I’ve been told many times that I am so brave for quitting my job and setting off with my then 9-year-old son to slowly travel the world indefinitely as nomads. Before that I was “brave” for traveling solo.
I’ve never seen myself as being particularly brave for traveling. So many people did it before me. Since I also don’t buy into the culture of fear propagated by the media and my government, it’s just never been a big concern for me.
Traveling as a single parent was a bit of a different issue. Not because of safety concerns but because of “What if something happens to me? What will happen to Tigger?” Sure, that was a question at home, but there I had a bevvy of people who would come to his aid. In another country where he couldn’t speak the language? Would his anxiety get the better of him? Would he be able to remember who to ask for help and who to call?
As I’ve continued to travel, I’ve learned that, like with so many things in life, being a man has some major advantages.
There have been several stories of female tourists being raped in India. In a popular tourist haunt in Mexico, boyfriends were forced to watch a group of men rape their girlfriends.
I adored Morocco. Marrakech was such another world, but I was so pleased when simply saying la shukran (no, thank you) was all that was necessary to get the touts to leave me alone. I was absolutely stunned to hear this wasn’t everyone’s experience. My female friends had very different experiences in Morocco. MaryAnne wrote about the horrendous treatment she received in Fez. My companion in lizard eating in Vietnam, Lauren, shared some of her experiences that ultimately ruined Morocco for her.
I was absolutely stunned to hear of their experiences. Especially in Muslim countries where many interactions between the sexes are considered inappropriate. Other female friends shared their stories of horrid harassment of themselves and their daughters in countries like Egypt and Indonesia.
Here are some other areas I’ve discovered I have it made traveling as a man:
- I am rarely ever harassed in any way. Even when touts bug me, it’s typically less than what a woman goes through. Part of this might be my size and look. I have a large-framed body. Even if I wasn’t overweight, I can look quite formidable. Having been trained in martial arts has also given me a degree of confidence others may not have. I “put that out there” when I walk around town. I know I can look intimidating, and I use that to my advantage. It has worked very well for me. Most women don’t have that fortune.
- On a beach or in beach towns, I could walk around shirtless to stay cool, whereas a woman may not even be able to walk around with exposed shoulders. In Essaouira, I marveled at how men would show up on the beach, strip down to their tight underwear and go for a swim. When they exited the water, no imagination was necessary to see what was being covered by fabric. Meanwhile, a woman was clothed from head to foot while her naked children frolicked in the waves. In some countries even dressing modestly does not protect a woman from being harassed.
- I know some women who travel with other women, and they are still often targets of robbery or worse. Even women traveling with a male partner aren’t always safe. As a big dude, I’ve had virtually no issues at all in all of my years of travel.
- My son can walk among crowds without fear of being molested while my friend’s young daughter has had to endure being touched, receiving indecent proposals, being leered at, and so on. Yes, this happens in developed nations like the US, too, but I think it’s a bit more scary for someone when they’re in a foreign country. And I would say these would be quite rare for someone who is under 12 years old to experience in the US, while in many countries even a girl of 5 isn’t necessarily safe from harassment.
- I generally have less issues with dishonest taxi drivers and touts than many of the women travelers I know. Haggling is often much easier for me, and I usually get a better price. Part of that might come down to skill, but I believe most of it is because I’m a male and can pull off that “don’t give me that crap” look more convincingly.
I by no means am inferring that travel is unsafe for women. Generally speaking, travel is very safe for anyone who has at least half a brain. Pay attention and keep your wits about you (which applies everywhere, including in your home location), and you’ll most likely have no problems.
But, I do have to admit that the world is just a bit more safe and easy for a man. Which I find very sad.
What has been your experience while traveling?