At some point in all of our lives, there will come a point when you will be traveling by yourself. The age of which this starts for you will vary like many things in life will. By the time high school rolls around, the moment has, at last, come. For many, this will be an exciting moment; you’re growing up, becoming more independent and having the freedom to travel without company is an enormous change from having to always travel with your family.
For others ,it’ll be met with a casual, “well that’s cool,” but won’t think much of this as being a significant life moment. While this is a moment to be excited about, it’s also something that comes with the gift of caution.
It’s always a good rule of thumb to be aware of your surroundings. Sadly, this has become a necessity when traveling alone. I have found, though, that the experiences of traveling alone as a girl and traveling alone as a boy vary enormously. When you’re a young girl first starting to travel on your own, whether it be a short or long distance, you are often instructed by your parents to keep several things in mind.
You’re told how you have to have to always have your guard up and that you have to be wary of anyone looking at you strangely. There’s a paranoia that comes attached with what should be a simple thing when you’re a girl traveling by yourself. You find that you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, trying to be aware every second that you’re outside while not giving off the impression that you’re scared of someone—whether real or imaginary—who means you harm. You’re constantly trying to keep your mind from wandering to worst case scenarios, trying to focus on not walking into traffic because you’re scared of what might happen if you’re not careful.
For some, you’ll be worrying about how you’re dressed, worried that if you’re dressed for the summer with shorts on, that someone will take this as an invitation to leer at you. You’ll think about how you would defend yourself in an instant if someone came out of nowhere. There will be times you’ll worry that the guy who’s taller than you and faster than you is acting strangely and you’ll walk down unknown paths just to get away from him. You’ll walk out of your way just to feel some sense of security and to try to feel more protected.
Whenever I talked about this subject with guy friends, none of them seemed to ever worry to the point of being terrified about something happening to them. There were some who were cautious because it was their nature, but for the most part none of them ever talked about being leered at or catcalled once in their life. While this is a reality for women—and it can be terrifying—this doesn’t mean that we should live in this fear. We should be aware of it and use it to keep us aware but not to the point where it paralyzes us our independence.