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.
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 todayâ€™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 â€˜resistant gaze from homeâ€™. Another main focus was the idea of females being â€˜under surveillanceâ€™ when travelling alone, which made them feel like they were the â€œsubjects of the sexualised male gazeâ€ (Jordan and Gibson, 2005, 201).
However, while exploring the literature it was clear to see that female solo travellerâ€™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 â€˜invisibleâ€™ to the locals, so that they didnâ€™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 â€œresistant gaze from homeâ€ (Jordan and Gibson, 2005).
The last coping technique used by the solo female traveller, was to wear a â€˜wedding ringâ€™ to avoid unwanted attention from the â€˜male gazeâ€™. 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) â€˜Weâ€™re not stupid...but weâ€™ll not stay home eitherâ€™: Experiences of solo women travellers. Tourism Review International 9(2) 195â€“212.
Wilson, E. and Little, D.E. (2005) A â€˜Relative Escapeâ€™? 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 â€˜Geography of Womenâ€™s Fearâ€™. Current Issues in Tourism. 11(2) 167-186.