For the last few days I’ve been having an e-mail exchange with Marie Javins, author of the upcoming Africa travel book Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, about how women’s travel literature thrives on this irrational fear that the fairer sex is at so much risk when traveling abroad. Lo and behold, out today is this crazy article on “The best (and worst) destinations for women worldwide.” I love SmarterTravel.com and I think USA Today’s travel section is one of the few newspaper ones that’s still worthwhile. But man does this piece rub me the wrong way.
There are so many things wrong with this whole concept that let’s just mention the main one: women who travel abroad are usually as safe or safer than they would be in their own country. How many women got beat up, raped, or killed in your own country? Now, how many tourists suffer the same fate in the place you’re going? More importantly, how many scared women travelers have even done a Google search to look up this information?
Now let’s talk specifics. The safest place in the world that I have ever seen for women travelers, apart from Japan, is probably Turkey. Men and women will both go out of their way to make sure your travels are comfortable and that you are not seated next to a strange man on a bus or train. Yet in this article, it is listed as one of the worst places. Why? Because “you’re likely to see many women in full hijab, or at the very least covered discreetly by veils, long shirts, and flowing pants.” Yes, but you’ll also see plenty of miniskirts in the cities and hot bathing suits on the coast. Also, there are some women covered head to toe at the farmer’s market where I live in the U.S.–does that mean it’s unsafe in my town?!
Meanwhile, India is listed as a “safe” place for women to travel alone. Are you f%#*ing kidding me?! I’m not saying women shouldn’t travel there, but it’s by far the most hassle-heavy place on earth and if you’re alone, you’ll be lucky to get through your time there without at least a few sexually frustrated men trying to cop a feel.
Actually, that’s probably the best way to choose where to travel as a woman alone. If the men are sexually frustrated, expect to get a lot of hassle. If they’re not, you’re probably okay. So the Middle East is going to be a pain. In Latin America you’ll get suggestive remarks, but nothing more. In most spots on the globe, quit worrying altogether. Unless getting grabbed in the tush one day out of 300 or hearing suggestive remarks in Spanish is going to scar you for life, go see the world!