I have to confess that this past week has made me question my love of travelling. I even found myself reconsidering my plans to go abroad next year. The world felt darker; a place too dangerous to explore. The recent murder of a backpacker in New Zealand rocked me to my core, as I suspect it did the rest of the solo travelling community.
The shock was particularly potent because I had very recently spent time in New Zealand. I had stayed in the same hostel she had been in and trodden the very same steps she had traced all over the city of Auckland. Not once did I feel unsafe when I was there. It shouldn’t feel unsafe, and like me, she should have been safe. The horror of the crime felt incongruous to the place I found so familiar, and that was why it was so disturbing.
But perhaps more tragic was how ordinary her circumstances were before her untimely death. She, like me, and like many solo travellers, was a girl following her dreams, and fresh out of university, she was eager to see what the world offered. She was bitten by the travel bug, something we can all relate to. And she strode out into the world as a solo female traveller. It was meant to be the time of her life, and she should not have died.
But solo travel didn’t kill her. She had every right to go out and explore on her own, just as countless women have done before her and hundreds more will continue to do every day. She was the unfortunate anomaly in a cruel twist of fate. Evil personified took away her life in a violent selfish act. My thoughts go out to her family, I honestly can’t imagine what they must be going through.
To make matters worse, a twenty-three-year-old man from my hometown was found dead in Spain. The circumstances of his death are yet to come to light. How he came to be in that situation, we may never know. Again, despite being a solo traveller, travelling wasn’t to blame here either. Tragedy happens at home too, in fact, it’s statistically more likely.
But despite this reasoning, I must admit that the idea of travelling made me feel more anxious than excited. I was wracked with nerves about my upcoming winter break, and it took everything I had to resist the urge to shut myself away and hide from the outside world. No, travel wasn’t the reason behind these tragedies but even so, I couldn’t help wondering if I was putting myself at risk by wanting to travel the world solo.
The thought made me furious because it just shouldn’t have to be a question to think about. We shouldn’t have to consider whether our own travelling dreams might be putting us at risk. Our safety should never have to be on the line no matter how many times over we travel the world. The fact that we’re advised to travel but with our guard up, analysing the people around us and hoping that our instincts are well tuned to get us out of a situation is exhausting. Now with two more tragedies added to the list, I was enraged at those who make our concerns necessary.
But travelling doesn’t make us vulnerable. Solo travel isn’t that high of a risk when women, in particular, are more likely to experience violence and harassment at home than anywhere else. Now more than ever before we live in an age of uncertainty, and with the threat of terrorist attacks and shootings underlying present society, home feels far from complete safety. We can’t seem to win wherever we go, but in this uncertain time, it’s the actions we do now which will determine how we live our lives in the future.
We simply cannot let the terrorists and murderers dictate what we do. We can’t let them force us to shrink back from the world in fear. So, it’s up to us to fight back in anyway we can. Instead of succumbing to fear and anxiety as I nearly did. It’s up to us to reclaim the world. Keep travelling fearlessly. Seek fresh new experiences and stay inquisitive because as long as we continue to keep our dreams alive we can still win over the ones who try to take it away from us.
I realise that this is a rather bleak topic to be discussing so close to the Christmas festivities, and it’s true. But I think it makes it all the more important. This time of year is full of celebration and happiness, and it can be ripped away from us all too easily. So, if you find yourself feeling anxious about the events of the last few weeks, use it and continue to travel with defiance. Go out and celebrate the holidays with friends.
Book your next adventure, and keep searching for enriching experiences. Don’t hide from living your life for fear that you might lose it. Instead, go out and carry all those who couldn’t make it in your hearts. Travel for all those who suffered needless violence for following their dreams and hopefully in doing so we can make the world that little bit better.
This past week has been hard, but as Margaret Atwood so eloquently puts it, ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum’. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Thanks for reading,