How to Travel Alone As a Woman

Recently, the sexist behaviour I’ve experienced and witnessed since living in Kazakhstan was bumming me out. But when I broke this experience down into individual instances I realized it shares an uncomfortable similarity to my daily life in Canada.

The striking difference is that sexism is simply more obvious here in Kazakhstan. It’s harder to expose in Canada and other western countries, which in its own way, is more frustrating. Trying to explain or discuss subtle acts of gendered disrespect is often met with the deflating response that you’re overreacting. The video has its flaws but Hollaback’s street harassment PSA illustrates the type of behaviour I’m referencing and how difficult it can be to make others aware of the damage it inflicts.

While this was on the forefront of my thoughts, I began researching for a two-month cycling trip I’ll be embarking on next spring. I will likely be on my own and I realize that as a woman, a trip like this comes with risks and so I’m gathering all the information I can that will be helpful in this respect.  In my research, I came across a publication produced by the Canadian government:Her Own Way – A Woman’s Safe Travel Guide. The following is a list of direct excerpts.

  • Women travel for countless reasons, whether to discover new frontiers, pursue business opportunities, or simply to rest and relax – not unlike men.
  • Among women’s greatest risks are the dangers and disappointments of international cyber-dating.
  • The fact that activities, such as wearing a bikini or having premarital sex, are legal in Canada doesn’t mean they’ll be so in a foreign country.
  • Always ask to see the room before taking it…. Are there holes in the door or walls that could be used by peeping Toms?
  • Remember that camping solo… could be an invitation to danger.
  • carry a photo of your husband (or an imaginary one)
  • Understand that businessmen in certain societies may think it’s okay to flirt with or proposition you. A firm “no” is appropriate.
  • When in doubt, wait for the man to initiate handshaking.
  • Never quit your job, give up your home, or sell all your belongings in the hope of a union that may never happen or that you may later regret.

If anyone from Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development reads this, I am volunteering to edit the content. And I’ll do a great job! As a professional librarian and writer, I frequently write and edit informative content, including government guides. I will also do it for free. Because any opportunity to adjust passively dehumanizing information, especially coming from such a high-level, is well worth my time and effort.

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