By Charlotte Discombe
I have always loved travelling: exploring new places, experiencing new cultures and meeting new and wonderful people. For me, travelling on my own heightens my experiences of these new places, cultures and people. That is why I am currently planning a road trip in the USA. It will just be me, on my own, bumping into family and friends along the way. I want space not only to see new things and meet new people, but also have the space to make art. I feel like being alone in a new place with new cultures and people will help me make that art.
However, whenever I plan such lone wolf trips my parents panic:
‘I don’t like you travelling on your own’
‘It’s not safe… Especially at night in a strange country as a woman’
To be fair it is not unusual for parents to be concerned of their child’s welfare and safety. It is human nature and a caring instinct for many parents. But it is that last comment that stabs anger into the back of my head every single time it is mentioned…
…‘As a woman’.
This anger has got me wondering a lot of things…
- If my brother decided to go travelling on his own, would they make similar concerns known to him? Now of course they would worry for his safety, but would they announce that these fears concern his sex, ‘as a man’? Their concerns would not even consider his gender, only that he is out on his own in a new place where they cannot protect him.
- If I had not previously been sexually assaulted whilst on my own in a new place, would they voice their concerns about me as a woman out at night? They probably would. But maybe their worries would not anger me so or make me feel even more vulnerable as a woman, who has already experienced loss of control and power to a man, living in this world.
- This gender bias is not something that is limited to lone wolf travellers exploring the globe. It is not just about being in a new place with new cultures and new people. We must remember that this worry and vulnerability is something many, if not most, women experience when travelling in their own country, town or even their own home.
- This needs to change.
Travelling, and even simply living in your own home, should be safe for all – no matter your race, gender, sexual orientation and so on. Everyone has a right to feel free to move, to not have their paths blocked, and to not let societal expectations and roles define whether someone is too vulnerable or weak to choose to travel as a lone wolf. Everyone has the right to explore new places, experience new cultures and meet new people just as YOU and not as your gender.
I worry that the current state of our unstable world will hinder this possibility.
I know that this is all very idealistic. The world is a far cry from safe for anyone, anywhere at anytime. But we should not see lone wolf travellers as male and therefore inherently strong. Men can be weak and vulnerable too – let them be weak and vulnerable! Furthermore, let those seen as stereotypically vulnerable in society be seen as strong, travelling lone wolves too, even if they are just travelling on their own to their local shops!
Without accepting that women, and those seen as weak, should occupy and travel in space without fearing for their safety then we are letting them be tainted by the so-called vulnerability that society places on genders that aren’t solidly male, masculine or ‘normal’.
I want a time where I do not have to carry a rape safety whistle with me everywhere I go. I want a time where I do not have to pre-plan my route home, where I can wander in new places without constantly checking behind my back. I want a world where travelling on your own as a woman is not seen as a ‘lone travelling wolf, who also happens to be a woman’, but simply just a lone wolf travelling because of their love for places, cultures and people.
I will fight for this. I hope you too will join me in this fight and share your own views on this matter.
The conversation has only just begun…