The Sisterhood of Traveling Wanderlusters – We Go Solo

by Beth Whitman (February 12th, 2013)

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:

From: PeKo65
“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:

From: Dan-1446557
“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!”

From: PeKo65
“I would have never let my wife take the trip alone.”

And some noted the irony:

From: liam-1161783
“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.”

From: avatarsilverton-2953905
“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:

From: fishman-1985527
“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), Aleah 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.

Adventurous Kate
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)

Commentary on Travelling Safely in India

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

Grrrl Traveler
Is Female Solo Travel Safe?

Hole In The Donut
Traveling Safely

JourneyWoman
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

Travel Safety Tips: How to Travel Safely pt 2 – Education

Legal Nomads
Female Solo Travel

Solitary Wanderer
5 Safety Tips for Women Traveling Alone

Solo Traveler
Solo Travel Safety – this takes you to 31 posts about solo travel safety.

Am I the Pollyanna of Solo Travel?

Travel Yourself
Yes It is Safe to Travel Solo as a Female

Twenty-Something Travel
Solo Female Travel is NOT the Problem

Experiencing the World through a Female Lens

WAVEJourney – Women’s Adventures, Vacations & Experiences!

Travel Tips: Female Solo Travel Safety

Travel Well,

Beth

Related links:
Solo Travel Safety Issues
Getting Over Your Fear of Travel

Photo credit:
Woman Smiling on home page – eflon

18 comments
 
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  • Comments
    1.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 9:24 am, Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com said:

    Thanks for this, Beth. It’s time indeed for us to collectively tell the world that #WeGoSolo and live to tell the tale too. I’m happy to live in this age, when I have the freedom to go and be by myself. There will be dissenting voices, for sure, but at least, despite all those, we still have the opportunity to pursue our dream of solo travel.

    2.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 10:01 am, Larissa said:

    Those that are fearful are likely to always be that way–it’s easier that stepping outside their comfort zones.

    The recent events in Turkey are a reminder (unfortunately a tragic one) that we should exercise our own common sense. And these actions could have happened anywhere with someone naive–even in Everytown, USA or Canada

    Thanks for providing the resources, Beth.

    3.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 10:06 am, Beth Whitman said:

    Aleah – you’re absolutely right. There will always be dissenting voices and we are fortunate enough in our society that we have the freedom to do so (ahem, when our husbands “let” us – HA HA!).

    Larissa – Yes, this murder could have happened (and does happen) in North America. They just aren’t always as sensationalized.

    4.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 12:58 pm, Susan said:

    I – a woman in my fifties – travel alone. I would never allow anyone – male or female – to tell me where or how I should travel. However, as details about this trip begin to emerge, I find it to be less and less a cautionary tale about women in general travelling solo and more a circumstance specific tragedy. Both women and men need to exercise caution and, as the first commenter wrote, common sense when travelling; as should all people whether traveling alone or in groups.

    Enjoy the blog and your thought provoking posts.

    5.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 1:03 pm, Beth Whitman said:

    Indeed, Susan. There are a lot of details we just don’t know about this incident. And to say that women shouldn’t travel alone based on this tragedy is especially unfair.

    6.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 6:47 pm, Kat said:

    Having traveled both solo and in company of others, I have discovered one can be in danger under both situations. I had to not only look out for myself but also my very naive, oblivious travel partner. Traveling solo isn’t the issue. There is a myriad of factors and circumstances that can happen regardless of when, where and whether you are with someone or not.

    We don’t know the details of this tragedy, and unfortunately, media today has the ability to instantaneously air anything and everything and sensationalize what few details are known, adding fuel to the fire.

    Its up to us, the women who do travel solo, to continue to pave the way for the generations around us (yes, I have women my age-late 40′s who are still appalled that I travel solo) behind us and even ahead of us and work to change the perceptions and unfounded fears for “letting” me travel alone.

    7.
    On February 12th, 2013 at 9:05 pm, Val-This Way To Paradise said:

    Yes, let’s not let fear take away our freedom!

    8.
    On February 13th, 2013 at 12:38 am, Cole @ FourJandals.com said:

    Fantastic article and so glad you have all the posts there. We travel as a couple and still get loads of comments about travel safety. Especially when we went to Egypt a year ago even though we were never threatened, felt unsafe, or had any doubts about going. Bring on the safe travel movements like #WeGoSolo!

    9.
    On February 13th, 2013 at 1:54 am, Melissa Adams said:

    Had I never traveled SOLO through Turkey in my 50s, I’d have missed one of the great adventures of my life!

    10.
    On February 13th, 2013 at 6:07 am, Beth Whitman said:

    Kat – thank you for this:

    “Traveling solo isn’t the issue.”

    So true!

    11.
    On February 14th, 2013 at 3:54 pm, Micki said:

    Beth, thank you for this, and for the great roundup of posts on solo travel.

    12.
    On February 15th, 2013 at 6:35 am, Cat of Sunshine and Siestas said:

    When I read your name on another newssite, I was immensely proud to hear you – along with other bloggers I admire – stand up for those of us who wish to travel, to test ourselves and to explore on our own. Kudos!

    13.
    On February 15th, 2013 at 7:00 am, Beth Whitman said:

    Thanks, Cat. There are a lot of us out there traveling solo – glad to hear you’re among our growing community!

    14.
    On February 18th, 2013 at 4:48 am, Linda @EcoTraveller said:

    I honestly think everyone – especially women – should travel solo for at least a little while. After my first solo backpacking trip I felt more empowered than I ever had before. It’s worth doing for so many reasons. So even though I travel with my family now, I’m totally there with you as a champion for solo travelers!

    15.
    On February 18th, 2013 at 10:12 am, Arni said:

    I have recently conquered my fear of traveling solo in a considerably dangerous region that some of my friends and family thought I was crazy to go to but my life has never been the same since. The place I went to was not as crazy as the media led us to believe. As long as we keep ourselves safe and extra careful. Life is never certain anyway. I will do it again.

    16.
    On February 18th, 2013 at 10:30 am, Beth Whitman said:

    Great for you, Arni!!!

    17.
    On February 19th, 2013 at 7:00 pm, Mariellen Ward said:

    Thanks for writing this, Beth, and supporting #WeGoSolo. It’s important that our voices drown out the fear-mongering that keeps some women (and men) shackled to outmoded ideas; and keep them from achieving their travel dreams.

    18.
    On May 20th, 2013 at 6:21 am, Marysia @ My Travel Affairs said:

    I do agree with you Beth. I think those kind of opinions and comments are a lack of bigger understanding. I do travel alone for past 5 years. And not only I have travelled alone in Turkey (3 time and last time about a week ago) but I went on my own to Benin, Brazil, Oman, India or Kazakhstan. Some of my best adventures – lifetime trips I have taken alone. Things happens, and they will always happen, and you never know where and when and who. You are right, it is just a speed and acces to information that had changed.
    And all those patronizing comment are quiet annoying I have to admit! We all know plenty of women who are much better in travelling than many men!

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