“You’re so brave”- a vaguely feminist rant

When preparing for my trip and informing friends, family, peers, colleagues, general public (not to say that I was announcing it on the street) I was continuously affronted with the responses ‘you’re going ALONE?’ ‘You’re so brave’ ‘what do your parents think?’

My response being simply ‘yes… well…’ with a smile.

It got me thinking… I am not brave. According to the old Google to be brave is to:

  1. be ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
  2. endure or face (unpleasant conditions or behaviour) without showing fear

Neither of which I was. I was incredibly nervous/fearful before leaving and to hear that what I was doing was ‘brave’ simply made the nerves worse and the task bigger.

I’m a 26 year old woman! What about those 18/19 year olds that are out travelling? I keep bumping in to them and thinking Christ I couldn’t have done that aged 18 (mainly due to my lack of organisational skills). Granted they may not be alone but if I am ‘brave’ to travel alone at 26 then what on earth does that say about me?

Naturally I had to wonder… is this sexism? If I was male what response would I get from others? Probably ‘Now or never!’ ‘what an opportunity!’ or other encouraging phrases. I bet even those 18/19 year old males who travel alone are greeted with similar phrases.

Potentially women travelling alone may face more risk in foreign countries than males travelling alone, potentially! But… do those (potential) risks make solo travel a bigger or braver task for me than for the males travelling alone?

Once arriving in Vietnam I came to find that all the other women I met were also solo travellers. In fact, initially I was shocked by how many I was meeting. Now I consider it to be the norm. And yet if it is so normal then why are we still considered brave and bringing shock to others?

Later in Thailand I was staying in an all female dorm and had some drinks with the other women in my room. As it turned out we were all solo travellers. We were all 25-30, single women with high power jobs who had recently quit them to go travelling or start something new. A couple were lawyers and one in tv and film. Were we really ‘brave’? Or were we just simply doing something that so many others do and have done?

These women were inspirational to me. We were all in such similar positions and yet each of us from extremely different parts of the world with different languages, cultures and customs. We didn’t ‘need’ each other… and come the next day we went our separate ways again (each with slightly sore heads from the night before).

I asked these women what people had said to them. Sure enough they all responded with the same answer. People were shocked and had considered it strange that they would go alone.

Travel these days does not require courage. It doesn’t even require planning or organisation (I’m the perfect example of that!). Perhaps many years ago people were brave to travel alone with just a book and a map. But now with wifi, 3G, books, hostels and tourist information its really just easy!


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