This paper explains the motivations and encounters women experience as solo independent travelers. It aims to discuss the constraints in which women face due to their gender when travelling independently such as; fear, sexual harassment, rape, victimisation, crime, activities and clothing.
Keywords: Female, Independent, solo travel, motivations, encounters, constraints, experiences.
Women participating in solo travel is increasing, with around 72% of women embarking on independent travel compared to men (Pemberton and Wain, 2015). Women are motivated to travel independently for a variety of different reasons such as; having the desire to challenge themselves, for self-determination, to meet new people, to go out of their comfort zones, search of adventure, learning new experiences and self-awareness (Bond, 1997). Furthermore, it is believed the most common motivations are novelty, escape, relax, family or friendship. Although women embark on solo traveling due to their motivations, they do face many constraints during their experience. This paper addresses the constraints women face when travelling independently due to their gender, which are; fear, sexual harassment, rape, victimisation, crime, activities and clothing.
Women have many fears compared to men with their main one being violence, however, it is believed the greatest fear women have before and during their experience is being attacked sexually (Jordan, 2008). By women having the fear of being assaulted, this makes them become vulnerable when travelling independently. In order to undertake leisure, Mehta and Bondi, (1999) claim women put their fears aside to overcome this issue. Although women decide to overcome their fears, others can still become vulnerable when travelling. With women carrying fear when travelling, this can affect their future decisions by putting them off travelling to specific destinations.
Going out at night alone and being restricted on where women can go on their own at night (Carr 2011) is all constraints which women face due to women associating public spaces such as, dark alleys, bushes, car parks and corners where men drink and hang out as being dangerous for women at night (Day, 2017, 115). Victimisation is something women experience due to their gender. Using transport like taxis make women become vulnerable as they are isolated from other people. It has been identified that women have a higher chance of being victimised, due to women attracting attention from locals because of their appearance (Baker and Page, 2002).
Sexual harassment is very common with women solo travellers, as women are seen as easy targets and people who would give up without a fight. Women can experience sexual harassment both verbally and physically throughout their vacation. Brown and Osman, (2017) claim sexual harassment has to be tolerated by women as it is unavoidable, especially from locals on the street. This restricts women traveller’s to enjoy their experience, as they are unable to interact with the local culture due to feeling uncomfortable and unsafe (Wilson and Little, 2008).
Women face constraints when it comes to visiting certain destinations as some places are known for sexual harassment and gang rapes. In 2014 Poland, Germany and Denmark were all identified as bad destinations, for having serious sexual attacks on women (Gov.Uk, 2018). Other destinations women need to be careful of include; India, Thailand, Egypt, Mexico, Kenya, Morocco, Colombia and South Africa (Pemberton and Wain, 2015). This becomes an issue for women as they cannot travel independently to a variety of destinations. Women must also ensure they are extremely careful when alone, as they can become exposed to the “date rape drug” which can be slipped into drinks without knowing (Gov.Uk, 2018). This means women travelling independently must be extra cautious with drinks during their vacation.
Barker and Page (2002) claim, as women travellers possess a variety of characteristics, safety and security issues are important to make them less vulnerable to crimes such as muggings and theft. This constraints women from carrying valuables such as mobile devices to take photographs, as they could be making themselves vulnerable to others. Other constraints include; not being able to participant in certain activities such as visiting remote locations, national parks or forests (Wilson and Little, 2008) due to certain spaces being considered as spaces of fear and threat for women (Bialeschki, 2005).
Lastly, women are constrained on what clothing they are allowed to wear when visiting destinations like Dubai and Morocco, where women must wear respectful clothing e.g. shoulders and knees must be covered in public spaces (Pemberton and Wain, 2015). This is due to women putting themselves at risk due to what they are wearing, as India’s tourism minister has stated “foreign women should not wear dresses or skirts and walk alone at night for their own safety” (Safi, 2016), as they could potentially be attacked, as India still have traditional styles of dressing.
Overall, constraints are still present for women who wish to participate in solo travel, and it is evident the most prominent factor contributing to the experience of women travelling independently is sexual harassment. Victimisation is closely followed in second, as it is also a major factor with women travelling alone. However, this paper has identified how women can try to minimize these constraints in the future.
Barker, M. and Page, S. (2002) Visitor Safety in urban tourism environments: the case of Auckland, New Zealand. Elsevier Science Ltd. 19 (4) 273 – 282.
Pemberton, B. and Wain, N. (2015) Sex attacks, muggings and harassment: World’s most dangerous holiday destinations for women (and some of the places may surprise you). Mail Online. Available from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-2960567/Most-dangerous-holiday-destinations-women.html
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.