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Fears and Constraints of Solo Female Travellers and Their Coping Strategies

Fears and Constraints of Solo Female Travellers and Their Coping Strategies
Author: Lucy Ashcroft
2 Commentries
The paper explores the fears and constraints that females are faced with when travelling alone. From conducting primary and secondary research, the main finding of this study revealed how the coping strategies were more of a necessity for females because of the gaze and unwanted attention that their gender brought about.

Key Words
Constraints, Fear, Gender, Coping Strategies, Access and Equality.

The aim of the paper was to explore the constraints and fears of solo female travellers and how they use coping strategies to overcome or handle them. The topic looks into the accessibility of tourism, and more specifically how gender is a factor that affects the access to tourism. It is an important topic to cover in the tourism industry, because the idea of gender equality is still a current issue in today’s society.

Primary and secondary research was carried out for this paper. Secondary was used in order to understand what had already been written about this subject, and primary research to get findings from a female traveller who had travelled alone for six months, to identify the constraints that they had faced and, how they had used techniques to make them feel safer. From reading the academic literature on solo female travellers, a lot of research had already been carried out about the fears and constraints. Wilson and Little suggested that, studies have consistently showed that women are more highly constrained than males in looking for access to tourism (Wilson and Little, 2005). The main findings revealed how women feel vulnerable and isolated when travelling alone. The literature also explored the constraints from family and friends before travelling, which is referred to as the ‘resistant gaze from home’. Another main focus was the idea of females being ‘under surveillance’ when travelling alone, which made them feel like they were the “subjects of the sexualised male gaze” (Jordan and Gibson, 2005, 201).

However, while exploring the literature it was clear to see that female solo traveller’s coping strategies, was a very under-researched area. Consequently, primary research was carried out to discover these techniques that women are using while travelling alone. A semi structured interview was completed, in order to gain a rich narrative about real experiences that the female had been faced with. The findings revealed many different types of strategies that was used when travelling alone. The first one spoken about was, dressing appropriately to blend into the cultural norm. This idea was to make sure that the traveller was made ‘invisible’ to the locals, so that they didn’t stand out or draw too much attention to themselves. The next coping strategy that was discussed was keeping in contact with a family member to let them know they were safe. This technique was a way in handling a constraint that the participant faced before travelling. Their parents were unsure about them going, so the traveller made sure that family were contacted when able to. This was a way of overcoming the “resistant gaze from home” (Jordan and Gibson, 2005).

The last coping technique used by the solo female traveller, was to wear a ‘wedding ring’ to avoid unwanted attention from the ‘male gaze’. The interviewee, explained that this method of wearing a ring, was taught to her by other female travellers who she came across. This technique was the most effective in terms of avoiding unwanted attention from males, and the participant explained how this became more of a necessity when travelling, especially in places that were less developed because they had different cultures and ways of seeing women.

Even though the interview with the solo female traveller provided a great insight into these strategies, it is important to mention that only one interview was conducted. Therefore, to make the research more reliable, more interviews would need to be completed so that answers could be compared, to draw upon similarities and contrasts. This would provide more information on the techniques already discovered, as well as identifying new strategies of how individuals deal with fearful situations and constraints while travelling. This would also provide an understanding of which coping strategy is most popular amongst solo female travellers.

From researching this topic, there does seem to be a problem with access to tourism for women travelling alone, there is more of a stigma surrounding them, creating fear and uncertainty for them, forcing them to use coping strategies to overcome them.

Jordan, F. and Gibson, H. (2005) ‘We’re not stupid...but we’ll not stay home either’: Experiences of solo women travellers. Tourism Review International 9(2) 195–212.

Wilson, E. and Little, D.E. (2005) A ‘Relative Escape’? The impact of Constraints on Women Who Travel Solo. Tourism Review International. 9, 155-175.

Wilson, E. and Little, D.E. (2008) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the ‘Geography of Women’s Fear’. Current Issues in Tourism. 11(2) 167-186.

A commentary on female solo-traveller perception, fears and constraints.
Author: Ellie Read
The decision to comment on this discussion paper was because it presents similar theories to those discussed within my paper. It is clear that gender inequality is still a current issue in today’s society. Women are significantly constrained in comparison to males particularly regarding accessing tourism independently (Wilson and Little, 2005). The main focus of the paper is to seek the fears and constraints of women that travel alone, and the coping strategies adopted to limit this.

The research from the literature suggests that women are constrained because of fear stemming from their own personal perception of being subjects of the “sexualised male gaze” (Jordan and Gibson, 2005). In addition to the perception of their family and friends, which is often referred to as the “resistant gaze from home”. The author suggests women adopt coping strategies to overcome these fears, but identities the literature as under-researched. Primary research is therefore conducted to assist the investigation into techniques used to “cope” with these fears. From this research 2 techniques could be identified similar to the theories of Valentine (1989) and Wilson and Little (2008): (1) Dressing Appropriately and (2) Contacting Home. The paper interestingly revealed a new strategy: (3) Wearing a Wedding Ring. All 3 of these strategies are argued to help the women overcome a number of constraints including their own fears and their families and friends.

The author identifies that further primary research would need to be undertaken in order to improve the discussion paper. By gathering more information from a number of additional interviews, a more enhanced understanding of the coping strategies can be gained. It must be noted that Valentine (1989:386) suggests coping strategies are largely dependent by age, income and lifestyle, therefore strategies can be seen to vary from each individual depending on these factors. Perhaps interviewing women with various characteristics will present different approaches to the strategies implemented. This method could develop the data and be more representative by allowing the author to make comparisons more specifically than generalising the strategies to all women.

Overall the discussion paper provides an interesting insight into the strategies implemented by women travelling solo. It provokes ideas that can be explored and discussed further. The author should also be commended for identifying a new strategy (3).


Jordan, F. and Gibson, H. (2005) ‘We’re not stupid...but we’ll not stay home either’: Experiences of solo women travellers. Tourism Review International 9(2) 195–212.

Valentine, G. (1989) The geography of women’s fear. Area 21, 385–390.

Wilson, E. and Little, D.E. (2008) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the ‘Geography of Women’s Fear’. Current Issues in Tourism. 11(2) 167-186.

Commentary on: Fears and Constraints of Solo Female Travellers and Their Coping Strategies
Author: Kelly Lyonga
The reason I chose to comment on this paper was because I wanted to reflect my point of view and coping strategies as a solo female traveller, as I have travelled solo in both developing and developed regions.

It is unfortunate that gender inequality is still an issue within the modern society, and indeed there are still geography constraints and boundaries for women, especially when travelling solo. Goble et al, (2003) agreed with Katz's (1993) argument that one's upbringing also plays a role to enhance fears of female travellers. It is noted that females are more vulnerable to many situations whether in one's own region or abroad, therefore, when travelling solo the best coping strategy suggested by literature is to avoid situations that may enhance danger (Wilson and Little, 2008).

From what I have noted it could be argued that, female travellers at times seem to be naive, by that I mean meeting a local stranger and trusting them to the fullest, this can very dangerous especially in countries where English is not a first language. Although meeting and befriending locals could be the best way to explore the destination and learn more about the culture. It is however been documented to be dangerous especially for females, as locals see this as a chance to offend women. Also because they know that the targeted individual does not speak the local language nor is aware of the culture, so the chances of the victim to report them to authorities is thus low. Another suggestion is to research negative sides of the destination in mind, whether the destination is said to be safe by others or not, because one's paradise can turn to be one's hell and vice versa.

Overall this paper was an interesting read, and I agree with the other comment that a primary research to compare different strategies of females with different characters such as age, suggested by (Valentine, 1989). On the other hand, females of different backgrounds, and perhaps mentioning a few regions the studied female travelled to would have gave a better understanding to the topic. As one's coping strategy when exploring developing nations may differ to when exploring less developed nations.


Coble, T. G., Selin, S. W., & Erickson, B. B. (2003). Hiking alone: Understanding fear, negotiation strategies and leisure experience. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(1) 1.

Valentine, G. (1989) The geography of women’s fear. Area 21, 385–390.

Wilson, E., and Little, E.D (2008) The solo female travel experience: Exploring the geography of women's fear. Current Issues in Tourism, 11 (2) 167-186.