“Don’t get taken,” everyone from my aunt to my classmates jokingly warned me, referring to the movie released a few years prior. I was a 22 year old female embarking on a solo three-month trek through Europe and Asia. Needless to say, I was not kidnapped and sold. But there are some disadvantages to traveling as a woman.
A man on his bicycle had convinced himself that I was his girlfriend and promptly chased me around Tokyo at six in the morning. I only escaped after jumping a fence and hiding behind a bush. Speaking of which, in Singapore, a man was staring at me one night from behind the bushes as I was eating ice cream outside of a mall. I started walking quickly away and noticed he untangled himself from the shrubbery and was silently trailing me. After gathering my nerve, I turned around and confronted him. Shyly he responded, “You’re really beautiful, can I follow you?”
The main downside is untoward attention. I encountered this in many different formats during my travels. From catcalls, lengthy pick-up attempts, questionable propositions, to an attempted groping by a taxi driver, I have experienced the negative aspects of traveling as a woman. I’m not trying to scare you, but it does exist. But by keeping aware and vigilant, you should encounter minimal problems. The simple solution is to try and find a companion when you’re going out alone. But if you do end up unaccompanied, as I often did, stay on well-lit streets and appear confident as you walk to your destination.
The second negative aspect of traveling as a girl is the perception of women in some countries. Often times, we’re regarded as easier to rob or cheat. Bag snatchings due to a man on a motorbike slashing a purse strap are not uncommon—I have heard personal stories of it happening. With that said, it’s wise to ditch the bag and only keep the bare essentials hidden on your person. If you do need a bag, carry it on the side facing away from the street. Not wearing flashy jewelry is also a smart move. In regards to getting cheated, it unfortunately catches many people off guard while traveling. The best thing to do is to feel out a situation and act accordingly. Don’t ever feel obligated to say yes to anything.
In some countries, a male-dominated society exists. With this cultural perspective, men are considered superior and women have limited rights. There are certain countries where single women are segregated from men. There has been an instance where I sat down at an adjoining empty table and a man with a full plate quickly got up and moved across the room. As a female traveler, it can be frustrating and isolating when you are treated differently or subsequently ignored.
But overall, traveling as a woman is very similar to that as a man. There are even some perks attached. As long as you take care and understand the cultural differences of the countries you visit, you will have a wonderful time. Travel on!