The Women Traveling Solo Question

1 Posted by - February 6, 2013 - Life

SaraiSierra

Recently, an American woman was found dead in Turkey. Sarai Sierra, a 33 year old New Yorker had traveled to Turkey, alone, and went missing. They just found her body. It’s a sad and tragic event, and while it’s rare, it’s still hits you hard. She’s a mom. I feel for her family and friends who are no doubt questioning if there’s anything they could have done, if they should have convinced her to stay home.

In the aftermath, people have filled up the comment sections with questions along the vein of: “Why did she think it was safe for her to travel alone?”

Travelers have come out to defend solo travel (here and here) but I haven’t heard anyone from the travel community say the obvious thing: the commenters have a point. It’s a good question. We should explain why it’s okay for women to travel solo (and it is) and address those concerns. This is important.

Here’s what some of the commenters on NBC are saying:

  • “A single woman traveling alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish.”
  • “A woman has no business traveling alone.”
  • “No way I would even let my beautiful wife out the door to travel to any country alone.”

If you’re a woman and you’ve traveled alone, you might feel like Stephanie of Twenty-Something Travel who said, “Pause a moment while I try not to rage smash my computer.”

But are the commenters wrong? Yes and no. The big thing we have to acknowledge is that, yes, women are at risk. But not all risk is equal and you might be surprised about the wide gap between the myths and the realities when it comes to violence and travel in general.

Yes, violence against women is real

There is no pretending that women aren’t at risk when it comes to violent crime. It’s not because women are weaker, or we can’t defend ourselves — it’s rarely a measurement of brute strength.

Let’s look at one of the most common violent crimes against women, rape. Most of the time, it’s someone the victim knows. Less than 1/3 of all rapes are committed by strangers. The cliché of a women jogging through Central Park at 5:30 AM only to have a rapist jump out of the bushes and rape her, almost never happens. (Which is not the same as saying it never happens, but we’re talking statistically here). Rapes occurring outdoors account for just 3.6%. Much of the time alcohol is involved (47% for both, 71% at least one), the rapist is someone the woman knows (71% of the time) and they are in someone’s home (66% of the time, with about 40% occurring in the victim’s house). This is the reality.

So the first shift in our thinking is that yes, violent crimes happen against women, but it’s not psycho strangers who are grabbing our young women off the streets, it’s our friends, our boyfriends, our neighbors and our colleagues who are doing this inside of our homes. Violence against women is a problem in our communities, it’s a personal problem, and it’s not about straying far from home, it’s about being safe where we live.

The United States POV

As Americans our view of the relative safety of the world is skewed. We don’t often acknowledge this, but the US can be a dangerous place. Statistically, this is a fact. We have a high gun homicide rate (#16 in the world), high gun violence rate (#9 in the world), and a high rape rate (#11 in the world). 1 in 6 American women have been raped. The world feels scary because we generalize from our experience living in the US.

This is not normal. It’s really high. It’s something we should definitely be talking about and it’s not because women need to take more precautions, it’s that we need to change as a culture.

So while America doesn’t have the highest murder rate in the world (the list of the top twenty is here, you might surprised at how many Caribbean vacation spots are on there like Jamaica, St. Kitts and the Virgin Islands) — but by comparison women are safer in many parts of the world than in the United States.

Violence is personal

We know that rape is often linked to someone you know (2/3 of the time the rapist is known to the victim) but that’s also true of other violent crimes.

The only exception for tourists is crimes of opportunity, mainly petty theft. But here’s what we know: statistically murder rates of tourists are extremely, exceedingly low in every country. Even in countries (like Jamaica) where murder rates are higher than average, the death rate of tourists is still crazy low.

Tourists do die overseas. There are two big killers: drowning and car accidents. Still, those numbers are not abnormally higher than at home, it just goes to show that very few people are being killed overseas. The US Dept of State keeps statistics by country on death rates of Americans abroad. In Turkey, there were two deaths in 2011 (the last full year of statistics). One was a homicide, the other was a vehicle death. In the last 10 years there were just three murders. The woman killed in Turkey was a New Yorker and in 2011 alone NYC had 502 murders. She was statistically less likely to be killed in Turkey than she was if she stayed home in New York.

Anecdotes are poor predictors

When these things happen, everyone trots out the one example they have of someone who was attacked overseas. The only problem is that if we apply that logic to everything, women would never leave the house. Or talk to anyone. Or have any friends. In fact, the only way to keep women completely safe from outliers like this (the logic being, if it happens once, it could happen again) is to avoid nearly everything.

But that’s crazy, right? So we don’t think like that. But travel, that’s a luxury. We don’t need travel. We can live without it. So if we avoid travel that will reduce our risk, right?

No. It actually doesn’t. Just being at home carries a risk. Not traveling doesn’t reduce that risk, because the risk doesn’t compound, you’re either at home or traveling, never both. In fact, you just avoided something that would have swapped a higher risk activity (staying at home) for a lower risk one (traveling).

How to keep women safe

If you’re a women in the United States and you want to take a proactive approach to protecting yourself against violence, here’s my suggestion: strap on a backpack and go see the world. You’ll be safer because:

  • Most rapes happen between people who know each other – 70% of the time (See this full list of Rape Myths)
  • The US has higher violence rates than many other countries (“The United States suffers far more violent deaths than any other wealthy nation [...] according to a report released by two of the nation’s leading health research institutions”)
  • Tourists are rarely the targets of violent crime — when compared to US crime rates (CDC: the leading cause of death overseas is injuries and motor vehicle accidents)
  • While there are isolated, tragic incidents of violence to women overseas, there are dozens, if not hundreds of unpublicized violent acts happening right where you live. The media attention underlines how rare this death in Turkey is, not how common (there have been three Americans murdered in Turkey in the last 10 years). When in doubt, check the easily available stats on the realities of violence at home and overseas.

So the question I have for the commenters on NBC is this: How can you not travel? Don’t you realize how dangerous not traveling is?

 

 

Update: there’s been some comments on the NBC post about the comments, that I think are worth addressing:

  • “No one’s saying that women shouldn’t travel alone. What they’re saying is use common sense and don’t travel alone to Muslim countries.”
  • “If you stubborn women want to risk you life going to disgusting muslim places, then there is no help for you. Why do you really want to travel alone? Any man that lets his wife travel alone to a muslim country is not thinking straight or wants to be rid of her.”
  • “Is Turkey predominately Muslim? Have we been paying-attention? Muslim men do not have a very high opinion of women.., period.”

True? Not when you look at the statistics: The murder rate in the Middle East is lower than North America. In 2008 Turkey had a rape rate of 1.5, in the United States it was 29.8. Even if we assume that rape is largely under reported in Turkey (as it is in many parts of the world) it would have to be 20 times higher to just match the US.  By the way, the three countries with the highest rate of rape are Botswana, Australia and Sweden. Sweden has 3 times the rate of the US and no one is saying, “Don’t go to Sweden”. We can discuss how women are treated in Islamic cultures all day but the fact is that for American tourists visiting Turkey (as mentioned above) the number of murders are exceedingly rare — just three murders in the last ten years.

To the reoccurring theme of people suggesting that someone can “let his wife travel alone” — globally men are murdered much more often than women — perhaps we should be examining whether we let our men go anywhere unattended seeing as they are committing and being victims of all these crimes.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.39.49 PM

 

Update 2: Will you get raped in a Muslim country?

Someone brought up unreported rapes in the Middle East (by Muslim women who are afraid of punishment) which I think is fair. But I wanted to share this stat that relates to how the culture in the Middle East (whether you believe there’s more rape or less) translates to women as travelers to that region.

I just found the stats from the UK on rapes in Turkey (sorry, couldn’t find American stats). There are about 2.5 million UK visitors to Turkey a year and there were just 40 reported cases of sexual assault (including rape) in 2010.

“The majority of these cases occurred during the summer holiday period in coastal tourist areas visited by British nationals in South Western Turkey. Most occurred late at night and most assaults were committed by someone that the victim had met during the evening.”

So two things, first, the rate is low (you’re still more likely to be attacked at home) and second when it does occur, it follows the same pattern — someone the victim knows. Muslim men are not grabbing tourists off the street and raping them.

 

 

 

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ksukel Kayt Sukel

    THANK YOU.

  • Melanie Hamilton

    Those dumb comments really ticked me off….how dare they say those things?? I’ve been traveling alone since the mid 1980s, and prefer it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/almostfearless Almost Fearless

    It really bugs me that the journalists covering this aren’t mentioning how rare these murders are, but are quoting these randoms without anything to balance it out.

    • Sharon H Miro

      It bugs me too..I have never felt afraid when I was traveling…(OK there was that one time when I got lost on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital-but that is another story).
      YES, there are common sense rules you must follow, in any country EVEN THE ONE YOU LIVE IN. Because all the signs are in English doesn’t mean it’s safe.

  • Melanie Hamilton

    Fearmongering….keep us wimmen home where we belong. *-P

  • http://www.dangerous-business.com Amanda

    Awesome post. You made some really great, strong points. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

  • Laura Vaisman

    I commute alone to NYC everyday for the last 5 years. Nothing has happened to me thank god. But if we allow one story like this stop us women or you from traveling then just stay home and bolt your doors. Yes it happens, it’s unfortunate but it happens. Just be aware/alert and have common sense which everyone should have no matter where they are. Abroad or down your own street.

  • Wendy

    THANK YOU. Well said, supported with facts, and generally appreciated by a fellow female (occasionally solo) traveler.

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  • http://kimtalksbooks.com KimGM

    I cannot believe these commentators say such ridiculous things. What’s awful is that–in this day and age–women still have to worry about traveling on their own. I’ve been traveling on my own since 1990. And there have been times when I wished I had someone else with me, but it hasn’t stopped me from preserving my independence and my wanderlust.

    I can only imagine the heartache her family must feel…and then how it must be for them when they hear or read these comments.

    My condolences go out to Sarai Sierra’s family…

  • http://twitter.com/AirTreks/status/299279837774880769/ @AirTreks

    Candid article about the REAL dangers for women and traveling, by @almostfearless: http://t.co/EaB06Lsl #WeGoSolo

  • http://twitter.com/MyLifeTraveling/status/299281179243343872/ @MyLifeTraveling

    “@almostfearless: The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/pI4MerWd” As a Single Woman traveling the Wirld

  • Lindsay Lake

    Great post!

  • http://twitter.com/MyLifeTraveling/status/299281909920460800/ @MyLifeTraveling

    “@almostfearless: The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/pI4MerWd”As a Single MiddleAged Woman traveling World for 3 yrs I hear ya!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/taryn.colless Taryn Colless

    Great article! Traveling solo was the most exhilarating sense of freedom I’ve ever known and I’ll do it again and again throughout my life – the people you meet when you are on your own, the freedom of answering to no one but yourself and the power that comes with making all your own decisions and surviving on your own are all truly unbeatable experiences

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    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/5xfV5hfE via @almostfearless #WeGoSolo

  • Liz

    I agree with your conclusions, and the premise that we take risks daily without thinking.

    I hate to be *that girl*, but there is a flaw in your reasoning. In particular, it is a fallacy to take population statistics (such as homicide rates) and apply them on the individual level (probability of being murdered), you can see a great review of this issue here if you’re interested: http://blog.statwing.com/the-ecological-fallacy/

    Thanks for blogging – I love your photos and stories. They are a great inspiration and reassurance as my husband and I prepare to leave north america and live overseas for the first time.

  • Diana V.Sainz

    Ive been traveling alone for 14 years now,even to destinations like Egypt and Morocco without ANY serious problem whatsover.In fact,quite the contrary,and have no intention to quit.

  • http://twitter.com/RoadTrippinUSA/status/299283358859534338/ @RoadTrippinUSA

    “@AirTreks: Candid article about the REAL dangers for women and traveling, by @almostfearless: http://t.co/YFmnkcwh #WeGoSolo” great article

  • Diana V.Sainz

    And have been to Turkey 3 times already,and find it to be a very safe country.

  • Diana V.Sainz

    But things like that happen.The FBI has taken over the investigation and some not very nice facts are popping out.

  • Stacy L. Carpenter

    A spot on post! Additionally, what I have learned from this tragic situation is that it is not limited to travel. Everything that has been said about this situation has also been told to me about the work I do that puts me out off trail in the deep woods or urban/suburban areas. Yes, like most everyone here I encounter interesting people that require care. Usually they are mentally disturbed or addicted. I travel outside of New England rarely, but find the commentary around her story oddly familiar. The premise isn’t what is done but that it was done alone by a woman and apparently being a woman alone is a scary thing. I’m not sure if others have sensed it/been told (I know the readership here is international and perhaps things are different in different countries), but it is like a American cultural thing where one is taught if they are a woman and “leave the group” ..that something terrible happening is an absolute certainty. Each case like Ms. Sierra’s suddenly becomes a “see, I told you so” fear reinforcement. I’d like to see that end, but it feels like it is slipping backwards further. Perhaps the more people see other women doing things alone, loving it and safe it will curb the current perceptions. Thank you for your good and visible work, Christine!

  • http://twitter.com/CSNewYork/status/299285620700901376/ @CSNewYork

    Terrible things happen everywhere, no matter what precautions you take. Don’t let fear stop you from traveling! http://t.co/ETVOpIc8

  • http://twitter.com/PckYourPassport/status/299286826835931136/ @PckYourPassport

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/f5sAgcuC via @almostfearless

  • Tiffany Turner Fite

    Great article- very well said!

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    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/blPWx5tr

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    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/BIjtLCYE – Data doesn’t lie. Love it. #wegosolo

  • Liz Mehltretter

    A few years ago a plane crashed near me. It crashed into a house and killed a man who was home. He was killed while just hanging out at home. Ever since then I vowed not to let fear keep me home. You can be hurt anywhere. As long as you are smart and a little cautious you are most likely to be fine.

  • http://twitter.com/shellsteak/status/299290292870320128/ @shellsteak

    Fantastic piece on women and solo travel in the wake of the Turkey tragedy (via @travelshus) http://t.co/cxUezvPS

  • http://twitter.com/Cruise_Xperts/status/299290328375123968/ @Cruise_Xperts

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/TzGf0Pno

  • http://twitter.com/takeyourbigtrip/status/299290913090449408/ @takeyourbigtrip

    Very well reasoned post by Almost Fearless about traveling solo and the recent murder in Turkey. “Travelers have… http://t.co/GjoeZftU

  • http://twitter.com/kitwhelan/status/299293617896439809/ @kitwhelan

    Great write up of “The Women Traveling Solo” debacle by @almostfearless: http://t.co/l5EGlI8y

  • Quynh Nguyen

    good that you address this issue

  • http://peaceinatincan.blogspot.com Kiki Dunigan

    Thank you for posting this article! I always travel alone, and in my experience, it has opened up a world of opportunity to meet new people from all walks of life, and generally people are very helpful and friendly, adding to my travel experience. I’m always smart when I am alone, at home or away from it, and just by being aware of my surroundings I can go a long way toward keeping myself safe. I feel safer alone in the wilderness than I do in my own home! This is a great article, showing you take the issue seriously but offering the voice of reason. Very well done!

  • http://www.seeknewtravel.com Kit Whelan

    Great write-up Christine! I’ll admit I was raging just as much as Stephanie yesterday, but I’m so happy you took the time to put facts to the problem. Makes it so much easier to prove those idiotic commenters wrong. :)

    • http://www.almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Stephanie did such a great job with her post, she captured exactly that feeling of frustration over this!

  • Lindsay

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. I know that I personally feel much safer living abroad in some ways than I did while living in the United States. I have no fear of walking home alone at night here in Thailand. That being said, I have no illusions of safety anywhere in the world. Bad things can happen anywhere and at any given time, including in our home countries. We should not live in fear. We must be careful of our surroundings but enjoy our lives. Thanks, again Christine.

  • http://twitter.com/picTheAmericas/status/299303174412570624/ @picTheAmericas

    This is a really good one. #travel http://t.co/sqjmUg0h

  • http://www.popartichoke.com Megg

    Thanks for your real talk here! I’m from Chicago, which is infamous for its crime-rate. I feel like there’s a level of caution women have to take when being alone -anywhere-… and this is just an unfortunate fact. It sucks that it’s this way, but ignoring it will not make it untrue. Plus, isn’t it just as bad if a man dies? Isn’t it just as bad if a father is killed? How come if this kind of tragedy happens to a man, no one asks what business he had travelling alone? That’s the part that troubles me.

  • Coranne Creswell

    Traveled all over world, take precautions just like at home. Generally felt safer out there than in America.

  • http://twitter.com/magictravelblog/status/299310131781443584/ @magictravelblog

    Please read me. This is very well written. http://t.co/DpBKZXqM

  • Tanya Vinci Davis

    Thank you.

  • Iris

    Though I am not as beautiful a this woman. I grew up in urban America and learned to walk/look and dress like a male. While traveling, I look like a hoodlum (China, MX, Argentina, even in USA) and have fit right in. I don’t interact or make eye contact with anybody while out of the country. In addition, when I dress in business attire males have “eyed” the blonde female next to me with the same attire.

  • Trishia Jacobs

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

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    Cc @zedtwins RT @KartuPos: The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/6F8sJrwY. A must-read for female travelers! Via @trinzi2212

  • http://indiantraveljourney.com/ Satu

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, fact-filled post! I’m still raging after reading the comments, especially the one from the man who “would not let his beautiful wife out of the door to travel alone”. Umm, THAT comment is scary. Like you, other bloggers have also mentioned that it is not the fact that women travel that is the problem, it is violence against women that is the problem, and that is a problem in the US and in Europe just like it is in Asia or South America. I think I will write a blog post on this, but I need to calm down a little first.

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  • Kari Sower

    I never know how to take people seriously when they question how safe it is to travel to some of the countries I’ve been to. I usually remind them that I’m from Chicago, so that’s what I’m comparing it to! Thanks for sharing this article.

  • http://twitter.com/princess2802/status/299345340690202625/ @princess2802

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/FcXbqAvX @almostfearless

  • http://www.so-many-places.com Kim

    Thank you, thank you, for getting this all down on paper. Those comments make me so enraged and are probably being made by people that have never traveled themselves.

  • Erica Sales Myers

    this is fabulously written! Well said almost fearless;). my family has suffered tragedy overseas and like you, I continue to feel strongly about travel and the dangers and losses people face when they don’t travel!

  • http://twitter.com/koangirl/status/299355371217240064/ @koangirl

    This. “@legalnomads: “Don’t you realize how dangerous NOT traveling is?” @almostfearless on solo female travel http://t.co/xxyLsU6c”

  • Gina

    Great post until the end – the 1.5% rape rate in Turkey is entirely misleading. Many rapes are not reported, especially out east, where Turkish women who have been raped/sexually abused/harassed could well become the victim of an honor killing if they report it. Istanbul/the Aegean/the Med and the tourist towns in Cappadocia — the parts of Turkey that most travellers visit — are not representative of greater Turkey. I would never tell a woman NOT to go to Turkey, nor would I tell her not to venture off the beaten path into its more conservative areas. But I would tell her to be extra aware of cultural differences and to remember that what goes over in Istanbul will not go over so well in Diyarbakir.
    Statistics don’t always tell the whole story.
    Otherwise — yes women, travel solo!

    • http://www.almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Okay I will clarify that in the post, thanks Gina!

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  • http://www.lettersfromthelarmours.com Kirsty

    Great article – the last set of comments made me so furious – I live in the Middle East – I have to travel solo every time I go to work, return home from dropping my kids at school, go to the super market – I’ve travelled solo to many Muslim and Middle Eastern countries and Turkey would be the least of my worries – in fact my kids and I went there last year with no man to protect us!! Seriously, it’s a tragic situation, but not one for all this hipocracy and biggotry – no amount of travel will broaden the minds of people who think like that

    • http://www.almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      Kirsty, yeah we lived in Beirut for a good portion of last year, which is not the same as Turkey, but still I’m constantly shocked by the open hostility towards Muslims that’s so casually tossed around these days.

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  • http://www.onourownpath.com Bessie

    Write on, lady! I think so many people are naive to the somewhat surprising statistics about how common rape is in America & that it’s often by someone they know, as you point out.

    People are so often surprised that I felt safer in other countries than I do in the US. Of course, I live in the murder hot bed of the US, but living in Asia I felt so much more secure traveling myself than I do in the US. It sure didn’t hurt that there’s a stronger community awareness & far fewer weapons. But most of that you have to travel to learn.

    And the gross generalizations about Muslim nations & cultures are appalling. I hope that at least saying it in a public forum is a step to opening someone’s mind about it.

  • http://Www.wheressharon.com Sharon

    Love this post!! I have traveled extensively alone and rarely had a problem. I hate some if the victim blaming these types of incidents can trigger. There was a murder recently in my home city of a woman walking a couple of blocks home alone from a dinner. It sparked so many people saying how stupid that was that it made me so mad. This type of incident is rare in aus and to say a woman should never leave the house without a male protector is ridiculous. There is always a risk, but you shouldn’t let it stop you living your life.

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  • Ephemera Wilde

    As a solo woman living and traveling in Mexico I find the benefits far outweigh any risks, perceived or real.

  • http://www.EarthItinerant.com Gregory

    Impressively documented and thought out. Jolly good.

    A bright, blonde, young American female friend spent a year traveling around the world, alone. During that time, she reports a single instance she was uncomfortable: On a train in northern India, when a group of men gathered around her and gawked.

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  • Vivian Murray

    Loved the stats you provided to back up the facts of the matter. Traveling solo provides a rich experience and as women so many of us are shedding our fears to move more boldly in this world. Just think, they thought Freya Stark was crazy in the early 20th century, too, and she proved to be a smart and capable intrepid traveler doing what no woman in those days would dare. Ms. Sierra’s death is just a sad reminder that bad things do happen, but that does not mean we cower inside our homes in fear. Thank you for such an informative write-up, Christina.

  • http://www.patriciasands.wordpress.com Patricia Sands

    Bottom line – whether at home or abroad, be aware and make smart decisions.
    There is no better education or more pleasurable way to enjoy life, learn about yourself and others, than to travel.
    Excellent post, Christine!

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  • http://www.ourbigfattraveladventure.com Amy

    Great article – these myths need to be dispelled. The sad fact is that women are at risk from male violence everywhere in the world and what particularly turns my stomach is the victim blaming. Women have every right to walk the streets, wearing whatever they like, alone or with others without threat from male violence. One point though, when you talk about rape rates it’s hard to compare since I assume you’re talking about reported, not actual, rapes. So in the Middle East, women may be less likely to report rape because of the way the law is stacked against them and because of the social stigma, compared to women in Sweden, for example, who may feel more confident about reporting rape because they think they stand a good chance at getting justice.

  • Theresa

    I’m a Canadian, spend winters in India, travel alone. Very interesting article, now I know one country to avoid, the US.

  • http://blondebrunettetravel.com Kay

    Very good fact-based piece. People love to generalize from one freakish, sad incident – especially when it’s an attractive white woman. My sister and I have traveled in Turkey and Indonesia with no issues whatsoever. Our friends who think we go to “dangerous places” are shocked when we say that the U.S. and all of the wackos with guns are far more dangerous than where we’re going, but it’s usually true.

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    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/F2QT3LpO via @almostfearless #wegosolo

  • http://www.mybeautifuladventures.com Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    I’m so happy you wrote about the absurdity of questioning women traveling solo!

  • http://www.ontheroadwithjena.com Jena

    Thank you for such a wonderful post! It really helped me with the question of traveling solo.

    I’m scared to travel solo in SOME of the places around the U.S.A so the thought of going over-seas and being in SIMILAR situations BUT now I can’t understand their language on top of everything else is petrifying!!

    This article really put it a little more into perspective for me…..so thanks :-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/almostfearless Almost Fearless

    Added another update in response to a comment about unreported rape in the Middle East:

    “Update 2: Will you get raped in a Muslim country?

    Someone brought up unreported rapes in the Middle East, which I think is fair. But I wanted to share this stat that relates to how the culture in the Middle East (whether you believe there’s more rape or less) translates to women as travelers to that region.

    I just found the stats from the UK on rapes in Turkey (sorry, couldn’t find American stats). There are about 2.5 million UK visitors to Turkey a year and there were just 40 reported cases of sexual assault (including rape) in 2010.

    “The majority of these cases occurred during the summer holiday period in coastal tourist areas visited by British nationals in South Western Turkey. Most occurred late at night and most assaults were committed by someone that the victim had met during the evening.”

    So two things, first, the rate is low (you’re still more likely to be attacked at home) and second when it does occur, it follows the same pattern — someone the victim knows. Muslim men are not grabbing tourists off the street and raping them. “

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  • http://twitter.com/solotraveler/status/299595061056921602/ @solotraveler

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/iAOQvbR2 via @almostfearless @aliadventures7 #wegosolo

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  • http://www.cravecanada.com Faisal

    Great article. I don’t pay attention to what the news “experts” say, 90% of the time they don’t even know what they’re talking about. But drama sells, and scaring people sells….

  • http://www.thetraveluster.com Lindsay

    Christine, thank you! This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the solo female travel debate in light of the recent death of Sarai Sierra. I love that you back all of your points up with solid statistics. People can be so unreasonable in their opinions! Hopefully, American culture is changing (albeit slowly).

  • http://twitter.com/travelswithlulu/status/299622557387206658/ @travelswithlulu

    A post from the blog http://t.co/Av8hRroQ, in regards to the dangers of women traveling alone. Better to… http://t.co/p3guLe5m

  • Kate Smith

    Thank you from the mother of a daughter who loves to travel, study history, languages and get to know all the people of the world. The first time she went we did not.
    have computers,etc. and it was very scary! She took me
    to Turkey and showed me all over. I felt safer there than
    I did in San Francisco. The people were welcoming everywhere we went. It was more relaxed and friendly like the. U.S. was back in the 40′ & 50′s. M y husband taught me that if she dies at least she will be doing what makes her happy. Your stats men so much more than the comments from those hate ignorant ones. Thanks again!

  • http://www.patriciagw.blogspot.com Patricia GW

    Christine, this is a great article with solid facts. I often hear from people, “You can’t travel solo because you’re a woman,” and then proceed to bring up the same single travel horror story. You’re right, the sense of danger in the US’s POV is skewed by these outliers.

  • http://Beingtricontinental.blogspot.de Eme

    Thanks for this article. It’s amazing how easily one horrible incident can snowball into fear mongering. As a lover of travel, I visit many different countries and avoid the big resorts and tourist spots in search of authentic local experiences. In 12 years of visiting cities across Europe, Africa, Asia and America I have been attacked once – robbed in broad daylight in central Amsterdam.
    I urge everyone (not just women) to continue to travel BUT to use common sense and exercise caution. At home and abroad.

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  • http://twitter.com/letyeu/status/299855631035289600/ @letyeu

    A well-researched response to the The Women Traveling Solo Question by @almostfearless http://t.co/hnfum4S5

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  • http://twitter.com/BackpackersPost/status/300005277678313472/ @BackpackersPost

    Great blog showing it IS safe for women to travel alone, despite the recent tragedy: http://t.co/ZFBSWcWp #travel @girlsgetaway @Jezebel

  • http://www.esmetravels.com Esme

    Great article: I think you’ve thoroughly and accurately captured what many of us (us being the downright foolish women who travel – gasp – by ourselves) have been thinking this past week, plus added some interesting data.

    A couple random thoughts after reading it:

    - Ridiculous comments by newscasters, to the point of being laughable. They’re no Christiane Amanpour

    - I interact closely with Muslims (men and women) frequently for work. Guess what? They’re a lot like the Jews I meet, and the Christians, and the atheists, and the Packers fans, and the left-handed, and the… People are people

    - I suspect some people discourage women from traveling solo because of their own insecurities. It makes them face and question their own fears

    - I live in one of the “nice” Chicago neighborhoods. I started reading EveryBlock (R.I.P.) crime updates for the area and have had my eyes opened to the danger that exists in my backyard: I no longer walk home from a restaurant at 9:00 at night, even on the busy streets

    Be smart, be careful, and see the world before your time is up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kirstin.lucas Kirstin Lucas

    I have travelled to Turkey and on the whole I felt far safer there than at home (Christchurch, New Zealand). The Turks seem to go out of their way to keep travellers safe – especially it seemed to me Aussi’s and Kiwi’s..

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  • http://twitter.com/expatheather/status/300188586039455744/ @expatheather

    Good discussion here: The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/2oSpRDB8 from @almostfearless #travel

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  • http://twitter.com/TristanHigbee/status/300255011890405376/ @TristanHigbee

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/he2WJ7Wq << Interesting discussion spurred on by the murder of an American woman in Turkey

  • HS

    I’d be curious to know how the countries with the highest reported incidents of rape (you cited Bostwana, Australia and Sweden) legally define rape. I appreciate you touching on the underreporting of rape in certain countries, but perhaps these nations have differing definitions of sexual abuse and also differing degrees of enforcement of complaints.

    For example, I’ve heard of numerous incidents of countries where Sharia law is used where women who are raped are later punished for committing adultery. Also, In India there has recently been debate surrounding the legal definition of child sexual assault. To my understanding, in many cases it has never been illegal.

    My point is that laws on sexual abuse are not universal. I agree that women not traveling because of fear of being the victim of crime is ridiculous. However, women do need to take precautions depending on where they are traveling. Based on your statistics, I don’t believe you state this strongly enough.

    • http://www.almostfearless.com Christine Gilbert

      “However, women do need to take precautions depending on where they are traveling.”

      I don’t agree. I think women should take the exact same precautions when they travel as when they are at home and I think it confuses the issue to bring up Sharia law, as a tourist obviously this wouldn’t prevent you from reporting sexual assault to your country’s embassy (note the UK stats on assault in Turkey in the post, it’s lower than assault rates in the UK). There simply isn’t any evidence that women traveling overseas are at higher right risk than when they are at home.

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  • http://www.thetraintraveler.net Lynne

    Sometimes I can’t believe that we are living in 2013. I have been traveling internationally – alone – for the last forty years. While there have been the occasional idiots who come on to me, I have never felt threatened in any of the countries that I have visited, Turkey included. And the comments in this thread that state that a man should never let his wife travel to a certain county are something from the era of the dinosaurs. Since when does anyone LET anyone else do anything (with the exception of minors, of course).
    Lynne, The Train Traveler
    http://www.thetraintraveler.net

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  • http://listraveltips.com lissie

    I’ve travelled solo in Turkey, Egypt and Syria in the Middle East plus Malaysia and Indonesia (as other Muslim countries). The only time I felt threatened in any of those places was in Kuta, Bali, in a nightclub full of drunk Australians, I never felt threatened by the locals, in fact I was met by far more kindness than I rather suspect a Muslim woman would discover travelling in my country, New Zealand.

    The only country I was scared of being attacked by strangers welding guns? San Fransisco

  • http://twitter.com/lovedartmoor/status/300663182165430272/ @lovedartmoor

    very interesting read about the risks involved in staying put!
    feel the fear and do it anyway :) http://t.co/cIDZbYJm

  • http://twitter.com/SaraMelanie14/status/300684209188659200/ @SaraMelanie14

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/7Q553kSZ

  • http://twitter.com/rdenning/status/300710954323308544/ @rdenning

    The #Women #Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/3PA2Pcfr @almostfearless #saraisierra

  • http://twitter.com/granaatsap/status/300908975103295488/ @granaatsap

    You might as well arm yourself with that backpack. http://t.co/cvehjn7c #travel #solo

  • http://twitter.com/TravelTweaks/status/300947341677064192/ @TravelTweaks

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/CWZQTaMD via @almostfearless

  • http://www.kitfrost.com Kit Frost

    I really appreciate your fact finding and blog. And I am blown away by the idea people have that all women have husbands at home who should NOT let their wives leave the house for solo travel. Some of us, me, are single and love it. I’m 59 and will leave next year for full time travel. I am sometimes fearful, but I think alot of that is because I grew up in the city. When solo camping, and when I’ve been afraid, it’s mostly of bears and mountain lions (not much I can do about that except keep a clean camp). I recently bought an 18 foot travel trailer for travel, and will bump up against my fears. But I will do it anyway.

  • http://lublink.org/alison Alison

    Firstly, I didn’t know this had happened until I read your post. So thanks for being my news source! ha. Secondly, as someone who lives in a predominantly Muslim country (Kuwait) as an ex-pat (I’m Canadian), I am REALLY hurt by those comments that people are making about Muslim countries. Yes, there are times where people whistle at me out their car window, but I have said, and will continue to say, that I feel far safer here than I have in many states within the USA (and I’ve been to a lot!). I’ve been to 4 countries that are predominantly Muslim (live in 1 of those) and I’ve always been and felt safe. I definitely see the value of traveling with someone as it can help for safety reasons, but to say that women should never go out alone is a bit crazy. I feel horrible for this family and I’m so grateful that you’ve addressed this subject! Thanks for sharing – you’re spot-on in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/joanna_haugen/status/301380463367438339/ @joanna_haugen

    The Women Traveling Solo Question – backed up by stats and facts from @almostfearless http://t.co/BbsKeJ1q #WeGoSolo

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe/status/301436833659752448/ @travelingiraffe

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/CgwApOA3

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  • http://www.laurazera.com Laura Zera

    Fantastic post, Christine. Wish I would have written it myself. Will probably just shout about it from the rooftops instead. Great use of facts and data. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/laurazera/status/301584014404378624/ @laurazera

    Exactly the data we needed to see – The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/oxza3scE via @almostfearless #ttot #solotravel

  • http://twitter.com/TriciaAMitchell/status/301749381303001088/ @TriciaAMitchell

    Having made solo trips to Africa, India & Bahrain, I found this post on female travel insightful: http://t.co/DhlomCeg via @almostfearless

  • http://www.triciaannemitchell.com Tricia

    What an insightful post to put things in perspective, in light of this tragic occurrence.

    In the years before I met my husband, I traveled solo fairly extensively – to Morocco, Tunisia, Bahrain, India, Spain & Greece. Fortunately, I did so safely, and I grew tremendously as a result.

    Your following quote really says it all… “How can you not travel? Don’t you realize how dangerous not traveling is?”

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  • http://twitter.com/PeterLublink/status/301888587908124672/ @PeterLublink

    “Women should stay at home in the kitchen for their own protection…” – http://t.co/9LWWWtL9

  • http://www.facebook.com/traveling9to5 Traveling 9 to 5

    Well written article – really enjoyed the read!

  • http://www.happylittlewanderer.com Happy Little Wanderer

    Great article. Thanks. I’m a solo female traveller and I get really fed up of the amount of people telling me not to go out and do it because it’s too dangerous. You have to live for the moment…as you have so brilliantly pointed out, it’s often more dangerous to stay at home!!

  • http://twitter.com/PeterLublink/status/302975739890900992/ @PeterLublink

    Did you read this post about women travelling abroad? Solid. http://t.co/9LWWWtL9 #travel

  • http://www.whatsnextnaomi.com Naomi Brooks

    Great article, totally agree, but you know what? I’ve always been a bit frightened to visit America given the high levels of violent crime, the gun culture and all, it seems to me like a really unsafe place to travel in. I’ve been to NYC and stayed with a friend, but have always wondered how safe it would be to travel in the states as a solo traveller. Happily go to Turkey though! LOL!

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  • http://twitter.com/amsaw_m/status/303607862461079552/ @amsaw_m

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/b50FSczK

  • http://blog.tripclocker.com Enette

    Great post! Thanks for this, Christine. Wrote a sort of follow-up to posts like yours and Twenty-something Travel. Interviewed a number of women solo travelers and mentioned you too. :)

    http://blog.tripclocker.com/why-youll-probably-be-just-fine-if-youre-a-woman-traveling-alone/

    Enette

  • http://www.saferbusinesstravelforwomen.com Jo Carpenter

    Very nice to read an eloquent argument debunking the myths and emphasising the balanced perspective. Road traffic accidents are the biggest risk to travelers and they don’t discriminate on the basis of gender. Travel safe, travel often!

  • http://twitter.com/lostinokay/status/307560126120882178/ @lostinokay

    Good Link: The Women Traveling Solo Question – http://t.co/awAfluHQgE

  • http://twitter.com/hertraveltips/status/310428368405409792/ @hertraveltips

    The Women Traveling Solo Question http://t.co/KP35peGc0F via @almostfearless #travel #travelsafety #womenstraveltips #saraisierra #turkey

  • http://ubanette.com Marielle

    Wow, what a great article! Really thought provoking. I get a lot of my traveling tips here as well http://www.urbanette.com/travel/
    if any of you are interested.
    Happy traveling all!!

  • http://croatia-bol.com Bol Croatia

    Really nice article adressing to serious problem for solo travellers. For those interested, I am from Croatia which is considered to be one of the lowest criminal rate in the world. Pretty safe for travelling solo or with children.

  • http://donnawinegarner.com Donna Winegarner

    Well done! I have just returned from traveling alone to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, my last stop in a year of solo traveling. Here are the “terrible” things that happened to me… I became more confident, less fearful, and have met some amazing people who have helped me to broaden my thinking! Ladies, do not travel alone unless you want to have one of the most awesome experiences of your life!

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  • http://www.world-nomad.com World Nomad

    More and more online newspapers are taking away the commenting function, but at the same time media themselves are also spreading the wrong ideas.

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  • http://www.secondlivesclub.com Maryl

    This is a really worthwhile discussion. I always check the Most Dangerous Countries to Travel To list before planning a trip. Unfortunately, some of the more interesting ones are on it. Something else to consider when traveling alone or with a small group is hiring a personal tour guide. I just wrote about it on my blog, http://bit.ly/11MAkVX and I included a resource where you can find local guides from all over the globe too. It could help in those countries where you feel less comfortable and don’t know the language. Thanks for all the info.

  • http://www.abreathofforeignair.com/ Sally Bucey

    Thanks for bringing the statistics into the discussion. So many people are simply unaware that the world isn’t a crazy dangerous place for women. It’s just fine.

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Hey we're traveling around Europe this summer...

  • on bikes...
  • with two kids...
  • over 4,000 km.

It's going to be crazy. Follow along: