Written by: Burrell, Ashleigh
Abstract: This discussion paper is based on strand 3 ‘Exploring Subjective Experiences and Social Identities: Race, Gender and Queer Identities in Tourism. This paper discusses the travel constraints and their coping mechanism for female solo travellers by looking at blogs of female solo travellers personal experiences of travelling alone.
Key words: Female solo traveller, Travel constraints, Coping mechanisms, Gender, Tourism, Women’s safety, Perceived risks.
In recent years the tourism industry has seen an increase in the amount of female solo travellers venturing out to a variety of destination. The amount of female solo travellers has now in fact overtaken the amount of male solo travellers travelling (Tilley et al, 2016). All travellers have some sort of travel constraints however the perceived risks of female solo travellers are significantly higher and therefore it is important for them to develop coping mechanisms.
According to Poon and Adams (2000), the biggest perceived risk for female solo travellers is their security and safety. If a destination is in the media for lacking these qualities or a family or friend has visited before and not had a great experience then these perceived risks influence their choice of destination and intentions to travel. Bad publicity usually includes violence and sexual assault from locals towards female solo travellers influencing a destinations image (Attwooll, 2014).
Henderson (1991) mentions that female solo travellers are also highly constrained more than men when travelling solo primarily because women fall victims of rape and sexual attack. Women perceive their constraints to be heightened when they take part in activities which are outside of their home and therefore restricting their freedom. This means that their participation levels and enjoyment more often than not reduced (Whyte and Shaw, 1994). Further travel constraints for female solo travellers are others perception such as friends and family. Valentine (1989) believes that others create doubt in the minds of female solo travellers and restrict their travels.
Blogs by Shannon (2016) and Intrepid (2016) both share how they felt vulnerable and at risk of sexual attack whilst travelling however they believe that there are ways in which you can prevent sexual assault and harassment from happening. They mention dressing appropriately so that you are being respectful to the locals, carry a personal alarm and never take a drink from a stranger or leave your drink unattended. This is because drug rape is an ongoing issue which is on the rise.
There a number of coping mechanisms that help female solo travellers deal with travel constraints and perceived risks, the main one Valentine (1989) points out is making sure you know how and where you can seek help, this will then minimise the feelings of fear and anxiousness. It is best to use this coping mechanism when meeting new people and visiting unfamiliar places. One other important coping mechanism identified through blogs of people who have shared their personal experiences was to involve those that are worried about you travelling alone (Chapman, undated). This way friends and family know what you plan on doing and can help ensure that you have all the essentials for when you leave and that you have a plan of action.
These coping mechanisms help female solo travellers deal with not knowing the unknown. For example they do not know what to expect of new destinations and they are going to find themselves in unusual environments with non- English speaking locals. The key point here is to get to know the destinations as much as you can before you go to develop your confidence, this will also help reassure those friends and family members that are not keen for you to go. Greenman (2015) suggests carrying a map and a travel guide with you before you go as well as plan any trips you want to do whilst you are. Intrepid (2016) recommends trusted companies like Contiki to help do this.
Today, with the increase in female solo travellers for the tourism industry and their heightened travel constraints and increased travel risks, it is important that these challenges women face are resolved by developing coping mechanisms. By allowing female solo travellers to share their own experiences and coping mechanisms, it proves to other female solo travellers that they are not alone but also gives them an insight into how they can deal with their own perceived risks and travel constraints. What is important to remember is everyone’s travel constraints, perceived risks and coping mechanisms all differ from one another, so just because one coping mechanism works for someone, it does not necessarily mean it will suit your needs to.
Valentine, G (1989) The Geography of Women’s Fear. Area, 21, pp.385-390.
Whyte, L.B., and Shaw, S.M (1994) Women’s Leisure: An Exploratory study of Fear of Violence as a Leisure Constraints. Journal of Applied Recreation Research, 19 (1), pp.5-21.
Wilson, E and Little, D.E (2015) The Solo Female Travel Experience: Exploring the Geography of Women’s Fear. Current Issues in Tourism, 11 (2) pp.167-186.
I have decided to conduct a commentary on this paper, as it is very similar and relates to the topic which I have conducted for this conference. The paper I conducted focused on the constraints women face as independent travellers, whereas this paper focuses more in detail on different coping mechanisms which have been identified through female solo traveller blogs. Therefore this interlinks with the topic I choose very well.
The paper addresses women travelling independently are of more risk to fall victims of rape and sexual attack due to their gender (Kahn, 2011), however the author goes on to address ways in which women can prevent sexual harassment and assault from happening such as, carrying a personal alarm as well as never accepting or leaving your drink unattended, to minimise women from falling victim of the date rape drug which I mentioned within my paper. The author continues to mention other coping mechanisms stating women travellers should always be aware of how/where they can get help from to help minimise constraints women face, as Wilson and Little, (2008) believe fear is the main constraint.
From the author reading other traveller blogs, other coping mechanisms have been identified which could be useful for other women travelling solo, are to conduct research on the destination beforehand, so they are aware of what the destination is like, which can also help women to gain confidence. However, more could be said on this by an article “A typology of solo independent women travellers” by McNamara, K. and Prideaux, B. (2010).
The conclusion of this paper has highlighted due to the increase of female solo travelling within the tourism industry, there are still constraints present for women travelling independently. By the author researching female solo traveller blogs, this was a good way to demonstrate how they had overcome their insecurities and what coping mechanisms not only helped them but could potentially help too. However, this paper could benefit more by looking at academic references to compare others views too. This is because the ending statement on this paper states “everyone’s travel constraints, perceived risks and coping mechanisms all differ” continuing on to say “just because one coping mechanism works for someone, does not necessarily mean it will suit your needs to”. I believe more research could be done to gain both academic and personal views, which could make for an interesting read. Overall, this paper is well structed, with the main points being presented well. I believe it is a good conference paper, with the author using a variety of references from female solo travellers blogs.
Kahn, S. (2011) Gendered Leisure: Are Women More Constrained in Travel for Leisure? An International Multidisciplinary Journal of Tourism. 6 (1) 105 – 121.
McNamara, K. and Prideaux, B. (2010) A typology of solo independent women travellers. International Journal of Tourism Research. 12 (3), 253 – 265.
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.