I am afraid.
I am afraid when I walk from my car to my apartment at night.
I am afraid when it’s dark and I am alone in a grocery store parking lot.
I am afraid when I am home by myself and I hear a strange noise.
I am afraid when I stay in a hotel or hostel by myself.
Why would I ever want to travel alone?
I am an anxious person by nature. No worry is too small for me to ruminate on for hours.
And while my anxiety is something I have been trying to manage through therapy and medication, that doesn’t mean that I don’t still worry. Or that those worries aren’t sometimes completely valid.
To be a woman is to be always on edge. Or, at least, that’s how it has seemed to me for as long as I can remember. And when so many women have been the victims of assault, or know someone who has been, can you really blame us for moving through the world a little uneasily?
So when it comes to traveling to a foreign place by themselves, of course women are going to have some reservations.
Which is why if you Google “safest places for solo female travelers” you will get hundreds of thousands of results.
We read these lists hoping that if we go to a place labeled “safe” we automatically will be. As if there could ever be a 100% guarantee of safety anywhere we go.
When I traveled by myself for the first time last year, safety was one of the many things I worried about. I was going to Spain, and before I left I researched all of the cities I was going to and how safe they were. By all accounts, there wasn’t any place that I was going that was any more dangerous than the place I was coming from.
Not that that stopped me from worrying. But I had to go. There was going to be no staying home in fear. I have always wanted to travel, and I wasn’t going to let my anxiety get in the way any longer.
I ended up being fine, obviously. Aside from getting lost just about every day, nothing out of my nightmares happened to me. For the most part, I felt something close to safe, even at night, or as safe as I am ever capable of feeling when I’m alone.
I’m sure when I travel in the future there will be times when I am afraid. There may be times when I feel unsafe. But I will have to keep traveling.
As Elizabeth Austen aptly writes in her poem, “The Girl Who Goes Alone:”
“The girl who goes alone says with her body
the world is worth the risk.”
I am afraid. But that doesn’t mean I can let it stop me.
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