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Why we need to stop stigmatizing female solo travel 

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC London chapter.

“It is in all of us to defy expectations, to go into the world and to be brave, and to want, to need, to hunger for adventures. To embrace the chance and risk so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free.” – Mae Chevrette

Solo travelling as a young woman continues to hold a stigma. Despite an exponential increase in the amount of females interested in solo travelling since the COVID pandemic, there still exists a great amount of anxiety around the topic of travelling alone as a woman. A lot of this fear is centered around safety, and the fact that women are more vulnerable to sexual assault. This is fair, as statistics prove that 90% of sexual assault victims are female. However, what´s unfair is how such anxieties have been manipulated to stigmatize female solo travelling. 

As noted in a Goabroad.com blog post, the last thing female travelers want to hear is “You’re going to get yourself killed.”, and not because such a dramatic phrase scares them, but because it suggests women are less capable of looking after themselves in unknown environments without the presence of a protector. While it is important for any traveler to take their health and safety seriously, such phrases play into the larger stigma at work – a stigma that is preventing many women from following their travel dreams. According to the annual Solo Female Travel Trends Survey of 2022, 69% of women who haven’t traveled on their own yet cite the fear of something happening to them as the reason for not doing it. On top of this, the survey also found that 20% of women reported their partners are against them traveling alone, and 8% reported their communities are against it.

So, what does this tell us? Well, that there´s something more than fear is preventing women traveling by themselves, and that is gender norms. Traveling alone builds confidence and strength. It encourages autonomy and independence; so you see why trying to take that away seems misogynistic. Analyzing entrenched gender norms reveals that travelling alone continues to be viewed as inappropriate behavior for women, thus creating a terrible stigma. And for the record, these are the same gender norms which prevent girls from accessing education, healthcare and a prosperous future.

As put by the legendary Amelia Earhart: “I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried.” (see full quote) By 2023, women have gone out and tried more than what Earhart probably ever imagined. But many people are still uncomfortable with this. They still focus on the dangers –which though certainly exist – are misrepresented in the fairytale-like horror stories told to us under the guise of concern.

By stigmatizing female solo travelling, we are hindering a core freedom every woman deserves – the freedom to explore and learn about the world firsthand. So next time your girlfriend tells you she´s planning on travelling the world alone, don´t bombard her with anxiety (embodied in questions like ´won´t you be scared?´ or ´isn´t that unsafe?) Instead, express your excitement at their upcoming adventure. And who knows? maybe you´ll take inspiration and finally book that trip you were always too scared to go on alone!

Helena Lochery

UC London '24

Hi I'm Helena, a History undergrad at UCL in London. Before UCL, I went to school in Portugal where I've spent most of my life. I love travelling, reading, creative writing and yoga. This year I was elected as Vice President for UCL HerCampus society.