helpless
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Why Women Aren’t Helpless When Traveling Alone

I love this photo because it’s incredibly misleading. While my face looks soft and vulnerable, my hands gently frame my face because I’ve been trained to protect my head during fights in Krav Maga. At the drop of a hat, I know how to get an attacker on the floor and strangle him or her with my favorite Buddhist prayer beads.

I’d like to think that Buddha would have understood my need for excessive violence in certain incidents; because sometimes internal reflection isn’t as persuasive as a punch in the throat.

Even in the 21st century, there are certain precautions that I have to take when traveling alone because of my gender, and nothing more. I try to stay with a pack whenever I can, I like to keep concealed weapons on me “just in case,” and I continue to train because it’s harder to kill people who are in great shape. However, because I love traveling alone, I refuse to be deterred by ghost stories from paranoid people who’ve never left the comforting boarders of their own countries.

Grow up and go out side. It’s gorgeous out here.

I love traveling alone because I’m super interesting and have a lot of important opinions to express… so gazing into nothingness and reflecting on the world around me is one of my favorite pastimes.

Look at that cloud… gotta pay my credit card tomorrow.

Why are pants so uncomfortable?

I wonder what types of natural predators hedgehogs have…. Cars?

There’s a certain sense of ownership that comes with the ability to be alone with your thoughts.  To know that you are enough company for you. If you have mastered this, be grateful; because not everyone possesses the same sense of security.

If I went blonde… I wonder how many of these plants are poisonous? 

I often choose to travel alone because adding other people to the equation is often more mafan 麻烦(i.e. troublesome) than it’s worth… Where are we going? Where are we staying? How will we get there together? What about his/her food allergies? What will we do if something bad happens?…

How about we just figure it out when we get there?

What non-travelers don’t realize is that the world is filled with good people. If you need help, you will be able to find it. No matter what country you’re in. No matter what language you speak. How is a whole other ball game, but I continue to roam the world without ever thinking, “if I was bleeding on the ground, no one would notice me.” Which has happened and guess what, random people rose to the occasion!

The ER is super duper fun if you haven’t been.

When certain people watch or read the news, they hear whispers of crimes, murders, and rapes in foreign cultures and countries and immediately chastise that community.

“It’s too dangerous,” they will whisper. “It’s not like our country.”

But bad things happen to good people all over the world. In London, you’ll probably get mugged. New York, stabbed. Hong Kong, pickpocketed. Los Angeles, jumped. Rome, sexually harassed. Australia, eaten by a shark. But all these things can happen ANYWHERE at ANY TIME (maybe not the shark attack) so what’s the point of tiptoeing through life to arrive safety at death?

You can thank Ludacris for that piece of advice.

I am not helpless because I am a woman. I am resilient, cunning, empathetic, conscious, protective, and resourceful because I am woman. Don’t try to punish me for it.

And traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to be alone. It’s incredibly easy to meet other wanderers who are on a similar journey at hotels, hostels, or bars. You could attend a community meet-up. You could also meet up with friends of friends. Or even track down your favorite bloggers to say hi!

Point is: you are never alone when you are part of the global travelers network.

We take care of our own out here because we know how fleeting physical things are. Money, luggage, and passports can evaporate into thin air sometimes and it’s not ones fault. But maybe someone speaks enough of the local language to make a police report for you? And another person has some spare cash to “lend” out without the expectation of receiving it back. Maybe someone has an extra shirt to offer and another person, a pair of pants.  Because even when disaster strikes, you will have food, water, and clothing.  The emergency room isn’t really that scary.  Your whole world won’t fall apart if your wallet gets stolen.  You are not a helpless infant.

If you choose to strike out on your own, you’re going to have people second-guess your decision and try to hold you back. They’ve chosen to stay in their tiny world with their tiny opinions, but you don’t have too. You are brave, spirited, and capable; and you are not limited to certain boundaries because of your gender.

That’s for damn sure.

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I love hearing from my readers! Tag me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook on photos from your past traveling experiences!  I’ll give shout-outs to my favorite ones!

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About Vanessa Elizabeth

Vanessa Elizabeth is a cultural chameleon currently based in London. She enjoys sports (such as CrossFit and dating), cooking, and demolishing her savings account. When she's not busy blogging about her feelings, she works full-time and practices Chinese with her English/German friends.

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  • Karoline

    I’ve been following your blog since last christmas, and feel like you should know what a huge inspiration you’ve been to me. Growing up in with a travel crazy family of course introduced me to a great love of travel, but reading your blog gave it quite a boost. I’m writing this from Argentina where I’m taking an exchange year right now, and I’m already planning some major travelling to when I’m out of school! After Argentina, I get a month in Denmark, before I move with my family to Ethiopia, and I’m definetely taking a gap year before university to visit my friends across the globe!

  • Kestrel

    Hello!

    My name is Kestrel and I have been following your blog for several months now. You are kind of becoming my personal hero. When I was 18 I left home for the first time and traveled to 14 countries in Europe, Asia, and then also Morocco. I was young and scared and didn’t enjoy everything as much as I could have because I had a boyfriend at home who I missed and I was very homesick.

    It’s been almost four years now and I have decided to be single for a year, and bought a one-way ticket to France to re-see it, as well as pain, Greece and Italy. I am going to do the Camino de Santiago, and then head to India to live in an ashram for about 9 months.

    You suggested Krav Maga, and I started taking the classes and I LOVE it! I never knew how much I wanted to punch stuff! I feel stronger, more confident and assertive, and a little bit like a b.a.m.f. Come on, ladies is pimps, too, go head and brush ya shoulders off!

    I just wanted to tell you about my crazy plan to go and see as much as I can see and also to say thank you for inspiring me to stand strong and educate myself in self-defense. I can’t imagine how many other women you are inspiring.

    Namaste!

  • Shay

    Way to go! I absolutely agree and have spent the last year fulfilling this passion – well of course the first few times were accidents. I travelled Australia and my friend had to leave for a family emergency and then again, in Portugal I was stood up. But I loved it! I encourage everyone to try it at least once. Yes – it will be uncomfortable at first, yes – you will will feel awkward and maybe even talk to yourself or try to hide indoors… it’s not for everyone but you won’t know until you try it.

    Love what you do and do what you love! <3

  • I definitely know what you mean about it sometimes being less troublesome to travel alone than with other people. I traveled to Stockholm alone once and it ended up being really fun. Not only was it liberating not to have to plan my day around what someone else wanted to do, I also ended up meeting great people who I never would have met if I’d been with my own friend group.

  • Emily

    Wonderful article! I’m here to tell you that your hello world sticky experiment is at the bottom of this page

  • I’ve suggested starting small when beginning to travel alone. It’s definitely not as scary as you think, but it’s a lot less intimidating to plan a couple months trip alone when you already have a week of traveling alone under your belt.

    But you nail it on the head: it’s not so much the dangers you need to get a handle on, as much as the pressures that occur socially when you tell people you are traveling alone as a woman. You have to learn to ignore the haters. 99% of the time, they’ve never been where you’re going. (or anywhere close. or anywhere outside of the US.)

  • Magdelynn

    super therapeutic to read this since i have such bad agoraphobia/panic attacks. its nice to listen to someone who’s been there done that! inspirational.

  • Maribel

    I just came back from traveling in India alone for a month and there is no better way to express what I felt than the way you wrote it! Thank you keep sharing your thoughts and experiences!!!

  • sherin

    Hey, I always wanted to travel alone, I even have my list of places ready, but I don’t have the guts to do it, ur writing is pretty inspiring. Hope this would change something in my life too .

  • Nnedimma

    You’re very inspiring! Keep writing awesome articles!