Tonight I read this heartbreaking story about Argentinian backpackers, Maria Coni and Marina Menegazzo, who were killed while traveling in Ecuador. (Seriously, give it a read)
And while there was no doubt an outpouring of grief for the friends, aged 22 and 21, from those who loved them, there was also victim blaming.
“Questions started being asked as to why the duo were travelling “solo”, although they were actually together. Including from a prominent Argentine psychiatrist who was criticised after questioning “why the women took a risk”, but who later claimed he hadn’t meant to blame the victims,” the story says.
Fuck that. Seriously.
Women should not be shamed for travelling solo and they most definitely should not be shamed for being the victims of any kind of attack at the hands of another.
I travel alone.
I have travelled through multiple airports, cities and countries by myself; London, Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Hong Kong, Singapore, Greece, Rome, Madrid, Naples, Croatia.
I caught planes, trains and automobiles. I made friends in restaurants, went for drinks in after-hours bars with locals and walked home, winding through cobble stone streets as the sun rose over a city that wasn’t my own.
I stayed in the homes of people who were friends of friends. And I sure don’t regret waking up next to a handsome guy in an apartment in Florence.
I’ve been called a ‘lone wolf’ and questioned about why I don’t wait for someone to come on holidays with me.
And I have gotten drunk. Very, very drunk. One night in London I ended up being taken home (to my home) by an off duty police officer who found me almost passed out at a bus stop and had to deal with about 10 unscheduled stops so I could try to throw up.
It wasn’t my finest moment, but that is what travelling is about; it’s not just about ticking things off the bucket list (and god knows I love a bucket list), it’s about getting out there and living, in whatever capacity you choose.
Travelling, especially those times I was alone, gave me more than I can ever articulate. When I moved to London, I was a little lost; not physically lost, I’m surprisingly handy with a map, but emotionally. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life or where I wanted it to go.
It opened my eyes to how different the world can be from the ‘world’ I grew up in and I had to overcome challenges I hadn’t expected; from having my appendix out in London to dealing with lost luggage on my very first trip without my family.
I went on adventures that were outside my comfort zone; from climbing to the top of bell towers to white water rafting in Austria and four-wheel driving through sand dunes in Dubai.
And I made amazing friends; people scattered across the world who I know would be up for a drink and a catch up if we ever end up in the same place at the same time. We shared laughter, photos, food, drinks, dance floors and new experiences.
But what if I had been attacked on one of those trips?
Would it have been my fault had I been assaulted or killed by one of the people I stayed with? Someone I’d met along the way? A random guy I walked past in the street?
Would I have deserved it because I had worn short shorts, a low-cut top or my bikini? Because I had been drinking and dancing? Because I was travelling alone?
Maria and Marina weren’t travelling alone, they were friends travelling together and I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve gone somewhere with one girlfriend; night buses we caught, parks we walked through in the dark too caught up in our conversation to notice what was going on around us, late night take aways we stopped and messed around in while waiting for food.
So why do I take the ‘risk’ and travel alone?
Because there is a huge (and often wonderful) world out there and I want to see it.
Because it gives me confidence and helps me find out who I am and what I’m made of.
Because I don’t want to wait until I have a friend or a partner to come with me.
Because I–and every woman, young or old–shouldn’t be afraid to travel for fear we will be attacked.
I’m a girl and I travel alone … because I can.
For the record, I also think men should be able to travel safely without being attacked or killed, like Australians Dean Lucas and Adam Coleman who were killed while on a surfing trip in Mexico last year.
My thoughts are with their families and also the families of Maria Coni and Marina Menegazzo.
Have you travelled alone? Did you feel safe?