The uproar last week over Sarai Sierra’s death in Turkey initially had me a bit baffled. But by week’s end I was inspired by what the travel blogging community did to raise awareness of the perils of solo travel for women as well as supporting what many of us already knew, that solo travel is an empowering, amazing path that should not be discouraged by those who don’t know anything about it.
Many of the more than 800 comments that arose from this story on NBCNews.com, initially had me scratching my head:
Many of those comments bashed Sarai for traveling alone:
“Just plain stupid. Never Ever travel alone in a foreign country these days! huge mistake that cost her.”
They attacked her husband for “letting” her travel to Turkey alone:
“I am sorry for her and her children. What man would let his wife do such a stupid thing.”
From: rf tbss
“I would NEVER let my wife do something like this!”
“I would have never let my wife take the trip alone.”
And some noted the irony:
“Women should NOT be travelling alone in dangerous places…, where the residents are heavily armed, and the males are turbo-charged on pornography, and drug abuse is rampant… like, in about 30 American States.”
“Thirty years ago, my sister-in-law from Cairo said that everyone she knew in the Middle East or Europe was afraid to travel to the United States because it is such a violent country.”
And some comments were just plain strange:
“Gee I wonder what that women was doing there???? Well can you spell CIA.”
Initially, reading these really got my back up – but I realized that the comments declaring women should never travel alone (or travel to Turkey) were really just ignorant comments made by people who don’t have a clue, have likely never traveled out of their own state, let alone country, and who probably have strong opinions about other cultures that neither I nor anyone else will ever be able to change.
But, there was also a pretty immediate response to those comments, including this follow up story on NBCNews.com that featured myself and JourneyWoman‘s Evelyn Hannon – both of us advocating that solo travel for women can indeed be safe.
(Fortunately, comments weren’t allowed on that article – I can only imagine the backlash against Evelyn and I if they were.)
But there’s more good news… From the travel blogging community arose a Twitter campaign last week using the hashtag #WeGoSolo – featuring posts about solo travel for women. According to Mariellen Ward, the writer behind Breathe Dream Go and one of a few gals at the forefront of this campaign, “About 20 hours after it launched, #WeGoSolo generated 4.4 million tweet impressions and reached 861,000 people via 1,086 tweets from 474 people.”
That’s a great thing.
If you simply look at the popularity of Wanderlust and Lipstick as well as the proliferation of blogs and websites written by the likes of Evelyn, Janice Waugh (Solo Traveler), AleahÂ Taboclaon (Solitary Wanderer) and the countless other women who are traveling solo but don’t make it a “theme” for their website, such as Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads), you’ll see that we are out there in droves, traveling and OH-MY-GOD living to tell about it.
Even with all this good news, I have to say that I’m also a bit baffled by people who say that there’s a “war on women” right now. (And I admit that some of my real-life and online friends are in this camp.) There’s a perception that we’ve lost ground in the last few years and that we need to make up time and move forward. I respectfully disagree.
Despite the death of Sarai Sierra and also the horrendous gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December, 2012, I believe we have gained tremendous ground in the last few years. The only thing that has changed is our access to information and the immediate response that social media allows us – both in accessing that information (how quickly did we learn that Sarai had been corresponding with a Turkish man she met through Instagram?) and starting movements like #WeGoSolo.
It’s true, women have been and continue to be the targets of domestic violence and are more often than not the victims of theft, violence and rape while traveling. And for many reasons that may never change.
Do we have a long way to go in the U.S. and abroad? Absolutely. But is this a new war? No. It’s the same behavior that’s been in play for
hundreds thousands of years. We’re just more vocal about calling it what it is and we have better platforms to not only express ourselves but to also help spread the word when something like the murder of a traveler takes place in another country.
We should forge ahead supporting one another in our love of travel. It changes us, helps us grow our confidence, allows us creative outlets and opens our minds. We likely will never change the minds of some of the commenters above. But the joke will be on them when, one day, their wives tire of being under someone else’s thumb and she, too, flies off to parts unknown.
Take some time to read through posts by my Sisters of the Traveling Wanderlusters. We’re a strong and proud group and we’re changing the world.
The Truth About Solo Female Travel and Safety
Breathe Dream Go
Why we need the WeGoSolo movement
Top safety tips for women in India (and elsewhere)
A Dangerous Business
Dear Dad: Please Don’t Worry (A Treatise on Solo Female Travel)
Flora The Explorer
Happy, Safe and Solo: Travelling in India by Yourself
Is Female Solo Travel Safe?
Hole In The Donut
She Travels Solo
Katie Going Global
No, It’s Not Stupid to Travel Solo
Lash World Tour
Travel Safety Tips: How to Travel Safely pt 1 – Attitude
Female Solo Travel
5 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone
Solo Travel Safety – this takes you to 31 posts about solo travel safety.
Yes It is Safe to Travel Solo as a Female
Solo Female Travel is NOT the Problem
Woman Smiling on home page – eflon