Why are women less likely to travel alone?
This is a question I’ve been thinking about lately, especially because I didn’t travel alone until later in my life. I know a lot of women who do travel alone; however, even today, women who travel to places that are deemed “less safe” (these places are often just culturally different than home) are considered highly adventurous. On a more concerning level, women like this are often judged for their “selfish” and "irrational" choice to travel, especially when they have a family. Here are some reasons why I think women don’t travel alone, especially women in their 40s to 70s.
As women, most of us were encouraged from a young age to be safe and careful. Times are changing, thank goodness, but when I was a child, boys got to run around, explore, get into trouble, and often injured themselves in the process. Meanwhile, I learned how to help and stay out of trouble (for the most part).
This makes sense… after all, the world is simply more dangerous for girls out on their own, so we need to grow up faster. This can still be said for young girls today. It’s almost as if our girls are raised with an inner safety barometer, and we learn to avoid doing things past a certain level of danger. It keeps us safe, but it also keeps us small.
We learned how to see where there was a need and to fill it, whether that meant helping with dishes and taking care of siblings instead of playing, or simply not being a source of stress or discomfort by acting out of turn. I grew up with the concept that I was to be quiet, respectful, predictable, and kind. Especially as my generation became wives and mothers, many of us naturally fell into place in our “roles”. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I don’t think I’m alone when I say that along the way, I lost a sense of me. Women pick up the responsibility, women serve as anchors to hold the boat steady. Who are we when all is said and done?
When we talk about travelling, it all falls into place. Are you more likely to travel if you’re raised to be independent, adventurous, ambitious, and outgoing? Or if you’re raised to always put others first, to not be a burden, never to ask for too much, to be careful with money and resources (including time), and to avoid putting yourself in any danger (perceived or real)? Many women don’t travel alone because it also feels selfish… what will all the people we support do when we’re gone? Women are acutely aware of the part we play in keeping the picture together. This is why we’re quick to judge other women who follow their own path. In a traditional sense, they’re departing from all the things we're taught are important.
Today, the words “self care” become a rallying cry for women like me. “Self care” has already been stolen by companies pitching beauty products, but in the true meaning of the word, self care means claiming back what’s important to you. This is why I often say that travel is one of the truest forms of self care. It means consciously dedicating time and resources to an experience that is all yours. No one else is there to tell you what you’re supposed to want or supposed to be doing. It is just for you.
After a life of working humdrum jobs and raising my son on my own, arriving in Bali the first time was scary for me. What was I supposed to do here? Did I have it in me to let go and have fun? I was already counting down the days until my departure back into the ordinary. But then the amazing spirit of the place took hold and I found myself dreading the trip home! In some ways, Bali was the first step for me in determining what truly fills me up.
I would love to hear your experiences, and whether my own ring true for you. Do you find that travelling brings out a new side of you? If you haven’t travelled before, what is the biggest thing that stops you?