I’ve been meaning for months to write about my perspectives on travelling, as a woman, ever since I was asked to share my insights for someone’s journal of women’s thoughts on travel. I admit, I was stumped for what to write. This week, I’ve seen several other women weigh in, because of comments left on several newspaper articles about a woman who was murdered while travelling alone in Istanbul. The truth is, my gender doesn’t really have a big impact on my travel plans. I take reasonable precautions when I travel, but I like to think I’m cautious because I’m human, not because I’m female.

Ellen and I did decide we would like to travel together, partly because we’re women and partly because we came up with the idea for this trip twelve years ago on another vacation together. When I was thinking of backing out of the trip (when my wrist was broken and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to save for the trip without a job), Ellen wanted me to come along anyway because of the woman travelling alone issue. Although she would be comfortable travelling alone, she was worried the friends she’d be visiting would try to prevent her continuing her journey alone.

An interesting note on women travelling is that, based on stories I’ve heard, men tend to run into more trouble travelling than women do. Men are more likely to get into fights abroad (as a male acquaintance of mine did in China), or drink too much in a bar and get robbed, while women are conditioned from a young age not to put themselves in those situations. A man I met on this trip was “express kidnapped” and robbed in Nicaragua – he was carrying all his travel funds and electronics on him, walking along the side of a highway, and was chatting with a local as he walked. When the local accepted a ride from a stranger, he hopped in, only to find the two were in cahoots and they pulled a weapon on him. They drove him around for a while, took his valuables, and dropped him off on a dirt road a few miles away. They were thoughtful enough to leave him a few cents for a bus back to his hostel.

The female travellers I’ve spoken to have sometimes been in situations that made them uncomfortable, but they left before anything bad happened. Ellen and I are fairly cautious when we travel, but we don’t let our gender stop us from doing things that interest us. We usually look into a bar before we enter, to check if we’re the only women in the place (in which case we won’t go in). If we’ve been told a particular bus route is dangerous, I carry my knife in my purse just in case. I’ve never had to use it except to cut fruit.

Me, a single female traveller, enjoying a beer in a bar in Pereira, Colombia

Me, a single female traveller, enjoying a beer in a bar in Pereira, Colombia

There is one activity we’d like to participate in but are waiting for male companions for – dancing. I would love to go to a club where people are dancing to salsa and latin beats. I know South Americans are famous for being amazing dancers, and I absolutely want to go dancing, but I hate being a woman in an unfamiliar club. When I was in Korea, after a few times going dancing with only female friends, I realized that I disliked the attention a single white female attracts in a club in Asia. I may find that Latin American clubs are nothing like that, but I’d rather wait until we meet a fun group of guys to check out the dancing scene. That’s more a personal preference than a big gender issue, though.

Overall, I don’t think being a woman has to have a big impact on travelling. The world is a big, open, friendly place, where people who meet you are likely to be curious and happy to see you, rather than threatening. I would encourage anyone curious, male or female, young or old, single or married, to go out and explore the world. Don’t let people tell you not to, and don’t let gender be an issue holding you back.

Ellen and me in Pereira, Colombia, at a local swimming hole

Ellen and me in Pereira, Colombia, at a local swimming hole – as safe here as at home!