“Are you nuts?”
“It’s dangerous for women to be traveling alone.”
“Why are you not with your husband?”
“What you’re doing is stupid.”
“Why would you want to travel alone – and with a baby at that?
“No right-minded person does what you do.”
|Just the two of us. Sisiman, Mariveles, Bataan.|
These are the usual responses elicited by bystanders, restaurant servers, jeepney barkers, ticket booth operators – virtually people of all stripes – when Lia and I go out on Sundates. Often, some head shaking or nervous cackling follows, which is rather amusing.
Unless those responses come from people close to me.
Then it feels like an attack on my capacities as a mother and a woman, which is frustrating and saddening. After all, established relationships are supposed to be built on mutual trust and acceptance.
I take it that many of these well-meaning people are just concerned about me and more importantly, my two-year old having to travel on our own in such a “scary world”. As women, we were raised to be hypervigilant since kids and to be fearful of so many things. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t venture far out unsupervised. Don’t stay out till nightfall. Don’t give out confusing signals. Don’t go anywhere unknown.
Scary it is, alright. And I will not deny traveling alone as a female, despite all elaborate preparation, has its perils. It’s a whole different ball game than traveling as a male or with one, beset by its own unique set of rules.
But at the core and core of it, the stigma surrounding independent female travel isn’t really about women traveling unrestrained.
So, what really is the issue?
- Sexist, double-standard culture
|Photo by Sura Nualpradid (freedigitalphotos.net)|
I find this baffling because it’s been proven time and again that women are equipped with better multitasking skills and a keener eye for details than males – two crucial qualities for solo travelers.
Too, as women, our resilience and know-how in taking care of ourselves and our families are more far-reaching than perceived. We managed to take care of business as independent singles. We painstakingly carry children for nine months, go through excruciating labor and act as frontliners in raising kids as effective citizens from their first breath onwards. All, while making sure the house is well-kept, meals are served on time and bills are paid.
So, why do many people still underestimate a woman’s ability to accomplish something as easy as safely crossing the streets or taking care of the kids elsewhere alone? It’s a disservice to the strength, wits and dedication that women put into ensuring their kids’ safety as a priority.
It’s also a shackle on their freedom to revel in the joys of life outside the home, outside anyone’s help. As men need their Friday night beer meetings, women need (and deserve) these time outs too to reconnect with themselves and rediscover the world after being hounded by the kids and household matters 24/7. It’s nothing personal, boys. Stop thinking your girlfriend, your wife or mom doesn’t like hanging around with you.
- Fear of the unknown
Why? Because schools, the road going home, the mall, the workplace – these are familiar places. Familiar associates with safety. But based on this UN statistics, it’s clearly not the case.
Men are likelier to be killed in a public place, women are mainly murdered at home.” – United Nations
So why is it that men are not being cautioned against flying solo? Why is it that only women are called irresponsible, unwise and unsafe for doing so?
Interestingly, majority of female household deaths are caused by suicide or homicide committed by a family member or their partners.
As someone who has fallen victim to several crimes (mostly by people I know), I can attest to this. Often, the enemy isn’t out there on the road, but living within a 50-meter radius from home. Not once in my two-year solo traveling history with my daughter have I experienced being put in dangerous situations by people I meet on the road.
Often the people who say it’s super risky for women to venture out alone (or to a particular destination) actually have NEVER traveled solo nor visited that destination and whose perspectives are influenced by a blanket concept: unknown equates hazardous and must be avoided. Add to that is all the media frenzy on women being brutally murdered, raped, kidnapped and mugged on the road.
See, it’s not about women traveling per se, but rather the thought of women being in unknown situations without supervision.
Recently I went to Candaba Wetlands in Pampanga, and when my husband (who has very conservative views on indie female trips) saw the photos of its secluded farmlands, he immediately thought it as unsafe and that such are dangerous activities. It didn’t help that there was news about an 11-year old who was murdered in Candaba a few days after my visit.
My husband hasn’t been to Candaba, neither has he ventured alone past Metro Manila and Bulacan. Had he read up further, he’ll learn Candaba is among the top two safest places in Pampanga. The crime can’t be disregarded, but there are similar ones occurring elsewhere in the country at a more alarming rate.
In fact, crimes are committed even in Boracay. If I have to skip every town where there’s a recorded crime against women, I won’t be able to go anywhere because it exists even in our turf.
I am not saying it’s totally safe for women to travel solo wherever. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as absolute safety anywhere, not even in near-zero crime rate cities. Sometimes all it takes is a wrong turn in the wrong alley, or a really bad stroke of luck. Truth is, life as a whole is scary and dangerous, especially for women. Period.
Should we then spend our entire lives cooped up, writing off places and dreams altogether?
Like all matters of life, traveling alone requires a proportionate amount of wisdom and travel know-how. You can’t really go places on your own, be naive and expect nothing horrible is going to happen. Violence against women is a real and ongoing threat anywhere.
Instead of it being a hindrance, perhaps we should use it as a motivation to wise up on the road so we can keep ourselves and our children extra safe. Because really, despite all the dangers, solo travels are a super fun, empowering, eye-opening, freeing, humbling and life-changing experience all at once. It’s one that no other journey can compare to.
Keep safe and rock on, ladies. There’s still so much to see.