies?), but because it’s all totally misdirected. There are a lot of problems evident here, but ladies wandering around unsupervised isn’t one of them.  I will say it again: Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem.

Xenophobia is the Problem

I get asked about safety for women travelers a lot, and it’s not surprising. Movies like Taken (if you don’t know why Taken is an absolutely ridiculous, impossible scenario, I don’t even have time to start to explain it to you), and the news media do a pretty good job of convincing us the world is a really scary place, particularly for women.

The thing is: the world isn’t a scary place. Time and time again, in places like Colombia, China, and Bosnia, I’ve found that the hype about traveling abroad is far scarier than the act of actually doing it. If you have a good head on your shoulders, the world is a pretty safe place. There is nothing inherently dangerous about being outside the United States- something we often seem to forget. Because uh… women are raped and murdered here too- a LOT of them. Washington DC has a higher murder rate than Bogota, but nobody seems worried about me wandering around by myself here.

All Alone in Cambodia - Why Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem
All alone in Cambodia

If this poor woman had been murdered in Chicago or New York City we probably would never have heard about it, because it doesn’t play on this fear of the unknown.

Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem: Double Standards Are the Problem

Who do you think is more likely to be murdered abroad, male travelers or female travelers? I can’t find a statistic, but I’ve asked a few travelers and the consensus seems to be that men are more likely to be killed. After all, men are far more likely than women to be the victims of homicide in general, and men are more prone to getting into fights or other unsafe situations (women are more used to being cautious while traveling.)

So why is nobody cautioning men on the dangers of traveling abroad, or alone? Why was that article above questioning female solo travel and not just solo travel in general?

Not that I’m not saying solo travel is unsafe- I think it can be perfectly safe as long as you are aware and don’t act dumb. And I don’t think the experiences of traveling alone for men and women are identical. I just think it’s incredibly unfair that only women get questioned for doing it.

Violence Against Women is the Problem

But the worst part of all, this debate about solo travel is a distraction from the real issue: a woman was murdered. Why was she murdered? Not just her, what about the four other Turkish women who were killed that same weekend?

When terrible things happen to seemingly innocent people, our minds do a funny thing. We don’t want to believe these things can happen to us, so we immediately try to figure out what that person did wrong. Were they walking alone late at night? Dressed provocatively? Traveling alone in a foreign country? Anything to convince ourselves that this horrid thing was their fault, and couldn’t happen to us.

Sierra may have been a woman traveling alone. But travel isn’t what killed her: a person did it. In the case of the other four women who were murdered: their husbands and boyfriends did it.

It was not female solo travel.  Female solo travel is NOT the problem.

The fact is that more women are beaten, raped and killed in their own homes than traveling anywhere on earth, “According to the United Nations, men are more likely to be murdered in a public place, while women are more likely to be killed at home.”

So I take it back, sometimes the world IS a scary place. We do have a problem, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with travel. Once again, female solo travel is NOT the problem.

What do you think?


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Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem

149 thoughts on “Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem”

  1. I completely agree. As a woman who’s travelled by herself and plans to do so again, I have to say, it isn’t anymore unsafe than being at home (unless the place you’re visiting is disproportionally more unsafe than where you live)… but then you know that and you act accordingly. Like you said, if you’re being smart and paying attention. There’s no reason (under normal circumstances) that it is unsafe for an individual (female or not) to travel alone.

  2. I’m so sick of hearing this sad story linked with solo-female travel.

    On another note, absolutely love the DC vs. Bogota statistic. Couch potatoes need to wake up and get outside their borders and see what the reality on the ground is like. You’ll be very surprised how safe & friendly the world is.

  3. A lot of good points here! In general I believe human psychology asks us to find a reason why something bad happens to someone good… ie. they must have made a mistake, or done something stupid! We want to think “that couldn’t happen to me because of X Y and Z…”

    In this instance people (specifically other American women) want to feel they would never get murdered randomly on the street because they would never travel to Istanbul on their own… they find what’s different in their situation and this girl’s situation and then hope it’s that difference which is keeping them safe!

    …but it’s not of course. It’s just luck, or lack of it, most of the time.

    1. i think it’s not just the women who are looking for the excuse either. I’ve seen a lot of quotes coming from men discouraging female travel as well. It’s just an easier explanation than the hard truth.

  4. I agree with you. It’s not the women travelers’ faults if something happens, it’s always the criminal. It’s the same old blaming the victim. And yes, the US isn’t so much safer than other countries.
    That said, personally I have a good head on my shoulders and I still find the world scary for women. This isn’t Xenophobia, because I worry about it everywhere – worry about the day someone crawls through my window, worry about being harassed, etc. Worry about walking home alone. This comes from being in scary situations, not a belief that women can’t or shouldn’t be by themselves. I thought about how cool it would be to drive across country, and then instantly began to worry about my safety and how I would do it. However, I don’t EVER judge victims of crimes. Where were they? etc. It makes me angry that they’re focused on her being a “pretty woman” alone. Not-attractive women are also victims of crimes. The whole thing is bs.
    Great post!! I completely agree with you.

    1. Yes! It’s so idiotic to say a pretty woman shouldn’t be alone, like less attractive women aren’t the victims of crimes or even exist.

      Those comments in the original story make me want to slap someone. I didn’t have a single issue in Dublin by myself, and even though I wasn’t traveling alone in Istanbul, it felt very safe. I’m more likely to get attacked in several parts of Boston if I’m not aware of my surroundings. But no one says “don’t go to Allston”.

      The xenophobia and sexism is so frustrating and infuriating. If she had been a woman of color in say, Chicago, there’d be almost no coverage. It’s the added “privilege” of being white and pretty that makes the news cover it, like Natalie Holloway.

      Okay, stopping now before I break my laptop.

  5. This is music to my ears. You have so eloquently put that this is a mixture of xenophobia and ignorance, as well as a fair dash of outdated paternalism. It’s a way of getting us distracted from the real problem – violence against women in the home. Thanks for a really good read.

  6. Well said and explained… Travel is therapeutic regardless if gender or age… and true as it is that there are some common sense precautions to avoid acting dumbly – but these do not vary as much from what we would do in our home countries…

    1. Deborah Fortuna

      I’m 65 years old and just returned to the USA after a 4 month trip. I traveled through Southeast Asia and it was wonderful. I used the same precautions that I practice at home. I can’t wait to go again. My family for the most part don’t say too much. I’m single and have taken a trip abroad almost every year since I’ve been 30 years old. They voice their disapproval by silence. To all you ladies out there, just go. You’re going to be surprised by the friendliness of other people. I can’t wait until I can travel again. I’m hoping the Seychelles Islands, with a side trip to Kenya.

  7. “I’ve found that the hype about traveling abroad is far scarier than the act of actually doing it.” You’re absolutely right and I often think it’s safer travelling solo as a woman than it would be as a man. (http://seecolombia.travel/blog/2013/01/travel-colombia-why-women-should-travel-alone/)

    If you’re aware of your surroundings and know how to avoid trouble (regardless of what country you’re in), who’s to say being a solo woman traveller is really any different from just a single woman in their home town?

    Thanks for your insight, always an interesting read.

  8. Well said!

    First of all, whoever said “No way I would even let my beautiful wife out the door to travel to any country alone.” should be smacked. I’ve personally heard statements just like this about my traveling from ignorant men and women alike. I am my own person and make my own decisions.

    Second, this is a very sad story. But as you said, had this happened in Chicago or NYC, we probably never would have heard a peep about it. Afterall, people are murdered in the US all the time.

    This was just as likely to happen going to the grocery store or to work as it was traveling. There are bad people in the world and sometimes bad stuff just happens. Not traveling is NOT the answer nor the problem.

    Whew! I guess I had opinions too.

  9. I’m fascinated that people think that there is “A PROBLEM”. And somehow associate it with solo female travelers.

    I’m much more reluctant to travel in NYC than Istanbul as a solo male traveler, and I can’t imagine that gender influences that too much.

    *LIFE* is dangerous. You need to be aware all the time, no matter where you are.

  10. I think it is amazing (not really) how the media has blown this story up. It is terrible that she was killed but that is not a reason to say that women should not travel solo. Bad things can happen anywhere. There is no place that is perfectly safe. As long as travelers pay attention to their surrounds and what they are doing then the likelihood of something bad happening is slim.

  11. I have interviewed travel safety experts that provide intel to huge corporations on the safety of executives traveling and they say that is not really a “are men safer than women” or vice versa, but it is about how safe is the region as a whole and how smart is the travel. Have an unsafe region and/or a traveler without common sense, well there might be problems. Have a safe region with a smart traveler – the problems diminish exponentially, but of course there will always be tragic situations regardless of area safety and/or preparedness.

    Personally I think there is a huge case to be made for solo women travelers being safer than most travelers. I am almost 6 feet tall, have blonde hair and fair skin – I stick out in many places I travel and I can feel myself being watched a lot. I don’t look at it as a threat – I look at it as if I have lots of people watching out for me. For the most part I think a lot of countries have zero idea of what to do with a single female traveler and they just kind of steer clear and I think on the whole the vast, vast, vast majority of the world just wants to go about their business, get their daily things done, perhaps interact with people they find interesting and call it a day.

    Great post!

  12. Thanks for this message. I usually travel by myself and everything goes fine, if, like you said, I have a good head on my shoulders. Last year, I managed to prance around Bogota and Quito (although I did go there to see my friends, but I was usually by myself in the daytime) and everything went fine. Come to think of it, I have felt more unsafe in some parts of the cities in which I lived (Toronto, Vancouver, London) than the ones I travelled to.

    1. Hi Karin,
      My Mom traveled for yrs w/my Dad (he passed away 7 yrs ago). She has continued traveling but solo. She is planning on going to Quito in Feb 2016. She is 93 yrs old, My concern is the elevation. She is not into walking. Her joy (passion) is traveling & meeting ppl from other countries.
      Since you’ve been, if you could shed some light I would truly appreciate it!
      Thank you Thank you Thank you!!

      1. Hi Patti, Personally I had issues with the elevation in Quito but it’s different for everyone (I also have issues in the Colorado Rockies). I would just suggest your mom clear it with her doctor first.

  13. It’s like trying to blame guns for a death instead of the person who pulled the trigger. There will always be crazies in this world that murder. Big media is doing what it does best! And I will continue to travel solo!

  14. I remember when those three backpackers were in prison in Iran and the comments had nothing to do with the two men of the group, they all centered on the one female. All the comments were along the lines of: “What WOMAN in her right mind would want to travel to Iran?”

    I’m sorry, but what about her male companions. If we live in such a sexist society, shouldn’t we be blasting the men that *obviously* brain washed this poor, innocent doe to travel with them to Iran by force.

    Why cant women want adventure independent from a man’s protection? And why can we as a society not accept that a tragedy is a tragedy and leave it at that.

  15. GREAT post. I’ll never forget when I was planning my first big trip abroad alone – to Australia, a place FAR safer than the US – an older lady I work with told me I was going to be kidnapped.

    I think people who make these comments are in need of justification for taking the safe road. It’s much easier to criticize others than to come to grips with our own shortcomings.

  16. Adam @ PergiDulu

    I don’t even think you need a sensible head on your shoulders to stay safe. I don’t even think it’s about staying safe. There aren’t people lining to do harm to travellers as they wander the globe which I guess is probably the perception of people who have never left their country.

    We travel. Some people die. There’s no link between the two.

  17. A British male backpacker was killed in Thailand on New Year’s Eve while partying with his mates. I don’t remember the media calling for young 20-something guys to stop travelling to Asia with their friends.

    The world is an unsafe place no matter who or where you are – although of course it’s worse in some areas than others. There is just as much of a risk of me getting injured or killed in a car accident in Australia than there is of something happening while I’m travelling around the world by myself.

    Great post – hopefully the messages gets through to some women who may be listening to the unjustified “don’t travel alone” messages.

  18. I disagree… I am a male who has travelled most of the world for the past 6 years, including most of asia. Unforunately, I have encounted problems from police corruption to other travellers in night clubs after a few too many local beers.
    The problem is men, and unfortunately they try take advantage of girls especially if they are alone. I think women should definately travel but preferably in groups of friends or with a male companion… Just my opinion and experience.
    I am from South Africa and definately dont recommend a girl to travel here by herself but i do recommend to travel here.

    1. Unfortunately men take advantage of women everywhere in the world. Again, it’s not a travel problem, it’s a culture of violence problem. As a woman, I’m just as likely to be assaulted in my own hometown.
      I’ve never been to South Africa but I’ve met several women who’ve traveled there alone without problem.

  19. I totally agree – I hate when I hear colleagues or friends talking about why the idea of traveling makes them so nervous and uncomfortable. I can’t even tell you how many times the movie Brokedown Palace comes up! Great article.

  20. I remember when the movie ‘Taken’ first came out and Liam Neeson was doing an interview and mentioned parents were coming up to him and saying something to the context of: “I think you did so great in the movie thanks for doing now I know better and will NEVER let my daughter travel on her own. Then Neeson responded, “No, no don’t do that. Its very important for people to travel and be exposed to other cultures.” And was like YES so glad he said that, but what else can one expect from a sophisticated guy like him anyway.

  21. AMEN. You know I agree with you 100%.

    I’m glad you brought up the xenophobia bit, too. I didn’t mention it in my own post on the subject, but that plays into this instance a lot, too. I can’t tell you how angry I was getting reading comments from people condemning the entire country of Turkey.

    It was especially hit home from me last night, when I was talking to one of my good friends here in Ohio, who is an exchange student — from Istanbul. It actually really pissed me off to listen to him describe some of the incredibly ignorant things people have been asking him this week because of this story. People baffle me.

    1. Yes! I couldn’t believe how many people were talking about Turkey in those articles as if it were Iran or Afghanistan in terms of female rights and safety, and the Taliban were supposedly lurking around every corner. Turkey is a secular democracy! Yes, many of the people are Muslim, but not all, and anyway, it’s not exactly like all Muslims want to kill Americans (saying that is like equating the Westboro Church with all Americans or Christians).

      Also, I’ve never been to Turkey but I travel by myself about 95% of the time and have been to countries in Europe and Asia alone. Out of all the places I’ve been, I’ve felt more safe traveling in all of them than I would walking around a big city in the US like Chicago or Atlanta, at night.

      1. I actually lived and traveled in Turkey for 6 years as a solo female and encountered fewer problems there (and much more care, kindness, hospitality) than back in Canada. I lived in Istanbul for 4 of those years and would say I felt safer there than in many parts of Vancouver, especially at night.

  22. I lived in Buenos Aires for almost 2 years all by myself. People constantly scolded me for walking around alone. You know what NOTHING EVER HAPPENED. You are so right about people wanting to believe that the victims did something wrong. Travel, solo or not, has nothing to do with this issue.

  23. Great post. This needed to be said. It’s not about female solo travel at all–and I know some women who are more adventurous in their solo travels than I am. Solo travel in general can be risky if you’re not careful. There’s just as much danger walking around any city in the world. But no one should give up on the enjoyment of traveling the world.

  24. I knew I could count on you to write something on the subject! I don’t travel alone as often as I would like, but there are times when I actually feel safer being by myself.

    “I’ve found that the hype about traveling abroad is far scarier than the act of actually doing it.” I couldn’t agree with you more! I can’t tell you the horrible things we hear from people when we tell them about our future trips to countries considered “dangerous” by the mainstream media. If we listened to all of them I’m sure we’d never leave the house.

  25. Thank you so much for writing this. Solo travel is an amazing thing, for females or males. It irritates the cr*p out of me that so much fear is instilled into people, especially women, about traveling overseas or traveling alone. I can’t remember ever feeling unsafe while traveling solo, only that I met amazing people and had amazing experiences along the way. Who knows why this women was killed, we might never know, but it does NOT mean women are crazy to travel solo. That article you referred to with the comments from men saying they’d never let their wife travel by herself made me so angry. Some people’s thinking is still so backwards, it baffles me. You’re right, travel is not the problem.

  26. Thank you so much for writing this post! As a woman who has traveled alone before (with plans to do so again in the future), I really see no inherent danger in doing solo trips just because I am a female. It is advisable for both men and woman to be smart and cautious both on the road and at home and it is just so UNTRUE that women traveling alone is always unsafe or a bad idea. Some of my favorite trips have been trips that I have taken by myself and I would never trade these experiences for anything because I learned so much about myself and what I want to get out of traveling.

  27. Thank you for saying what has been going through my head that I have been unable to put into words!

    The way I see it we (as females, or males, wanting to travel) have two choices: we can live in fear based on select stories filtered to us by the media, or we can find ways to minimize the risks of what we fear and go see for ourselves.

    It’s so true that the larger issue here is violence toward women in general. Before I get on my feminist soapbox, I just want to thank you for putting this out there and (hopefully) helping people to think about this in a larger context.

    – (An appreciative reader.)

  28. Thank You. Victim-blaming is not the answer. I’ve travelled solo throughout western Europe and North America and I have no plans to stop. In fact I would love to visit other parts of the world on my own! And while there are places I might not want to visit on my own for personal reasons, I would never dream of telling another person they shouldn’t go there. I’ve had amazing experiences and not-so-good ones both at home and abroad. Things can happen anywhere.

  29. Well said. I know I’m not a women, but am happy y’all are all talking about it because this is just outrageous. It just reminds me how much I hate the media, because they turn everything into making sure people continue to live in fear of the unknown when in reality the unknown is much safer than home.

  30. Why must we blame the victim? It is a discussion that has been had a lot recently in Australia, after a high profile murder and far too many people saying the victim “shouldn’t have walked home alone from the pub late at night”. The other classic example is girls who were “asking for it” because of tight clothing, short skirts and low cut tops.

    They, like this lady, DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG! It is perfectly reasonable to expect a safe passage home, or to be able to travel the world, and think you are going to get back in one piece.

    Don’t hate the victim, hate the sickos that rape, that torture, that kill, that prey, all for their own twisted benefit

  31. I’m fromTurkey and sincerly thank you. i belive that your opinions are exactly true.Because media is doing everything bigger with lying but it isn’t true.according to the records She was chatting with a turk man and then met and and then police men found her body.So she wanted,did everyting own her own but world wide or social media discredit everyting.

  32. Well said. I made the mistake of reading through all 800+ comments on the NBC News article about it and worked myself into quite a furor over the ignorant comments.

    I do disagree slightly when you say we wouldn’t hear about the same thing happened in Chicago or NYC. With the murder rate in Chicago skyrocketing last year and at an even faster pace this year, I think a tourist getting killed here would be big news – but for totally different reasons.

    1. I am purposely staying away from those comments because they might give me a rage stroke.

      You may be right about a tourist being murdered- but there are certainly lots of local women being murdered every day and they barely make the news.

  33. Excellent job here – no lengthy manifesto, just the facts. So glad you posted this.

    Interesting to me – i get harassed more often when solo in the US than anywhere else in the world.

  34. Since returning to the States this summer, I’d say that I feel more in danger than I ever did during the entire 6 years that I spent living and traveling solo around Asia. A lot of this has to do with the fact that I do a lot of things here that I would probably never do while traveling — drive, walk through dark parking lots on my own, go running on streets that don’t have sidewalks or street lamps (because I live out in the boonies where those things don’t exist).
    It doesn’t help that I also work on a college campus. I’ve already read two articles about people being shot on college campuses this month, despite the fact that I try not to read the paper. And, yet, no one tells me I shouldn’t go to work. (Although, I kind of wish they would. I could totally use a vacation!).

    1. You know I pretty much agree. I feel more nervous about walking alone at night, even just being alone in my home at night, here.

  35. Thank you! I was utterly disgusted by the comments on articles across the web. I ripped into the commenters at the nbcnews-dot-com article, who were just full of the “woman shouldn’t travel alone” and the even worse “what what she doing meeting a man on a bridge from the internet? must be an affair” BS.

    Haven’t these rubes ever heard of photowalks, of making friends in real life who you first meet in shared online communities, of the famous bridge uniting Europe and Asia? Obviously not.

  36. Thank you for a fantastic post, I agree 100%. And yeah, I too feel so happy I’m not married to that control freak who wouldn’t let his wife out of the door to travel alone, I find his comment a lot scarier than any scary solo travel story.

  37. I had heard about her story but haven’t read much of the details. IMO, this is just another example of the media blowing up a story and skewing the results to make people panic and instill fear. We see this with terrorist attacks on airplanes, every little violent act committed, or any incident abroad. The media wants to make us fear. This is what they are doing here.

    This isn’t to say this stuff doesn’t happen. It does. However, women traveling solor – as you stated – isn’t the issue. It’s a sad story but they are focusing on the wrong issue.

  38. Wow Steph, I read this post when you put it on FB last night, but was too drowsy to make a comment, now I’ve come back in the morning and it’s exploding!

    I agree with what you write here. The media are engaging in fear-mongering, plain and simple. People freaked out when I first came to South Korea, as the media would have you believe that North Korea blowing the country to smithereens is forever imminent, however I feel safer here than I ever did at home in the UK.

  39. Great post! People always fear what they don’t know and don’t understand. That’s a bit annoying at times but posts like these may reduce peoples fears a bit.

    I meet a lot of female solo travelers and to me they all seem to do really fine.
    I too would be much more worried about being in the US than about being in Asia or basically anywhere outside the US 😉

  40. Thank you for writing this. It has really enraged me the way the media is responding to this (though we shouldn’t be surprised!). Keep on keeping on.

  41. As a 60-something who travels alone, (just started my own travel/art blog) I agree that the fundamental problem is violence against women in all its nasty forms – anywhere in the world.

    I am much more concerned about going to countries where women are clearly more vulnerable because of lack of rule of law, cultural beliefs, or religious doctrines that define women as nothing more than chattels. If there is a fundamental undervaluing of females in the country, that can and will affect a solo female. I’ve experienced this even in Italy, in Sorrento, where I witnessed a restaurant owner berating/yelling/bullying a female server – in front of me. I subsequently asked a man who was showing me around the Amalfi Coast if that was acceptable behaviour, and he looked at me as if I was insane, and replied, “Of course!”

    Plus there are the normal issues a traveler faces in a foreign country or city – such as not knowing the most direct routes to a specific location – which means that taxi drivers can take real advantage of you without your knowledge. Recently in Mexico City I was warned by my B&B female host to beware of taxi drivers (licensed or not) – because some were taking solo female riders to bank machines and forcing them to withdraw all their funds from their accounts or credit cards – under threat of physical violence. That’s just not a great way to start your sight seeing. I had taxi drivers rip me off, but no other threats.

    Cheers, Judy

    1. I think part of the importance of travel is seeing the gender dynamics in other countries and how far some places still have to go. I definitely experienced that a lot in South America, which was infuriating at times.

  42. Great post, travel solo, or as a couple is not dangerous, being naive and getting yourself in difficult situations at home or abroad is… And nobody can avoid the crazy person or murderer ifyouhappen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  43. If someone was gonna write this, I’m so damn glad it was you. You said it brilliantly — eloquently. I refused to read many of the comments about this woman from news reports, as I would also fly into a rage. I feel for her family, what they must be going through and to have her be blamed These outdated ideas on what men or women are capable of and that malevolent forces in other countries are at work has to change. Travel, as you said, has never been the problem, but the continued atmosphere of ignorance, projecting (blame-game) and xenophobia IS the problem. I hope posts like yours disspel this crap once and for all (crossing my fingers for it!).

  44. “If this poor woman had been murdered in Chicago or New York City we probably would never have heard about it, because it doesn’t play on this fear of the unknown.”

    So True! Great post.

  45. It makes me SOOOOO mad to see how one woman traveling alone can be twisted so as to deter others from doing so.

    I solo travel a lot and meet up with many guy & girl travelers along the way too – and have never had any real issues (other than the usual stuff I get at home.) Don’t believe me?

    Then meet me and let me explain … http://www.wandermates.com/profileview.php?profileuserid=21 … I promise u, solo travel is fine with all the usual precautions.

  46. “I’ve found that the hype about traveling abroad is far scarier than the act of actually doing it. ”

    This is so true. I am female and only 19 yet I will be travelling alone.

    An older friend I have, Overprotective as he is, is “sure” that I will be slashed, raped, and murdered. Horrible! When I asked him if he has even ever been to South East Asia, he replied no. Go figure!

    I’m sure that as long as I have my wits and street smarts about me, I will be fine.

    I leave on the 19th of March!

    1. Actually SE Asia was one of the place where I felt safest- there is a lot of respect for women there. You still need to be careful, but it’s a very relaxed place.

  47. Wonderfully put and quite true. I have rarely traveled as a non solo female traveler. Situation regardless of your location can get sticky…your best bet is definitely to have your head screwed on straight. Thanks for sharing. Enjoyed the article!

  48. This is a never ending debate, I hate the fact that people are always blaming the women. Like you said, it has never been an issue when men solo travel, but when a news like this pops up, oh it’s her fault for travelling solo. How close minded people are!

  49. Wonderfully written! I appreciate you writing this. Although I do not have the time to read through all the comments, (bc let’s face it that’s where the fun part is) I feel there are MANY details to this story that we do not know of. The media makes a spectacle and we create assumptions. It is sad that people do this…. will not stop me from my travel plans… BRING IT ON WORLD!! 🙂

  50. YES! I’m so sick of the sexist bullying at work here when it is completely unwarranted (not that it EVER is) but more importantly, putting the blame on this innocent woman in an already tragic situation. And thank you for bringing up the fact that you can be victim to violence even in your own hometown, I had a bit of drama trying to relay that message to someone else on my own blog. The problem is the violence, plain and simple.

  51. Sing it, Steph! I too get filled with rage when a terrible crime happens and the kneejerk reaction is to conjecture about what the victim did to bring it on themselves. Unfortunately, bad things happen to people engaged in perfectly reasonable endeavors.

  52. Well said and I totally agree. Your point about being scared and finding a reason it can’t happen to you is so valid. Even when I am watching a scary movie I go through in my mind how my life is not like theirs so it can’t happen to me. For friday the 3th I am not by a lake, for Scream, I am not in a movie theatre or on the phone with a creep..etc. Its the same thing and a very natural resposnse but getting rid of gender stereotyping and realizing that some dangers are real but that fear is not…that it is just an emorion and most typically an emotion gone haywire…those things are what need to change not traveling.

  53. Well written, Steph! I just left Istanbul after 6 weeks of living there with my boyfriend. I wasn’t traveling there solo, but I knew a ton of other young women who were living there and traveling Turkey on their own. Travelers need to practice safety and awareness regardless of their gender, and although the situation with this woman in Istanbul is tragic I would not tell anyone to skip that city or country because of it.

  54. I’ve read an awful lot of posts about this subject in the last week but you’ve really nailed it. There are an awful lot of people in the U.S who are completely ignorant to how dangerous their own cities can be and who fall for the media hype about foreign travel. Really well written, thanks Stephanie

  55. Yes Yes Yes! I couldn’t agree with you more. I had a friend (American) who discouraged me from travelling around Spain with with just one other girl saying it was unsafe. Ridiculous! We Americans (especially) have been fooled by the media into thinking that being locked away in our homes with a man at the door is the only way to stay safe, its really sad how afraid we are.

  56. Thus is such a great article. I’ve had various conversations over the years with people who have been against me our other women traveling alone and have never been able to fully get my point across… Now, I’ll just point them to this!

  57. Great article. I agree, the media invoke fear in women and make us fearful to travel alone, yet they fail to highlight all the crimes that happen right on our door steps. We need to remember when we hear the news that they only show stories that will make the headlines rather than bland ones.

  58. I couldn’t agree more. I think it’s interesting that the media has focused on the fact that she was traveling alone and not the fact that she was meeting up with a complete stranger she had met on the internet. I’m sure this guy seemed safe enough from their interactions, but you just never know until you meet in person. It’s important to travel safe when you’re traveling alone, but it sounds like she might have been too trusting of this new friend.

  59. I agree with you. A woman was recently attacked here in my hometown of San Francisco and I immediately thought, “well she was by herself at 2:30 am” but the point was made afterwards in the news that violence against women needs to stop. A man out by himself in the middle of the night could have easily been attacked as well. I traveled by myself for the first two years ago and I was naturally nervous but I made sure to always be aware and to not put myself in any situations that could be harmful. This story is unfortunate but shouldn’t discourage anyone, whether female or male, or prohibit them from traveling solo.

  60. I know I’m one of many, but yes I completely agree. A woman traveling alone isn’t an inherent danger, no moreso than it would be for a man traveling alone. I’m sad to see that this has become an issue of female solo travel when as you pointed out, we should be focusing on the issue of violence against women.

  61. Fantastic article! I think you’ve touched on a lot of great points. North America is definitely not the be-all-end-all of safety and we need to stop thinking about it like that. I’m so glad that so many female travels are taking a stand and dispelling the myths of solo female travels!

    Kate xo petite-adventures.blogspot.ca

  62. This is probably one of the hardest things to overcome to get my travel adventures started. Unfortunately, it’s not people telling me I’m ruining my career, or my life in general by leaving to travel the world, it’s people concerned that I’m going to get raped, killed, or sold into slavery while travelling solo. I hate this because, after a while, it burrows into your own brain and now half my anxiety about leaving is due to everyone else’s fears! Thank heavens for the internet where I can find examples of amazing women travelers, travelling solo and not suffering fates worse than death!

  63. Life lessons:
    *Travel smart — male or female, in your home country or abroad
    *Bad things sometimes happen to good people— ask the residents of Columbine; Newtown; the London underground in July 2005; NYC on 9/11/01; in Aurora, Colorado; in Japan during the tsunami; in Pompeii; the person whose car was totaled by a drunk driver; and on and on.

  64. I agree with you, solo female travel is not the problem. It seems funny to me how North Americans perceive certain countries as being not safe. I’m from one of the not-so-safe countries. It’s true there were many cities I visited where I felt safer than I feel in my home city, but I don’t think Bucharest is a risk to any solo female traveler who might want to come and visit. Personal safety depends pretty much on behaviour, the more you try to stand out, the higher the risk. Blend in and nobody will notice you. Accidents happen, that’s also true, but they can happen anywhere and to anybody, not to women travelling alone.

  65. What a wonderful read this is! I’ve travelled alone extensively and Istanbul will always be my favorite city. I’m a mature solo female traveller ((67). I did a few RTW trips with my husband over a 15 year period after we retired, and continued to travel on my own when I became a widow a few years ago. The most common comment/question I hear is ” How brave of you! Weren’t you scared?” Of course those are from narrow minded non-travellers who think it is safer here at home.

  66. So great to see all of these rebuttals to those absolutely absurd comments and thanks for writing such a powerful one, Steph! Hopefully any female who was on the fence about traveling alone and then felt more afraid after hearing the recent news, will also see posts like this and the whole #WeGoSolo movement and realize which side makes the most sense! Get out there ladies, the world is beautiful!

  67. I have had countless people tell me I’m stupid or crazy for traveling on my own. In addition to their concerns for my safety, people can’t imagine why someone would want to travel alone. Our culture has an interesting perspective on not only women traveling alone, but solo travel, travel to “exotic” locations, and being alone in general. I blog about my experiences traveling the world, alone, as a woman and I have not found it to be scary nor lonely. Thanks for this incredible post shedding light on a very real issue.

  68. Lets face it women need to travel and if thats alone it has to be done. But a little caution and getting to know the place can go a long way. I suggest if you are going alone, learn the local language, get to know the culture, the people, the location etc.

    1. Well, if I would learn the local language before visiting every country I’ve been to I would now speak 60 languages…I wish I was that smart! But sorry, I’m not. Of course you understand a country better if you speak the language but is it really that necessary?

  69. I recently backpacked through Venezuela alone and it was one of the best trips I’ve taken. I am happy to see so many other solo-female travelers here doing the same fearless things!

    Keep on trekking 🙂

    1. Excellent post, and like many, I’ve thought the same things as I followed this story. I chuckled a bit, because like another commenter, I also read through many of the comments on news articles (d’oh!).

      Anyway, I feel fortunate that for the most part, the friends and family who follow my travels most are pretty open minded, and while at first there were concerns, and still some raised eyebrows along the way regarding some of the strange places I’ve found myself in, I mostly get comments like “Gee Suzanne, that’s awesome. Thanks for showing us the cool photos!”

  70. Great anger management skills! But I felt the burn anyway! when I travel solo I am still a chicken, don’t go out at night, but admire those females that do pursue their dreams, you are all trailblazers, really.
    Also, isn’t that hyper alert awareness that makes travelling solo so awesome? When I am on my own it creates a very awake and alive sensation, not fear, but anticipation, self confidence. That is the essence of my passion for travel in this manner. It strips away the dull deadwood.
    The womens’ death is sad, but to blame the victim is just a cop out. Look to our own messes and do some housecleaning, people.
    But you know, to thine own self, yardage yardage. Those writing here are likely not the ones with the difficulties.

  71. Late to the game, but “We don’t want to believe these things can happen to us, so we immediately try to figure out what that person did wrong” exactly sums up why victim blaming is such a thing. Thanks for totally shedding a new light on that issue!

  72. Well said, and lots of interesting points, especially the one about male solo travellers. Unfortunately, there are some places where it is more risky to travel solo as a woman, or where you cannot feel comfortable, meaning places where there are no single women outside anyway and you would attract attention. I think you are right, women are more careful, and therefore don’t even go to those places.

  73. Fantastic article, while horrendous events like this happens anywhere, the novelties are what make headlines. That’s one of the reasons I don’t like mainstream journalism. It is about “what will be more popular” rather than “what gives an accurate picture of this part of the world.”

  74. I used to fantasize about traveling the world, solo, but after being bullied, shouted at in the streets in my own hometown, and harassed by older adults who mistook me for an ignorant teenager and thought that I shouldn’t be alone(southern U.S. city), I’m too afraid do it. People think I look naive and innocent.

    I’ve been told that I look like Kristen Stewart, so I wouldn’t want foreigners to mistake me for her and harass me for money or sex, thinking I’m a wealthy celebrity.

  75. “I wasn’t going to write this article because once I get started it’s hard for me to stop, and suddenly I have pages and pages of an angryfeminist travel manifesto. Which is not what I’m trying to do today, so I will restrain myself and just offer some opinions on what’s going on in the world today.”

    I love this! We need more articles like this one. As a woman who hitchhiked and vagabonded around the Americas with hardly any money in the 1990’s, I can tell you I heard this sentiment quite often-

    “Oh, but it’s so much more dangerous for a woman to hitchhike”

    And then, after my travels, as I report having no problems during the 4 1/2 years on the road- I hear this crap-

    “Oh, wow, you must really have a guardian angel watching over you”

    Neither is correct and both reflect the erroneous belief that society has trained us to believe- that women shouldn’t travel or be seen.

    It ticks me off as well and I’ve already responded to several hitchhiking blogs- written by men of course- that mention how much more dangerous it is for women to hitchhike. Let me tell you, I can’t even count how many times I heard from male hitchhikers how the driver groped them and have even heard stories of guys having to jump from moving vehicles to avoid the harassment from the driver.

    Just more fear propaganda to keep women at home. There are many women traveling solo these days and fortunately many of them are blogging about their adventures- we need to hear more of these types of positive reinforcements.

  76. Amen. I posted about this too about a week ago after the news of another woman in India who was raped by some men giving her a ride back to her hotel. It’s so important to recognize what the real problem is here and not make the mistake of not traveling because you are a woman–that’s crazy! I can’t imagine a world where only men travel and women stay home because it’s just too dangerous. The world would be missing out on an entire 50% of the global conversation. Silliness.

  77. TRUTH. Hallelujah sister thanks for saying it out-loud so the rest of us have something to link to when we try to drive the same points home. You’re a solo travelin lady I’d like to run into on some of my travels.

    Even though I’m traveling with my boyfriend now, no longer solo, I completely agree with you on every point and think ladies should go ahead and (be smart about it but) travel the world alone or not.

    In fact, the only time a gun’s ever been held to my head, I was in the presence of a male. But that’s a story for another day.

    Thanks for the rant, someone had to go there.

  78. I absolutely agree with you. I just came back form a solo trip to Europe and most people I told I was going on my own thought I was crazy. Very few people thought I would enjoy myself while traveling alone and even I had doubts myself. It was my first time traveling solo and let me tell you, it was THE BEST THING I’VE DONE IN MY LIFE! I met some wonderful people along the way that I know would of probably not met if I would of been traveling with someone. I was able to talk to local people and really learn and absorb the culture because I was exposed to it in every way. I am so glad I did this on my own and can’t wait to do it again soon!

  79. Being a woman traveling alone shouldn’t be a problem. However, in this world that is becoming unsafe, not only for women but for men as well, we should be extra careful while enjoying every moment of the liberating experience of traveling alone. I envy you for being able to do freely what you desire. Kudos for women empowerment 🙂

  80. Thank you for posting this. It’s a message I encounter often as a solo female traveler, and I find it equally as frustrating. I appreciate you addressing the real problem.

  81. Absolutely agree. I travelled solo for 3 months around South America in 2010. I spent a lot of time in Colombia and everyone back home (New Zealand), kept asking me was I scared, isn’t it dangerous…no and no! Maybe years ago yes and yes! Unfortunately the media puts a lot of these negative things out there that ordinary everyday people get sucked into believing. I actually felt a lot safer in Bogota than at home because there are armed police everywhere. I’m afraid if I took notice of everything I read, I would do nothing! I am currently doing my second trip in South America and Central America solo and have no worries again. It is about being smart, as careful as possible and using common sense. If it doesn’t feel right…don’t do it.

  82. Well-said! And thank you for speaking out about it. I am a woman who will be traveling alone abroad on a regular basis in a few years time (and who currently travels alone in the U.S. all the time). I have little fear of that aspect. I fear more the inherent ability for people to form small-minded views of the world at large.

  83. I actually wanted to comment on this a way earlier but I didn’t and then time passed … I live in Istanbul and actually I lived just across the house where Sarai Sierra stayed during her time in Istanbul. I have never met her, but after she disappeared, police was blocking our streets over a week and interviewing us and the media declared my neighborhood as a dangerous and dodgy area. I was really in shock for some weeks. I was scared to leave the house, couldn’t sleep at night.

    Now I don’t live in this area anymore. The area, called Tarlabasi is fairly not the best neighborhood to live in Istanbul. I just moved away from there last month, but fair enough, Sarai Sierra was not killed here in Tarlabasi, she was killed near the old town where all the touristic sightseeing is actually. She just took a wrong street without knowing that many drug addicts hang out there. 🙁

    After they found her, I couldn’t believe how much bad luck this woman had. It was her first trip to Europe, her last day in Istanbul and then.. being at the wrong place at the wrong time had ended her life in a tragically way.

    Stories like this won’t stop me from traveling, but surely I will try to appreciate life more and be more cautious and less naive that I was in the past.

    I didn’t had the strength to write about that earlier.
    Thank you for this post.

  84. go on if its that safe why dont you all buy your daughters a ticket 2 africa for an 18 birthday gift, so she can travel by herself i bet all your friends will think its such a great idea and do the the same…..

    1. I didn’t say everywhere is safe all the time, I said the world is not a scary place that women should be afraid of. I know you’re a troll, but at least read the article you’re trolling.

      And yes, many women do travel solo through Africa just fine. In fact, I don’t think most of Africa even qualifies as one of the sketchier places to travel alone. Please be more nuanced in your trolling next time.


    2. What? are are you serious? Let kids buy their own tickets!! Why spoil the little brats these days who have no appreciation of the value of money?

  85. Sierra went to Sarayburnu in Istanbul, the last palce any local would go to alone or in groups. It is a place where teh worst kind of drug addicts hang out, and no one else. If she got killed, a man would have got killed there, too, in the same situation. Maybe even faster.

  86. It’s good to see somebody talking about this! Being a college student and a girl, all I ever hear is how dangerous it would be to go travel on my own. That includes the United States. I understand that being on the younger end of the spectrum should be taken into consideration because of inexperience, but people automatically warn me about solo travel without knowing anything about my experience level. This is something that has been hammered into me for years and I refuse to believe that I’m somehow incapable of traveling by myself just because I’m a girl. Thanks for the great post, can’t wait to read more!

  87. Here here! Although I can’t say I wouldn’t have some reservations about visiting certain places, usually I am sensible of the fact that ANYTHING can happy ANYWHERE, including in the ‘safety’ of your own home. I’ve walked alone in England in an area that made the back of my neck prickle but where nothing ultimately happened. And I’ve strode confidently in my current home of Japan, one of the so-called Safest Countries in The World, and been grabbed/groped by a stranger (I shook him off so all was well). My thoughts are the same as they were before: we should be mindful, not fearful; man or woman.

  88. This article misses the point. Disregard the media sensationalism and look at it on its face. Women are more likely to be the targets of predatory males. They cannot defend themselves as well as a male and are the focus of a sex crime if one is going to occur. To say the problem is not solo female travel but instead violence against women is as absurd as a drunk driver saying, “the problem is not drunk driving, the problem is other people on the road.” Obviously violence against women is the problem, so in response solo female travel becomes a problem. That includes venturing off in your own country as well. Central Park in NYC is less safe if you’re a solo park-goer just the same. You only defend it because you couldn’t find people who wanted to travel with you and you get sad when people tell you it’s less safe to be alone. Well it is, too bad. I’ve travelled alone before and it was because none of my friends were able to accompany me at the time. But don’t kid yourself, it is always more fun and safe to travel with others especially if you’re a female. Just common sense. Sorry.

    1. I actually think you have your analogy backwards. Saying women traveling is the problem, not violent people, is equivalent to saying people on the road are the problem, not the drunk driving. In both cases it takes the responsibility away from the offenders (murderers/drunk drivers) and puts it on innocent bystanders (unless you actually think women are asking for it by traveling alone, in which case you are a lost cause). If we’re every going to decrease these crimes the focus has to be on preventing these attitudes of violence (drunk driving), not getting people off the road. When someone gets killed by a drunk driver, nobody says “well what did they expect? Roads are dangerous!”

      And I’m actually married now and I still choose to travel alone sometimes. You might not like it but plenty of people find it fun and rewarding.

    2. I am not even going to debate on the main issue with a person who has got the analogy absolutely backward. I would like you and everyone who feels this away to be aware about something. It is true that the first time I went on a solo trip is because I couldn’t get any of my friends to come with me (job, vacation schedule, finances, destination priorities etc simply didn’t match with any of them). However, that during that first solo trip I had such an amazing time that after that I always prefer to travel (unless it is Disney World). While I understand most people might not feel the same way, there are people like us. I am sure you have heard of people who even in general like to have alone time rather than always hanging out with people. I am one of those people and when we are spending substantial amount of our savings to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip we’ll rather do it by ourselves. As for the safety bit, I of course agree with every bit that the author has mentioned. And as someone else mentioned we need to be mindful not fearful. Incidences like this have happened hundreds of time in the US just in the past year alone. Funny thing is, in a place like Canada some people think US is a very unsafe place with all the high crime rates and gun violence. While you never know when the next mentally disturbed person might be out on a rampage, you take the necessary precautions and get on with your life. Same logic applies while travelling, whether solo or not.

  89. I am so glad I stumbled upon this post. I have had the very Reaction of ‘you are so brave’ when I tell people I am solo backpacking next year and travelling the world. I know I am not stupid and I trust my instincts and it frustrates me that people (both who know and don’t know me) think I’m doing something so scary. It is almost offensive. After reading this though I will happily direct them to this blog post. Travelling is not the scary thing, people are, and scary people are unavoidable where ever you go!

  90. You summed up my feelings on the safety of solo female travelers perfectly! I’m so tired of justifying what I’m doing to people who have NEVER left the country. I think I’ll just forward them this post from now on 🙂

  91. Great insights here Steph! I’ve been questioning lately about travelling to India as I’ve heard very mixed reports on females travelling solo. It’s always been so high on the bucket list but all the negative press that’s flying around is turning me off!

    Have you been?


  92. Amazing article, thank you so much for writing this! A lot of these points are the same things I talk to my parents and friends about over and over again when they try to warn me against traveling alone. Or when more traditionally-minded members of my family think I should have a boyfriend with me at home and abroad for protection.

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people that get really concerned about me traveling abroad alone have never really traveled much outside their own country, or have only ventured to a couple of urban centers of the Western world. I can understand why people would be afraid of experiences they haven’t gone through, but I’ve been traveling from a young age, I know how to take basic safety precautions, and have generally found nothing but warm and welcoming people in every corner of the world I have been lucky enough to visit. Like you said, the problem is not traveling alone; the problem is a mixture of ignorance about other countries’ situations, and a trend of blaming people, especially women, for any bad thing that happens to them.

  93. This is an excellent and needed post, so many of the reactions I hear to plans to travel somewhere alone are “but won’t you worry?” No more than I worry about walking through a town here, really; often less.

  94. “… I’ve found that the hype about traveling abroad is far scarier than the act of actually doing it.” Hear, Hear! That’s why websites like yours are so very important. It helps to break down the misconceptions by delivering real world experience.

  95. I’m not afraid to travel solo, although everyone who knows me is so scared for me. Personal safety depends a lot on how you behave and on how much attention you attract. Never be naive and do your best to not expose yourself as a tourist. Try to anticipate one’s wicked intention – keep your mind active and suspicious, that is my approach and no, it doesn’t take away the fun.

  96. Great post! Giant thank you for writing it. I love what you said that you’ve left this topic alone for a while so you didn’t just write an angry rant, I’ve had a post on this topic sitting in my drafts for a while because I was doing the exact same thing!

  97. My first solo trip was at 8, when I traveled 3 hrs by plane to visit relatives. Not super adventurous, I know, but nonetheless. I backpacked for the first time at 18 and have been traveling alone ever since. I now travel with hubby, but am planning a trip with a female friend to Peru… silly silly people and amazing article

  98. I personally feel more endangered in my hometown of DC than practically anywhere I’ve traveled abroad. Travel is certainly not the problem, nor is it the woman’s fault. It’s unfortunate to run into a bad character anywhere, and it’s disheartening to hear the news make ignorant statements to raise controversy.
    Luckily, online communities can support women’s travel when it can’t be found in the media.

  99. Margot Govender

    Thanks, Deborah. I’m 55 and planning to travel to Vancouver, Canada. My family are giving me the silent treatment when i mention my trip. (South Africa)

  100. Media just talks about what they want for public to know . Much of the truth is covered up . Recently a very famous island jn Philippines had 3 people who drowned . It never came in news . Not even a whisper . If it would have come up , people would question safetyand more … Just saying .

    I have been SOLO travelling for years in Asia and Europe… And still travelling …

  101. I absolutely love this! I am travelling solo for my first time to Paris in December and what you have written is so true. Something could happen to me on the street at home, its unfortunate but it’s the way of the world. You cannot hold back your dreams and aspirations out of fear. Use your street smarts and good judgement and a little prayer!

  102. It is a very advantageous post for me. I’ve enjoyed reading the post. It is very supportive and useful information on female solo travel. I would like to visit the post once more its valuable content. There are so many developers working on this part but this is one of the best innovative post ever. Thanks for such post.


  104. Yes, there is no any problem traveling solo as a woman. I love to travel alone and been to 5 countries alone with my bike <3 This experience is far better than traveling with fellows. Thanks for sharing this amazing blog <3

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