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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Updated: May 2020
I have a confession to make. My love of travelling alone has faced its biggest obstacle yet. At the end of 2018, a young backpacker’s murder in New Zealand rocked me to my core. Suddenly, all the darkness in the world felt a little bit closer and it terrified me.
Losing a safe space
The shock was particularly potent because I had just come back from my own solo trip to 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 travelling alone 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.
Punished for travelling alone?
Perhaps, the most tragic part was how ordinary her circumstances were before her death. She, like me, and like many solo travellers, was a girl following her dreams. 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 fearless solo female traveller. It was meant to be the time of her life. Instead, she died, but it wasn’t travelling alone that killed her.
She had every right to go out and travel by herself, 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. I honestly can’t imagine what her family 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, although it’s believed that he was robbed. How he came to be in that situation, we may never know. Again, despite being a solo traveller, travelling alone wasn’t to blame here either.
Is solo travel too dangerous?
Tragedy happens at home too, in fact, it’s statistically more likely. Despite this, the idea of travelling made me feel more anxious than excited. I was wracked with nerves about my future trips 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 alone. Was I giving my friends and family needless amounts of worry whenever I waved goodbye at the airport? Was I being selfish for putting myself at risk to follow my dreams? Is travelling by yourself even safe?
These thoughts made me furious. As solo travellers, we should never 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.
It’s exhausting to constantly keep our guard up
The fact that we’re advised to travel with our guard up, analyse everyone around us and hope that our instincts are well-tuned to get us out of a situation is both heartbreaking and exhausting. Now with two more tragedies added to the list, I was enraged at those who make our concerns necessary.
Travelling alone 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, we live in an age of uncertainty, and with the underlying threat of terrorist attacks and shootings, home doesn’t feel all that safe now.
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 any way we can.
Travel defiantly for the ones who can’t
Instead of succumbing to fear and anxiety as I nearly did, it’s up to us to reclaim the world. As women, we are strongest when we are determined. Keep travelling on your own. Seek new experiences and stay inquisitive. As long as we continue to keep our dreams alive we can beat the ones who try to take it away from us.
If you find yourself feeling anxious about the tragic stories you hear from abroad, use it to travel with defiance. Go out with your friends, book that holiday alone you’ve been dreaming about and keep searching for that next amazing experience.
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.
These tragic events hit me hard but as Margaret Atwood so eloquently puts it, ‘nolite te bastardes carborundorum’. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
Save me for later!