Female Solo Travel – The Ups and the Downs

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In the fast-paced bustling 21st century world, women have grown to be more independent. That being the case, it is still seen as unusual for a woman to travel on her own. Whether that woman is originates from a Western or an Eastern culture, liberal or conservative, the question of “why are you travelling alone?” still arises. Friends and family worry about safety, while strangers might pity the lonesome traveller. However there are many advantages to travelling alone that are easily overlooked.

Why Travel Alone

Venturing off on your own and exploring the world is a liberating experience. You don’t have to stress over putting a group together, who would be able to go to the same place at the same time on the same budget, you don’t need to worry about compromising to accommodate someone else’s schedule, and you can change your plans on a whim, without concern for anyone else.  While you might feel cut off by leaving their homes and loved-ones behind, the truth is you are never truly cut-off. When travelling alone you are able to embark on a journey of self-discovery, as well as meet new people at every stop. You can always find someone somewhere who is similar to you in some way.

Concerns

Fear of feeling alone and bored can make you reconsider solo travel. “What am I going to do with my day?” is a common question among new solo travellers. The answer is: plenty. Being in a foreign country, where you are trying to absorb as much of the culture as possible in a limited amount of time, gives you plenty to do. There will always be a show to attend, a museum to explore or an underwater cave to discover, activities and amusements are abundant when visiting a new location. And if you run out of activities during your trip, you can seek companionship in a book or chronicle your adventures in a journal/blog.

Another major concern that faces, particularly women, is safety. Between pickpocketing and harassment, women are considered an easy target, especially when they are walking alone in an unfamiliar area. To avoid a gruesome fate, make sure you keep yourself and your belongings as safe as possible. This can be done by hiding your money inside your clothes instead of in your wallet. Don’t carry large sums of money when sightseeing or shopping, credit cards are preferable. Try to appear like you belong, so as not to attract any unwanted attention to yourself. Walking with a map and turning left and right, labels you as a tourist that can be taken advantage of. Avoid walking alone at night. Finally follow your instinct, if you feel that you shouldn’t be in a particular place then you probably shouldn’t be there. Safe travel is generally about common sense. So as a woman, don’t let your concerns and other’s discourage you from exploring the world alone at your liberty and your own pace.

Closets Full of Dreams: Inside Egypt’s Sexual-Harassment Crisis

A crisis every Egyptian woman has endured.

TIME

To be a woman in Egypt is to live with the crushing inevitability of sexual harassment. The magnitude of the problem is epidemic, with 99.3% of Egyptian women having been sexually harassed, according to a 2013 U.N. Women report. It’s a society in which, for half the population, just leaving home can be a daily nightmare.

Cairo-based photojournalist Roger Anis decided to confront the issue by making portraits of women next to the clothes they would wear on the streets, if only they felt safe enough. “I’m not facing harassment myself as a man,” he says, “but when your dear friends are facing it, your girlfriend is facing it, or your mother or sister is facing it, you feel so helpless.”

His diptychs pair horrifying stories of harassment and assault with the dream of basic rights for women, reaching beyond sexism to address intersectional themes of racism, ageism, body image…

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Playing By My Own Rules

I’ve been living in this city since the day I was born. I know the culture and I have a feel of it; it’s a crucial part of my life. But for the past four or five years I’ve been determined on leaving. I felt that my time here was limited that I was meant to live somewhere else, not sure where, but somewhere more accepting. You see I have many problems with living here, some more complex than others. My number one issue, though, has to be the people.

I’m aware of how general a term that is and how much it may not make sense, but I’ll explain. The population of greater Cairo is approximately 20 million people, give or take. It’s one of the densest urban areas in the world and one of the most polluted. That leads to an unfixable traffic catastrophe and more garbage than the city can hold. Leaving the house every day is a tedious task for everyone, regardless of which form of transportation they choose to take. All that is in addition to extreme inflation, which devaluates the money, adding more of a burden to people who’ve had it up to their eyeballs in problems.

However, this brief background doesn’t explain what I mean by having an issue with the people. I’m used to the crowded streets and have grown accustomed to the traffic, still hate it though. But what I can’t tolerate is the constant judgment and brazen interference in other people’s lives.  People’s lives are like a circus act, trying to balance between obligations and expectations. Society expects people to stand on a wire and effortlessly balance these two things with perfection, which is impossible! It’s outrageous to even conceive that such a life is possible. As you walk down the street, there always watchful eyes looking out to see if you step out of line. This creates an atmosphere of extreme frustration and oppression that no one can endure. One may pretend, put on a mask and spend their lives hiding, but it will certainly not be truthful. I’m not saying that this is the case for everyone, but it is the case for a great majority of the citizens of this city.

Back to the topic at hand, it hit my today that the only way I can be content with living here is if I do so by my own rules. I don’t think it will be entirely possible, but hypothetically it would be a step forward. If I could have my own place, take charge and responsibility for my own life. Be a mature responsible adult before being in a committed life-long relationship. Why is that I have to wait for a husband until I can be independent? It’s such an archaic social structure. Why can’t young unmarried men and women live on their own, outside their parents’ house? Why does there have to be a negative stigma behind that, especially for women?

I detest this culture of dependence and I hate that I’m sucked into it. I would like to not have to move away to have a life that I can call my own. I would appreciate it if people would mind their own business and accept the differences of others. I would like to see this culture as non-patriarchal, non-misogynistic, less destructive, more accepting, more proactive, more productive and more respectful.

Do I dare to dream such a dream?

An Unconventional Life

I’ve always wanted an unconventional life. A life that’s exciting, a life I’d be proud of and remember. I want to make a difference, even if it’s minute. However the culture I belong to and the society I live in make it quite difficult, if not impossible. Everyone needs to act a certain way, a be a certain way or else you’re judged or condemned. I can’t be who I want to be, because I don’t have the opportunity to do that.

This society sucks the life out of a person. This society which believes everything is wrong and inappropriate. I feel imprisoned.

“I feel like I’m standing in the middle of a crowded room screaming at the top of my lungs and no one even looks up” (Titanic). I can never really be myself, I’m not allowed to be myself.

I know that going anywhere else will be extremely difficult and exhausting. But I want to be able to walk down the street. I don’t want to be conned in everything. I don’t want to feel like a second-rate citizen in my own country. Or a second-rate human because I’m a girl. I want a life that’s mine. I want independence.

I look around and think this place can be much more than it is. But I’m not going to wait around to find out. I’m not gambling away my life, it worth a lot to me. Even if other people don’t understand the value of time, I do. And I want to make the most out of my time, because regret is the worst feeling imaginable. Anyway all I really want is to have as much control as possible over my life. I am a firm believer in fate, that’s why I accept fate as an invisible hand having some control over my life, but not other people.

I want to choose the life I want to live, regardless of how it is.