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The Joys and Fears of Travelling Alone As a Woman

Brand Insights in 3 Sentences: Women want to take solo trips more, but they are hesitant for fear of safety and judgment. A lot of research is done before choosing a destination, which is very dependent on feedback from other women. Travel or hospitality companies and tourism boards need to do more to safeguard these travellers and highlight the steps they are taking to make them feel secure in order to entice them to embark on these trips.

Pulling an ‘Eat Pray Love’ seems to have become an abbreviation for jumping on a plane to heal and find meaning from any sort of loss or life discontentment. The story goes that Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) is unhappy with her marriage and where she’s at in life. She walks away from it all and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, where she finds joy in the cuisines of Italy, the power of meditation in India and finally, prayer and love in Bali. Its cinematography is breathtaking, the romance was butterflies-in-the-stomach inducing, and the movie inspired a whole generation of women to have their own adventures.

What the movie didn’t do, however, was show the realities of what female solo travel is really like. As enlightening and freeing as the experience of traveling alone can be, it can also be very lonely and, most frighteningly, a dangerous one. Societal changes and greater financial independence has meant that women are solo traveling now more than ever. Men are still searching most for keywords relating to ‘solo travel’ at 52%, but women are just inches close behind at 48%.

Women between the ages of 20–34 are the largest segment of participants discussing solo female travel on Twitter compared to other age groups. These women may not yet have the responsibility of providing for families, so they have the financial ability and freedom to splurge on trips for themselves. Interestingly, men in this age range are also getting in on the conversation, and it’s encouraging to see that some are publicly acknowledging the issues solo female travelers face and standing in solidarity with them.

Using Sphere, we at Quilt.AI decided to take a look at the experiences of real women and the discussions taking place around female solo travel on Twitter.

The emotions detected in the text were as discombobulated as the topic itself, with our AI finding ‘Joy’ and ‘Sadness’ to be the top two emotions, followed by ‘Anger’ and ‘Optimism’ not far behind. Women are torn between wanting the experience but also being worried about the repercussions and angry at the circumstances.

The Fear of Traveling Solo

There are hundreds of tweets of them saying the exact same thing: They want to solo travel but are afraid to as a woman. Every few tweets include someone relating a story of how they or another woman was harassed, assaulted, or the victim of some violent crime.

There’s also an obvious difference between the way solo trips for women are marketed from men’s. Online travel bucket lists targeted at women are always built on the safety of a destination, whereas men’s have no such restrictions. Some of the titles for men’s solo trips include “Best Vacations For Single Guys That Won’t Break The Bank” and “39 Best Vacation Spots For Single Guys”. While danger lurks everywhere, men simply do not have the same concerns for their own safety the way women do.

Within the conversations on Twitter, we also uncovered an added layer of fear felt by both trans women and women of color. Never knowing whether they are welcome in a place, these women have to be even more careful about where they choose to go. Trans people have historically experienced a high rate of harassment and assault, while women of color, being the subject of sexism and racism, makes them vulnerable to the same violence.

Black women, in particular, seem to be particularly vocal about their experiences on the platform. A few users shared incidences where they were mistaken for sex workers in different regions by virtue of their skin color and gender, while others talked about how there were ignored and had people refuse to sit by them. Despite the completely rational fears they have, sentiments do seem encouraging. There are still many users asking for advice and tips on solo traveling, and others are more than willing to give it, emphasizing that fear should not keep them from experiencing adventure.

Travel Guides For Women Written by Men

It’s been noted within these conversations that many of the travel guides for women are actually written by men. As much as they are able to empathize with women’s experiences, they don’t know how it feels and subsequently don’t know what qualifies a place as being safe for women. Some female users feel that it isn’t their place to offer advice on these topics, and even a little insulting towards them.

Being Judged for Wanting to Travel Alone

Women are often judged for even wanting to travel alone. There seems to be an assumption that only someone with no partner or friends would solo travel, and anyone who had both but still chose to go solo, is running away from something. People also seem to question why they would even want to put themselves in a potentially dangerous situation and not bring a travel partner along.

This need to justify their reasons for wanting to solo travel appears to be a common view shared amongst female solo travelers on the platform. It’s also a sentiment that seems exclusive to this gender, as men don’t face the same kind of judgment.

Not Letting Fear Hold Them Back

For all the scary encounters solo female travelers faced, most of them agree that it is worth it. They had never felt as liberated as being able to decide where they go, what they want and just having complete control over their own choices. Being alone also meant that they had to learn to trust themselves and their own instincts, which built confidence.

Solo traveling unlocked passions and possibilities for them and gave them the opportunity to meet good people along the way. Many travel influencers today are women, and discussions on Twitter are very supportive of each other for embarking on these adventures. For many of them, being able to solo travel is the mark of an independent woman and a badge of honor they should be proud of.

If you’d like to know more, write to us at anurag.banerjee@quilt.ai. We would love to chat!

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