Gender Bias in Solo Travel
Men and women equally enjoy travelling. But when it comes to solo travel, women dominate this space (65% v.s. 35%*). This does not mean it is any easier for women to embark on an independent journey – there are actually lots of bias around solo female travellers.
The Magical cure
We are familiar with “travelling to heal and find myself” stereotypes from famous films/books like “Eat Pray Love” and “Under Tuscan Sun”. The popularity of them have made many think travelling is the magic cure: “I feel a bit lost” “oh, you should go travel and it will all be fine”. While escaping from the familiar daily routines do bring inspirations and broaden your perspectives, if you are not mentally prepared to be honest with yourself, step out of your comfort zone and be open-minded and receptive (away or back at home), you are likely to return to the old problems after a trip.
Pity from others
When we travel alone, it is because we have big problems in our life. This makes many people automatically feel sorry for us. We are so familiar with the pity glances of others – some kind ones will even invite you to join and talk about our problems.
The truth is that many of us do it precisely because we want the time and space to ourselves. While having a conversation over food is great, many just want to quietness and absorb in ourselves when we want to. We are thankful for the ones who offer their helps. But we also ask you to not to put any label on us.
Single and lonely
“She’s by herself because she has no one, poor girl.” – this is another label people often putting on us. We often hear people telling us how brave we are, but they would still feel pity that we choose travelling alone over with someone. Firstly, a large percentage of solo female travellers are not single. We can be in a relationship, married, even with kids. What’s more, even if we are single and alone, it does not mean we are lonely. It means we are mature enough to enjoy our own company.
Irresponsible and easy
How many of solo female travellers have heard comments like “do it when you can, cause we you are married/once you have kids…”. Being a wife or a mom does not change our individuality, and travelling alone does not make us irresponsible. In fact, we are more responsible to our lives as we accept the fact that we need time for ourselves and truly take care of ourselves.
In places where women have very defined roles, this prejudice from locals are much stronger. While local women feel sorry for us, local men may think we are a carefree and everything-goes woman. Some men will assume we are easy and see us as easy targets for “fun” just because we don’t have a partner by our side.
Open to sexual encounters
One of the worst problems solo female traveller have is harassment from men. Many of us are happily married or in a committed relationship, and even if some are single, it does not mean they are interested in sexual encounters.
The harassment can be so bad so some women decide to wear a wedding band and pretend to be married. Sometimes this works, but sometimes not – some men just do not believe women in a happy relationship can be travel by herself, as see married women as opportunities for casual sex.
Vulnerable and in need of a buddy
Before I got married, I hid all of my solo travels from her, as she sees the outside world too dangerous for a young woman and I could not take care of myself: as far as she knew, I’d always go with some mysteries friend, and I’d send her photos of me and friends I met along the way to keep her mind set. Now married, she now thinks wherever I go, I finally got my husband to take care of me.
Maybe as women alone on the road, we are more vulnerable. But the world is full of kind people, and we are smart and strong enough to avoid danger and face challenges along the way without the need of any buddy.
In some cultures, being a woman means you have limitations. I was denied entry to Dubai as I was under 30 and single; I was approached by man who thought I was prostitute in hotel lobby in Abu Dhabi; I could not get into a temple where women were not allowed in Thailand; I had to go fully dressed into the sea when I was in a private beach in Indonesia… Every culture is different and we do respect and follow the local traditions when we can, but this sometimes do limit what we can do when we travel.
Travelling solo is truly liberating. Women who decide to embark on this journey are because of all different reasons and comes in all different backgrounds. We just want to explore and experience the world our own way and would like others to see us like individuals without any labels.
Solocal Travel is building a platform for women, to empower them to explore, learn and grow via travelling. Our iOS app is currently available in London. We welcome any feedback to help us involve and grow to serve you better.