When I talk about my travels, a few questions come up over and over again.
People want to know how I afford to travel the world. They ask if I ever get lonely. They’re interested in the ins and outs of traveling with a dog. And, since I’m a woman traveling alone, they want to know if I feel safe.
Honestly, I usually brush the question off because, for me, safety has always been the least of my fears. Not because I don’t care about my safety, but because I have always been more afraid of failure, loneliness, and living a life that doesn’t matter.
And so, while I always try to be savvy and take care of myself, my biggest fears weren’t for my physical well-being.
Of course, that’s not true for everyone. And since I get asked about safety an awful lot, I thought I’d talk about it today.
So, as a woman traveling the world alone—walking the shoreline of Mexico, renting studio apartments in Paris, hiking the Alps with just my little dog for company—do I feel safe?
I feel just as safe, if not safer, when I’m traveling than I did while I was staying put.
Because the media reports the most sensational or shocking stories, we tend to believe that there are a lot of bad things happening in the world.
It’s that same phenomena that makes us believe that teen pregnancy is up if we know a pregnant teenager or that preachers are scamming people because we saw it happen at a local church. We tend to think that if we heard about it, it must be pretty common.
Really, though, the opposite is true. If the news is reporting a story about that pastor who stole millions or that beautiful blonde American girl who disappeared mysteriously in the Bahamas, it’s precisely because that story is mind-blowing, unexpected, and unusual.
And so danger while traveling seems so much more common than it really is.
In fact, in my own very extensive travels (which have taken me to every continent except Antarctica at least once), I have never once been assaulted, scammed, or found myself in a very dangerous situation. And only once have I been pick-pocketed…and that was while I was traveling with a friend.
Have I been hit on by creepy guys? Yep. But that also happened to me in the states. Have I passed people on the street who made me uncomfortable? Yes. But that happened to me far more often during my time in San Diego than anywhere in Europe.
So, do I feel safe while traveling alone as a woman, even in places like Mexico or Eastern Europe? Absolutely.
But that’s not the end of the discussion. Because I think there’s something even more important to note:
Even if travel did feel a little more dangerous, even if I am taking a risk, I would still absolutely and unequivocally choose a life of travel.
Because the truth is that something could happen to any of us at any time. They say texting while driving kills 6,000 people in the U.S. every year. Vending machines crush about 10 people a year (so, seriously, stop shaking that thing when it breaks). And, according to the CDC, 450 people die each year just falling out of bed. [Sources.]
When I was about 17, a boy I had met while traveling in Asia and who I had been exchanging infatuated emails with for about a year died in a car crash. Too early. Too young. Doing nothing more dangerous than riding home with some friends.
And that’s the thing, isn’t it?
We’re all going to die someday.
We all risk injury in our day-to-day lives (think of those vending machines).
And, if that’s the case, I’d rather my risks be beautiful, breathtaking ones. I’d rather paraglide past waterfalls, hike narrow trails that lead to 7,000-foot views, and walk home at midnight through the quiet streets of a new city because I’ve been out dancing to a Cuban salsa band in a beachfront bar.
Really, we’re all living risky lives. We’ve just become used to the risks of driving, eating fast food, and drinking. And the risks of solo female travel seem more pronounced simply because they are more sensational.
And so I close my answer with a wish (or several).
I wish for you adventure. I wish for you the wonder of arriving somewhere utterly new and of making your own way. I wish you breathtaking, beautiful risks instead of everyday, ordinary ones.
And for myself, I wish—and choose—the same.
Are you a solo female traveler? Do you ever get scared?
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