Feminism | Posted by Ines R on 09/5/2014

On Young Women Traveling Alone

Lima, Peru: more than a stereotype

“Be careful, you’re just a girl!” I heard this phrase far too many times this summer as I prepared to leave for Brazil and Peru. Every Spring Break since I can remember I’ve traveled to Peru, and I’m unfortunately used to people’s stereotypical and prejudiced conceptions of Peruvian culture: I’m pretty sure many of my childhood friends thought that I rode llamas, wore tribal clothing and climbed mountains for the duration of my visits. But this summer, I couldn’t tell if people were skeptical because I was traveling alone as a woman, or if they were just scared of Latin America in general since they saw it as too exotic and dangerous. Regardless, because I am both a woman and Latin American it was doubly offensive.

The issue of stereotypes and prejudice has certainly been addressed before, but it is important to reiterate each individual’s ability to decide whether or not they will promote these judgments  these are the judgements and destructive mentalities that can ultimately influence future generations. There will always be places that will require more precaution when visiting, but one’s gender should not prohibit them from traveling at all. Traveling alone opens new doors and views on the world, can help individuals get in touch with themselves and uncover fears, hopes and dreams. We should encourage women to have these experiences.

And yet, before I traveled alone this summer, I faced numerous snide comments about my safety that undermined the fact that I had obviously done research and was aware of – and prepared for – the risk involved. People assumed (perhaps because I am a young woman) that I needed advice and paternalistic warnings, but the truth is I have been traveling alone for a few years and each journey has been better than the last. This time I was able to stay with my best friend and her wonderful family in Brazil and see a country I don’t know through the eyes of people living there. I was able to be independent in Peru, and saw the country from another perspective and not just that of my family’s from our yearly visits together. These experiences will last me a lifetime, and I think taking that away from someone is like asking them not to grow up.

After coming back from my month-long trip, I went with my mom to our local nail salon. The manager, though he is normally incredibly kind, was one of those people who questioned whether it was wise for me, a young woman, to travel to “risky places.” As soon as I walked through the door he shouted, “You’re alive! You made it out! It was a reaction more applicable to the return of someone coming back from war, not an intelligent, independent person returning from a summer of traveling.

I wish the manager, and any other closed-minded thinkers, would educate themselves before imposing their thoughts and/or judgments on others. I hope people will encourage their nieces, daughters, or other young women in your life who hope to travel. Sexist ideology or cultural ignorance should not sway young women from a potentially life changing, independent experience.

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  • Kerry @ at 1:58 pm, September 5th, 2014

    These attitudes will surely change, but it takes time seemingly. I am looking to travel as a travel writer. Always looking for tips on how someone with both visual impairment and being a woman.can travel successfully.

  • Chloe H. @ at 10:43 pm, September 5th, 2014

    I agree! When I went to Guatemala by myself last year, I encountered several people who were shocked that I would go there and even more shocked that I was going alone as a teenaged girl.

  • Sharonda @ at 1:22 pm, September 15th, 2014

    I feel like women should feel comfortable traveling alone. I dont think that its fair to say that its not save for a woman to travel by herself unless shes with someone. I feel like it shouldn’t matter where the location is,women should be able to go wherever they want and not be afraid.

  • Irene mt @ at 1:34 pm, September 25th, 2014

    I can really relate to what the author is saying. I want to go to college somewhere that’s not close to CA because I want to travel and not stick to one place. Everyone in my family think I’m crazy because I would be alone with no one to take care of me. My mom keeps telling me to apply somewhere close to home and keeps putting ideas in my head that make me scared of leaving home. I shouldn’t have to be afraid of being independent but my family acts like I need someone with me in order to stay out of danger. There have been times when I doubt myself. I am currently taking a women studies class and it just makes me realize that I don’t need anyone to feel safe.

  • Anon @ at 1:26 pm, September 26th, 2014

    I feel women should be able to walk around and not have to worry about someone doing something to them such as harrass them or rape them etc people need to just learn to mind themselves sometimes.

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