Women are getting totally wild these days. Some of them are making their own plans, cavorting about sans chaperone (clutch your pearls!), and generally holding it together. Here are some topics to avoid if you want to keep the crazy traveling ladies in your life happy.
Talk about all the romantic action we’ll be missing on the road.
Yes, sorry I missed an awkward blind date at Applebee’s with your coworker’s socially challenged nephew — I was too busy enjoying a sunrise guitar jam session on the steps of the British Museum with my hot piece of the moment, Claude (terrible name on a great everything else). Claude was from Australia, worked in the London hostel where I was staying, and wanted to be a pilot; I was living in Germany and used to fly trick planes with one of my professors. That instant connection, fueled by the intersection of interesting life experiences and washed down with several pints, made for a much better time than your average Match.com date.
The dating downsides of traveling are more than balanced by their upsides: You broaden the types of people you encounter, meet interesting fellow adventurers, and develop your own independent personality, all of which make for a more fulfilling relationship in the long run. And if you meet the love of your life, you’ll figure it out.
Assume we don’t have friends.
Traveling with a friend or romantic partner can be an awesome and relationship-solidifying experience, but traveling alone is rewarding in different ways. Mainly:
#1: You can do whatever the fuck you want. If you feel like speed walking a 15-mile self-designed tour of Berlin, you can do it without your boyfriend sulking and dragging his feet. If you decide the next day that you’re going to sleep in until 2pm, go for it — no one’s there to judge you. When your fellow hostel tenants invite you out for a beer, you can say “yes” or “no” based on what you want to do without consulting your friend who just got dumped and wants to have “girl time” tonight so she can endlessly bitch about how “Jason never cleaned the bathroom but she misses him soooo muuuuch.”
#2: You also have complete responsibility for taking care of your own shit. If you’re on a train to Cologne that gets rerouted midway and you wind up getting unceremoniously dumped on a platform in Frankfurt at 11pm, you need to figure out how to get your ass to Cologne. If you get arrested in Prague because you didn’t pay your subway fare, tough titties. You have to make decisions in an unfamiliar place, and you need to learn how to adapt without the assistance of others. This is an invaluable life skill.
Tell us we need to find a man to travel with.
From my experience in the US, women implicitly aren’t trusted as decision-makers and leaders. We still haven’t had a female president, and over 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are men. We are infantilized, raised to be people-pleasers who defer to parents, boyfriends, and husbands for the final say in many things.
I guess it’s not that surprising that this attitude also permeates the stereotype of a woman traveling on her own — she might break a nail and subsequently melt down in the big, terrifying world. We all need to get over this and start trusting women to handle themselves.
Treat us like “accidents” (read: rapes, murders) waiting to happen.
This is fucked on so many levels.
First, there’s the victim blaming, which applies to sexual assault anywhere. When a guy gets robbed at gunpoint, how often does he hear, “Well what did you expect, running around flashing that fancy watch? Everyone knows you give money away all the time, so what’s the difference? I bet you even enjoyed it a little. And why were you out so late by yourself? Were you drunk?” The idea that women should never leave home alone or need to wear the equivalent of a full-body sweater to make sure not to offend anyone places responsibility on the wrong shoulders. Rape is not a natural disaster — it’s a crime perpetrated by human beings who should be held responsible for their behavior.
Second, your sweet lecture about our destination’s myriad dangers is also some patronizing bullshit. I’ve been planning this trip for months, but I’m sure someone who’s never been within 500 miles of this country knows all about it, right? Because ladies are ditzy, defenseless airheads who can’t make coherent plans.
Finally, this idea that wherever we’re coming from is some pristine beacon of safety is also nonsense. The world is a dangerous place in general, and women are aware of this. We do appreciate your concern, but please trust that we’re reasonable adults and will take appropriate measures to minimize our risks.
Wring your hands over the lack of beauty / feminine hygiene products abroad.
Just because we’re women doesn’t mean our top priority is to look good. If we want to do hair and makeup on the road, we’ll figure it out. If we don’t want to lug a bunch of extra crap around, going au naturale shouldn’t be any less acceptable than it is for men every day. The average woman spends over 3,000 hours in her life primping. That is fucking ridiculous.
Also, there are tampons almost everywhere, and if not, there are other options — women get their periods in every country, and it shouldn’t be a barrier to travel (see this article detailing some alternatives).
Give well-meaning but useless self-defense gifts.
When I was getting ready to leave for Ethiopia, my uncle very thoughtfully invited me to go shopping for a Camelbak hydration pack with him, since I’d be camping in the desert. Sweet! I thought — I get to bond with my ex-military badass pilot uncle over mutual adventures. Unfortunately, the afternoon somehow devolved into a rant about how I needed a desert camouflage pack to make sure those crazy, violent Africans didn’t decide to spontaneously use me for target practice. I wasn’t entering a war zone — I was working in a national park. I persisted, got the blue pack, and somehow managed to return home in one piece.
My parents, on the other hand, got me an awesome journal that I filled cover-to-cover, and my brother got me an extremely useful buck knife. These were great tools that both proved to be super helpful in very different ways during my trip, and having the positive (instead of fear-based) support of my family helped me feel prepared before and during my trip.