Let’s Talk About the Double Standard in Travel

Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes our regular column on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other women travelers to help cover the topics important and specific to them! In this month’s article, she explores the double standards that come with solo female travel.I rushed to the gate at Julius Nyerere Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. As the agent checked my passport, he looked around me and, perplexed, asked if I was alone.I’d just finished up four months of solo traveling up from South Africa, one of the best and most enriching solo trips of my life, and replied that yes, I was alone.“Your husband lets you do that?” he asked incredulously.I get it. In Tanzania, it’s unthinkable for a woman, especially in her late twenties like I was, to travel alone. I gently let him know that nobody “lets” me do anything, and that I’m unmarried.While I take pleasure in shifting paradigms when possible, I still wonder what it would be like if I were a man. How would I be perceived when I solo travel or write about it? How would people treat me differently?

They wouldn’t ask me whether or not my husband “lets me” travel alone.

From Tanzania to the Philippines, I’ve been asked where my boyfriend or husband is. I bet almost nobody would ask me if my girlfriend lets me travel alone if I were a man. I wouldn’t have to question whether or not I should lie about being single. I wouldn’t debate wearing a decoy wedding band. My safety wouldn’t be tied up in my singleness.

People might ask when I’m planning to settle down, but they wouldn’t do it with such frequency and entitlement to the answer

Maybe settling down with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog named Spike used to be the norm, but we have more mobility these days, and the internet, and too many people anyway. So why is it so darn important to people that I eventually settle down?I think in a way it’s saying, “Hey, this was the only option I gave myself, and now you have to follow suit.” For those who conform to expectations, it’s uncomfortable when others deviate from the norm, especially women.But I’m not worried about it. If and when I choose, I’ll do it, and if I don’t, that’s OK too. I’m approaching this more like a man, OK?Also, get out of my ovaries.

I’d be called adventurous and an explorer rather than irresponsible and stupid.

If I traveled solo as a man, even if something unfortunate happened to me, I’d be called an explorer and lover of life.Yet as a woman, I’ve been called stupid, warned I’d be “found dead and cannibalized,” and accused of leading other women to their death (just look at the comments on this video, the worst of which I actually deleted).

I’d be able to wear what I want.

In some places, I can’t wear what I want. I understand that modesty is built into the culture in many places around the world, and I respect it and assimilate when in those countries.But that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that I enjoy wearing long sleeves and pants in 90-degree weather with 90% humidity while the boys get to wear shorts and tank tops.

I wouldn’t have had to wonder what the hell to do when cornered in an elevator in Santiago by two big men, saying salacious things to me in Spanish.

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