<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=2529337407275066&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Trekking while female

Step by step, overcoming the ‘traveling alone?!’ bogeyman

| 07 May 2024 | 11:31

As a woman, I’ve always been afraid. Afraid of the man walking past me on a poorly lit street, afraid to walk in the dark, afraid to not have my wits about me at any given moment, afraid of being taken advantage of, abducted, raped, trafficked. I don’t know when this deep-seated fear started but it’s been a core part of my life and consciousness for as long as I can remember. I’m sure all women relate to this. And I never questioned it until I started to travel alone.

Some background: In between jobs earlier this year, I took some time to travel and explore. I went to Chile to hike the W Trek in Patagonia, the second multi-day hiking/walking trip I’ve done. The first was half of the Camino in Spain. You can do a lot of musing when you’re walking alone for days on end.

On the Camino, my first time traveling truly alone, I was so scared. I would wake up around 4:30 a.m. to walk in the dark for a few hours so that I could finish most of the day before it got too hot. For the first few days, I walked with my passport in a fanny pack under my shirt, my pepper spray in hand ready to be deployed at any moment, without headphones so I could be on high alert, constantly scanning my surroundings. Only when the sun rose would I relax, put my pepper spray away and jam to some music.

As I walked across Spain, the feeling of fear slipped away, a little more each day after encountering so much kindness, hospitality and camaraderie. And if not kindness, indifference – but never hostility. I stopped holding my pepper spray like a gun, I started to talk to strangers, go out to dinners alone at night, and I realized how much I had been missing out on. I started to experience a feeling of emerging freedom and confidence. This feeling that (I assume) men just get to have because they’re not scared for their lives at all times.

So when I set out for the W Trek, I knew what to expect – a wonderful and hard trip where I would meet a lot of really cool people and see a lot of really cool places and spend time in my own head and body. I readily talked to people, asked questions, went to dinner with strangers, mentioned my tent number so my new friends would know where to find me (gasp), and figured out the complexities of a trip in a different language, all by myself. The questions and comments I got during, before and after this trip again made me reflect on how and why we instill so much fear in women: You’re doing this alone? Just you, a young girl? I would never let my daughter do that. I would never have done this at your age, it’s so dangerous. Aren’t you scared? Do you have a knife or pepper spray? How will you defend yourself? What if you get lost?

In this fear that we live with, we lose a lot of freedom, independence and life experience. We feel like we need others to keep us safe, protect us, shelter us. We hide behind others instead of building our own confidence. Traveling alone makes me see the inherent good in others instead of focusing on the horror stories that have built up in my mind over time. And yes, something bad might happen. But also, it probably won’t.