On March 25, 2019, The New York Times published the article “Adventurous. Alone. Attacked.” by Megan Specia and Tariro Mzezewa. Specia and Mzezewa analyze the more recent trend of solo female travel and questions of women’s safety aboard.
The article addresses the deaths of Carla Stenfaniak, 36, Louisa Vesterager Jespersen, 24, Maren Ueland, 28, and Grace Millane, 21 (nytimes). All these women died within the past year either alone or with only other female travelers. All were attacked and killed by men in a foreign country.
One case in particular stuck out, Vasilisa Komarova, who in 2016, began a solo motorcycle journey throughout the Americas (nytimes). In 2017, she was in northern Bolivia camping when three men with machetes attacked, raped, and left her for dead (nytimes).
Komarova was able to contact for help but once police arrived they did not help her (nytimes). Only after the British Embassy intervened was Komarova able to get help from an advocate and start a legal battle against her attackers (nytimes).
The attackers were sentenced to a combined sentence of 42 years in jail (nytimes). Even after the attack she is still motorcycle camping, she is still scared but does not women to not travel because of the fear(nytimes).
The first time I read this article, I was a upset by the way that solo female travel was portrayed. I felt the article was trying to scare women into not traveling alone.
However, as time has moved on and I have re-read the article multiple time, I have grown to see why this article needed to be written. Many times people are misinformed about what travel actually is as a female.
I have traveled in groups, with family, with a boyfriend, and alone and in each setting, I have experienced some type of harassment or fear from others because of being women.
A quote by the 2018 New York Times 52 Places Traveler, Jada Yuan, shows how I have felt traveling alone; “Was there ever a time you felt unsafe?” a friend asked me recently. The answer was no, not like I have been in the past, when I escaped attackers in my Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood or on a trip to France; and also, “Always.” (nytimes).
At one point in the article, the authors address the Instagram culture of female travel. Describing the social media trends of solo travel as “Instagram hashtags like #LadiesGoneGlobal, #WeAreTravelGirls and #TheTravelWomen offer millions of photos of women posing on glistening beaches, trekking up mountains and exploring cobblestone streets — a collective and aspirational lure.” (nytimes)
Social media gives people a misinterpreted vision of what female travel is. Yes, there is moments of true freedom, but, there are moments of terror. As many know, social media is used regularly to only show the best parts of someone life and does not reflect the whole picture.
This miss interruption of what female travel is harmful to not only to women who travel alone, but also to the outdoor and travel industry. Since travel and outdoor industry are not addressing these issues and creating a change it makes it easier for the problems to escalate.
Companies that promote women being in the outdoors and traveling should not only address this issues but bring awareness to them through social media. They should create products that can help to create a safer environment for women, such as: inside locks on a tent, small panic buttons or a affordable GPS system.
As time moves on, companies that create products and bring awareness to support solo female travel would be opening their business to a new and lucrative market. Not only would it be a good move for the company financially, it would also help to support women's independence and rights.
For women safety tips on travel: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/26/travel/safety-tips-female-solo-travel.html
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