In the months leading up to my backpacking trip the number one thing that people want to talk to me about is a variation on,
"Aren't you afraid of going by yourself?" and "Wow, you're so brave to be going by yourself."I'm never really quite sure how to respond to this. I don't feel braver than anyone else. The truth is I'm going solo because I couldn't talk anyone else into going with me, not because I am exceptionally brave.
I don't remember when I decided that I was going to backpack through Europe. It was a combination of reading 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson and Rory and Lorelai planning their own on Gilmore Girls. I think I've had the idea vaguely in my head since maybe 2007 or 2008 but it wasn't until about 2010 or so that I decided that it was gonna happen. Originally, I wanted to go with my best friend, but when it become increasingly clear the closer I got to my college graduation that there would be no way she would be able to go. So for about 4 years I was going backpacking with her, but if I'm being honest when I envisioned going she was never actually there with me in my mind's eye. I was always by myself, doing what I wanted when I wanted without anyone to run the ideas past. Just me.
However, going by myself wasn't actually an option according to my parents. So I scrambled and tried to see if anyone else wanted to go. Plenty of people thought it was cool and said they'd like to but couldn't afford it or couldn't get time off. I was starting to give up hope. And then, while literally standing in line with my cap and gown on, ready to walk into the gym to receive my diploma (holder), a friend said she'd do it. She'd make it work. Suddenly the trip was back on!
The friend who offered to help me achieve my dream was more of an acquaintance than actually friend at that point though so in the coming months as we planned we learned about each other (and did become fast friends!), but as much as we liked each other it was glaringly apparent that we have VERY DIFFERENT IDEAS about travel. The 3 month spontaneous backpacking, staying in hostels, eating rough in Europe trip became a month in the UK with a home base, restaurants, and wifi. It was neither of our faults but I came to realize that, besides the fact that she truly couldn't afford it my dream, there was no way either of us would enjoy the trip. It wasn't fair for her to spend money on a trip that was just for me. And so it got cancelled.
I was devastated. I felt like I couldn't start my life until I went on this trip (I still feel like this, honestly). That's when my mom offered to do a week in London, the place on the top of my list, if I could help pay for it. I LEAPED onto it, thinking that if that's as close as I could get I would take it.
However, as great as I knew going to London with my mom would be it just wasn't enough. It was not backpacking through Europe. But I knew that if I went alone without my parents' blessing, everything would be miserable. Then personal catastrophe struck and I spiraled into a deep dark depression that I saw no way out of. My saint of a mother recognized this and said that I should go solo if I really wanted to. She would be worried, of course, but she knew I could handle going alone. Now if only everyone else in my life was like her....
Other than comments about how "brave" I am the questions I am most often asked are a variation of the following:
"Aren't you afraid something will happen? Aren't you afraid you'll get mugged or oh, God, raped by a stranger?! You are a young woman alone and vulnerable in a foreign country! It is foolish of you to be so naive about your safety. The world is dangerous place for single woman!"
Honest to God, next time someone comes at me with this crap I may punch them in face. It is infuriating. Society dictates that women need a man around to be safe and to that I say f*** you. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. I am intelligent enough to avoid dangerous situations. The world is only as dangerous as you make it.
If a woman doesn't do something because "society" tells her not to that, to me, is even worse than society saying it in the first place! Nothing is going to change the perceptive about solo female travel unless more people like me stand up and call out their shenanigans. If you think the world is dangerous then don't go, don't broaden your horizons, don't live, stay home but stop bothering those of us who could not care less about what "society" says is proper. Screw you, Society, I've got a life to live.
"Aren't you afraid something will happen? Aren't you afraid ISIS will plan another attack and you'll be blown up?"
If I don't go, they win. If I don't go, I will spend the rest of my life wondering "what if." I could be hit by a bus tomorrow, but that's not gonna stop me from going outside. You think I'm being caviler about my safety? Never forget that this rant is coming from someone who sees the dangers in everything, big or small, including using our gas stove because it could potentially, maybe, but probably not explode! Internally, I am Aunt Josephine from A Series of Unfortunate Events, I see danger in everything. I see worst case scenarios and make contingency plans in my head about everything from making soup to, yes, what would happen in case a bomb or active shooter. But unlike Aunt Jo I refuse to let that stop me. I don't let in run my life. Terrorism has a 100% failure rate. Every city terrorized comes out stronger. Don't let the terrorists win. Travel, go see that not everything is horrible.
My mom, who was the number one opponent of going solo has become my number one supporter. She will fight you if you say I shouldn't go alone. Why shouldn't I go alone? I am a level headed, intelligent, independent young woman with a dream and a determination to make that dream become a reality! You know what? Maybe I am braver than I give myself credit for. And you should be too. Don't let anyone tell you you CAN'T because if you listen to them you definitely WON'T.
I leave on my month and a half long solo backpacking trip in under 2 weeks and I am not afraid.