A clattering sound sang out from the dishes as I swung them over the counter. Settling the precarious pile in my right hand onto the level plain I brought my left hand to bear. The weight of the dishes had my arm muscles taunt as I raced to unload.
For an instant I froze. Twin weights had dropped on my shoulders. The heat of a human touch burned through my skin. Every muscle twitched and a voice shrieked silently in my mind. I rushed to repress it. I’m in a safe place.
“Excuse me Allison,” said a kitchen worker as he snatched a plate from a shelf over my head. He smiled and turned back into the fray of the restaurant kitchen at noon.
It’s unfortunate that I jump at such encounters. I feel like a horse. I’m ready to kick out at anything that appears without an obvious, thundering warning. Not every man means to do me harm—in fact I like to think that most don’t—but I’ve been conditioned to believe the male population is out to get me.
I remember preparing to leave for Thailand. The Canadian government had a booklet of fear under the guise of a “female-friendly approach” to travel. It warned me to be wary, distrustful, unprovocative and “married” (see Coping With Sexual Harassment for that last one).
Now I’m not going to say these warnings are completely unwarranted. This assumed hostility has kept me safe in a number of situations. Some people do have an extra dose of misogyny. One prime example was my experience in Laos.
But it’s also caused me a ton of undue stress. Like somehow feeling like I’m in a dark alley when I’m in a brightly lit, busy kitchen.
So, in consideration of International Women’s Day today, I’d like to do my part by pointing fledging female travellers in the right direction by:
a) Pointing out that I damn well survived my my solo travels and I’ve been known for making country-girl-naïve choices (and being slightly jumpy as you may have noticed).
Heck I grew up in one town. I’d never heard of motorcycle taxis let alone ridden one (which everyone still insists is “super dangerous”—though I don’t think so). I’d never been good with languages (and I’m still not…) but I’ve moseyed through a number of towns completely devoid of my native language. Despite my limits I’ve eyed-down tigers and parrots, slide down waterfalls, set lanterns alight, clamored through a cave, dodged fireworks, biked 142 km on a whim and so much more.
The thing I want most is to be that grandma with a twinkle in her eye and a shit-load of animated stories to share. I think you secretly want to be her too.
The world is my inspiration—as it can be yours.
b) Reminding you that the few shitty moments you may experience are by far out-numbered and outshone by all the good times you’ll find. Our minds have a fantastic way of remember the extra special moments so our journeys come out sparkling like jewels!
*Reread previous posts at The Doorstep Traveller to learn about all the awesome things you can try in Southeast Asia, Canada, Spain, England and Scotland. *cough* that wasn’t self promoting *cough*
c) Introducing you to these awesome women who write about solo travelling!
There are a ton of other women out there with way more experience than me if you need more prodding beyond my eloquent speech (hah) to travel. Here are three of my favourite sources of insight. Happy reading!
Women on the Road
This blog is by a woman of the world named Leyla. She was born in France and grew up in Canada, Spain and the Middle East. A journalist who’s visited 75 countries, she bring all her knowledge and experience to the table. She has posts about all kinds of circumstances, but she’s ever positive and always confident.
Liz is a traveller who was bit by the wander bug at the tender age of sixteen. With about 40 countries under her belt she’s telling women to drop the shield and push out into the world. Here’s her Solo Female Traveller’s Manifesto.
In this post Kate speaks out against the uproar stirred up by the media and commentators around women travelling solo.
This girl from Boston has visited over 50 countries and wants more women to do the same! She created her blog to tackle the lack of female travellers in the USA where she was born.
I hope you’ll absorb the encouragement as equally serious as the warnings while travelling abroad. Places that are dangerous for women are often pretty dangerous for foreign men too.
Seriously, the world is a pretty decent place once you figure out its quirks.