A woman, travelling….alone? GASP!

By: Andrea Alarcon, Hoi An, Vietnam

Every time I tell someone I’m on a solo journey across Asia, they give me a blank stare. It quickly morphs into either a look of pity, concern and happy to say, sometimes admiration. Yet every time I wonder how their reaction would be if I were a man.

An oil company executive’s Colombian wife, whose husband’s job has taken her all over the world, told me: “Your golden rule is: don’t trust anyone”. So I have to cover my drink and not talk to strangers. She asked me if I had seen the movie Taken. Yes I have. She asked me to watch it again.

I am not naive. I know these things happen, and I know that this earth is full of despicable men waiting to do horrible things to me. But in order to change a world controlled by a need to protect women, and realizing this protection is another form of oppression, we need to start somewhere. The belief that if something happens to me then I brought it upon myself, is again, the old rape-victim dilemma.

Fear of men stands as the justification behind burkas, behind the judgement against women having premarital sex, behind not allowing girls to go to school with boys or letting them out at night. Does this behavior not just perpetuate the cycle?

Andrea traveling in Asia.

Andrea traveling in Asia. Courtesy of the author.

Until now I have stumbled upon quite a few 20-something-year-old women traveling by themselves. Absolutely no Latin Americans, of course. In that respect I am certainly alone. A Dutch girl I met on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and I both kept trying to explain this to a Thai man who sold water purifiers. The issue that we were women didn’t really come up, but just the fact of being alone. Yet I see so many men traveling by themselves and, of course, no one is scared for them. They are strong; they are MEN.

A friend emailed me this article about precautions to take if you are a female foreign correspondent in countries with defined gender roles. I’m not sure there are too many I would adopt. You should take a look though. It’s certainly interesting.

I’m not going to pretend I’m flying into the face of danger. I have not been out at night much, for example, mostly because I know that attracts creepy older men to try to pick me up. Yet this is something I wouldn’t do by myself at home either. The nights I have been out has been with fellow travelers, most of the time females. Not going to lie, the men who creep me out are the European men, not the Asian men. Asian men judge me, but they don’t approach me.

Until now, nothing terribly wrong has happened. The occasional cat call, the belief that I’m more easily scammed… tour guides with innapropriate comments. What I have received the most is judgement, from everyone, women, men… Tuk tuk drivers, guides… I think they expect this crazy independent behavior from European women, not from one as dark as they are.

Even Olay, the Buddhist Monk I met in Chiang Mai, with whom I had one of my most memorable conversations, told me, “I just wish you were not traveling by yourself… You have boyfriend, no? Why not travel with boyfriend.” And I answered: “It’s ok Olay, I don’t need a man to protect me.” My boyfriend certainly agrees.