My name is Virginia and I am a super-independent 29 year old. I left my family when I was around 17 years old. It’s funny, because I’ve always relied on no one but myself and I was almost “anti-feminists”, I never “advocated” for women’s rights. I would just take what was rightfully mine, sometimes by force. I had a friend who said, “Virg, she’s a buddy, with a vagina ». A real badass, you know.
I used to think of feminists as whiners, and I moved forward through life as if nothing could stop me, especially not pseudo sexism. I was the only girl who was allowed to play soccer in elementary school; I was an executive by the age of 23, and a manager by 24. I moved to Africa when I was 28.
I started travelling alone around my 25th birthday. I didn’t have many girlfriends at the time, girls usually saw me as a potential rival. When I met a group of girls called “We are backpackers” it was a real revelation for me. Indeed, as women, we experience difficulties, and yes we can support each other and stick together, instead of competing. All of a sudden feminists were no longer whiners in my mind, but heroes.
So, thanks to Melissa, Maureen, Anne-Sophie, Tatiana and Aicha, whom I met on a Facebook group and with whom I have talked every day for over a year via Whatsapp, I realized that I am a feminist. Being a feminist is all about supporting each other. And trust me, we sometimes need support when we travel alone!
Being a woman who travels alone opens your mind about what the status of women is today in 2019.
Travelling alone really puts things in perspective and shines a light on where women stand anywhere in the world in 2019.
Have you ever seen a guy look up another guy’s profile on Couchsurfing and struggle because he can’t find an appropriate rating? When booking an Airbnb, a woman always needs to check scrupulously if the landlord is not a pervert, because if you don’t, you will have been “careless”. Have you known a guy who avoids visiting a big city because he knows he will be whistled at and insulted on the streets? Or a guy who has to refuse – very firmly – that his hosts accompany him to eat out, because “it’s dangerous to be out at this hour?” Have you ever seen a guy who gets grabbed by his ass in a nightclub and says nothing to avoid a fight? A guy who is careful of the way he addresses women, for fear of appearing too available and getting himself into trouble? A guy who learns the sentence in Arabic “Sorry, I’m married” when he is not? A guy who buys himself a ring to wear when he’s not married so he is left alone? Or a guy who has to text the carpool license plate number to his friends because the driver is of the opposite sex. A man who knows how it feels to always be suspicious of the opposite sex?
I had to do all this. Being a woman travelling alone is hell. I have a girlfriend who could not bear the street harassment in Sri Lanka. I will not go back to Marrakech, although I love the city, because I can no longer be nice when I get cat-called 145 times a day by men on the street.
The last straw was when a guy said, “Hey, Nicky Minaj, you have a big ass” because I was not answering his invitations. I saw red and asked him if he would like me to say that to his mom and that she had completely messed up his education. He was aggressive and I ended up losing four hours of my time at the police station… I only go back to Marrakech if a man accompanies me and I always feel tense.
Sometimes it is also “heaven” to be a woman on a trip, a fake paradise. When you know the stress you will experience from getting back a little too late to your hotel, or when people open the door for you or take care of you when you are sick until you get to the hospital… when you screw up booking a cab in Cape Verde and a guy calls all of his friends to find someone who can go to the town you want to go to because “you shouldn’t stay alone here.” But you know what? I would prefer if I could stay alone there!!! And anywhere else I would like to travel to!
I wish that one-day people would stop looking at us with admiration just because we are women who travel alone. I’d like for it to be as easy for us as it is for men, nothing out of the ordinary! WAB, and my group in particular have already made it easier. And that is pretty great!