The Solo Female Travel Debate Rages On After Murder of American Sarai Sierra
A couple of weeks ago, the media couldn’t get enough of the story of missing Sarai Sierra, the thirty-three year old mother of two who never got off of the plane she was scheduled to fly in on, which arrived in New York on January 21. The freelance photographer from Staten Island, NY set off on a solo vacation to Istanbul, Turkey on January 7th. It was her first time to travel overseas, and she mysteriously disappeared. Her body was discovered last weekend, February 2nd. Since then, the solo female travel debate has stepped back into the limelight, as critics focus on the negative aspects of women traveling alone, and independent female travel writers and bloggers push back with gusto!
Here’s what savvy travel bloggers are saying about solo female travel:
- Jodi from Legal Nomads asks the question: Why is this a debate about solo travel instead of violence against women? She provides some interesting statistics on women being attacked in the U.S. and Canada, even in their own homes, and concludes with some practical safety tips for solo female (and male!) travelers.
- Amanda from A Dangerous Business posted a loving letter to her Dad, asking him not to worry about her solo travels (but understanding why he does). She writes: “Let me ask you, Dad: Did parents stop sending their children to school after the Sandy Hook shootings in December? Do we swear off driving cars after every bad accident we see highlighted on the news?” Very good point, Amanda!
- Chistine from C’est Christine pays ode to the label of “solo female traveler.” She admits that, contrary to some claims, not everyone can travel (referencing people from third world countries who struggle to survive), and focuses on being appreciative of the opportunity to solo travel as lady.
- Kate from Adventurous Kate speaks the Truth About Female Solo Travel and Safety. She emphasizes that the world can be a very safe place for the solo traveler, as long as you take steps to protect yourself. Kate points to a misguided American public, “where only 37% of the population have passports and both long term and solo travel are uncommon.” She has made a career out of dispelling the fear-monger myths that exist around solo female travel. I really like this gal!
Some of the most poignant points on solo female travel I’ve seen these and other inspiring women make the case for include:
- Violence against women happens everywhere and statistically is more likely to happen in your “own back yard” than in a foreign country you visit (similar to the car accident statistic, based on frequency). I can attest to this, as I have had more violence committed against me close to where I live in the U.S. than I have while traveling solo abroad (and not just to Europe. I’m referring to countries in Asia, Africa and South America as well).
- The conversation has been erroneously centered around the solo female traveler (especially to Muslim countries) instead of focusing on the real issue: violence against women.
- People fear what they don’t understand. Most Americans do not relate to a solo female traveler. Even though we live in a (relatively) wealthy country with infinitely more freedom and resources than many other nations, foreign travel is not as engrained in American culture as it is in other developed countries’. In Sarai’s tragic death, people are looking for somewhere to point the blame: she was traveling alone, to a Muslim country. What was she thinking? Fear-mongers…
- Solo female travel actually builds an important skill-set of independence, empowerment, street smarts, confidence, tolerance, problem solving and adaptability. I have never met anyone (male or female) who was not significantly bettered as a person from traveling. It irks me so to hear people dismiss travel as some form of escapism or fleeting enjoyment habit. Traveling yields true education and quite possibly the most rewarding lifetime experiences. The more you understand about the diversity of people and place on this planet, the better off you will be socially, economically (career-wise), and personally (internally).
What are your thoughts on the solo female travel debate?
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