Why Are Women Afraid to Travel Alone?

Traveling is not just an idle pastime, it is a life-altering experience that forever changes the way you look at the world. Or as the wise men say: To travel is to live! In fact, the adventurous joy of travels and its importance in our lives has been well documented since time immemorial. Don’t believe me? How about going back in time to the late Roman Empire, where Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) astutely remarked: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

Women Travel in India

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What’s more? Researchers today are busy documenting the numerous health benefits that traveling provides, especially when it comes to solo traveling for women. In fact, a study done last year revealed how (solo) travel can help rewire the brain and improve overall cardiovascular health of women (that alone should provide much impetus to travel solo for women…sadly it doesn’t!). In that study, experts found that women who took solo vacations regularly had less heart attacks or coronary death risks as compared to women who teamed up to travel.

According to a subsequent study by the Australian professor, Constanza Bianchi (of Queensland University of Technology’s Business School) — which surveyed an intimate sample of 24 female participants who had recently indulged in solo travel for an average vacation time of nine days — revealed that solo travelling offered participants the chance of self-discovery through reflection. It further led to “personal feelings of freedom, relaxation and discovery.” Remember the hit Julia Roberts movie, Eat Pray Love, which was based on the travel memoirs of American author Elizabeth Gilbert, who traveled the world and discovered herself.

Why then — despite these numerous health and psychological benefits (and these benefits don’t end when the vacation does) — are women afraid to travel alone? Well, the most obvious reason is, of course, women fearing for their ‘safety’. In fact, this feeling is perfectly encapsulated in the words of Gavin de Becker — the security specialist and bestselling author, who once observed: “It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different — men and women live in different worlds… at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them; while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”

While that observation — even though it comes from a security specialist — may sound needlessly harsh to some, but the sad truth is that socialisation has taught women (since childhood) that venturing out alone is a clarion call for the beasts who roam the Indian streets. This narrative, in fact, shadows the Indian woman ever since she starts to crawl and walk. Thus, they are led to believe that the world is a big bad wolf that forever lies in wait for a little lone time with the naive Little Red Riding Hood. It, therefore, isn’t surprising to see that women do not like venturing out alone. Forget solo vacations, you will rarely find an Indian woman alone (without her “humanoid” security blanket), whether it is a crammed pub or a bustling theatre.

“Oh, it’s so dangerous [proclaims the media],” says Amanda Williams, a travel blogger. “But the truth is, when you go out there you realise the world is a lot less scary than movies and TV and news outlets would lead us to believe”.

In fact, solo travel for women isn’t as scary as it is made out to be. All you really need to do — as a woman — is to take the necessary precautions. But isn’t that true even for solo male travellers out there? Especially if you remember the words of C. J. Roberts, the author of Captive in the Dark, who said, “people often believed they were safer in the light, thinking monsters only came out at night. But safety — like light — is a facade.” After all, studies show that most women face violence (whether physical or sexual) in the safety and sanctuary of their homes. In fact, truth be told — there is only one way to escape that violence…get out of your homes (and discover yourself in the process). And trust me, the perils of solo travel will pale in comparison to the perils of staying at home. Thus, to sum up, let me leave you with the words of the visually-impaired albeit a daunting woman, Helen Keller: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”


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