Rarely do I follow the news, as I feel that the media focuses too much on instilling fear in their audiences rather than covering important news stories. Having experienced the world first-hand, it is nothing like what is depicted on television, newspapers, and the Internet. Which is why, I seek out my own news stories, and this one, behind the hashtag #viajosola, was brought to my attention just last week.
Two women from Argentina, Marina and Maria, were backpacking throughout South America and were killed by the two men they were staying with in Ecuador. After their deaths, many criticized the women for staying with two strangers, but I gravitated towards the news story because of the reactions of solo female travelers. These women stood up to stop people from blaming the victims and #viajosola, meaning I travel alone, was born.
I felt compelled to join the solo travelers and wrote up how I was feeling on Instagram:
I travel solo for a variety of reasons. For one, I would never get to visit all of the places I wanted to if I had to wait around for someone to come with me. Also, it's been the best way to make a deeper connection to myself and the place I am visiting. When I am alone, I can truly be present in the moment and fully experience the place I am visiting without distractions. Women should be able to travel without having to worry about the dangers around them. Yes, we need to be careful, as we have to be everywhere, but we also need to put our trust in others. Sometimes it doesn't always work out in our favor, as it sadly did with the two Argentinian women in Ecuador. It's a devastating story, but it doesn't help to blame the victims. Women and men are put in danger every day by their decisions, but when you travel you learn to trust strangers, and often that's the beauty behind it because you learn just how many wonderful people there are in the world. This is not their fault and it won't stop me from traveling solo and seeing the beauty of this world. It's unfortunate that there are people out there who taint it. #viajosola #solofemaletraveler #gigirl #india #worldwanderer #travelblogger #mytinyatlas #solotravel #femaletravel #globetrotter #mytinyatlas #mytravelgram #traveler #igtravel #igdaily #instagramers #bestoftheday #exploremore #indialove #openmyworld #passionpassport #passportexpress #agra #coloursofindia #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #lifeisbeautiful #stayandwander #travel #visualsoflife
But, I still feel like I have more to say. As a solo traveler, who happens to be a woman, I am appalled at the murders of these two women in Ecuador and equally disgusted by the victim blaming happening as a result. Clearly, the people blaming the women haven’t stepped all that far outside of their doorstep because trusting strangers is part of travel, no matter what your gender is.
Never in a million years did I think I would be a solo traveler, but after two years of traveling across the globe alone and meeting up with my Irish cousin and friends, I decided to embark on my own adventure. I had been dreaming of visiting Africa my whole life, and I finally felt it was time. No one wanted to join me, so I booked a tour and flew to Zimbabwe alone, unsure of what to expect. The reactions I got from people in my life varied. While my family and close friends were supportive, others thought I was insane to venture to the continent alone. I didn’t feel that way, and I knew that if I waited for someone to come with me, I’d never get there.
That wound up being one of the best trips of my life. I made friends that I know I’ll always have, and I had complete and total freedom to experience the continent the way I wanted to, without having anyone to hold me back. Since then, I have traveled solo several times, including my most recent seven-week trip to India. This was another one that induced panic in many people in my life who wondered why I would ever want to travel to India alone.
But, the rewards I have received from solo travel are endless. While I won’t list them all, the major ones include becoming a more confident traveler, collecting new friends from all over the world, and learning that I absolutely love spending time with myself. The benefits are there and go well beyond these few, but they are enough to keep me traveling alone and encouraging others to solo travel as well.
The fact of the matter is that we aren’t only in danger when we travel, every day we make mistakes that could cost us our lives. But, if we are raped or murdered, why is blame placed on the victim? Our focus should be on how to prevent something like this from happening, and we should find a way to honor those who weren’t as lucky.
Events like this, along with terrorism, don’t stop me from traveling and they shouldn’t stop any of us. They should make us stop for a minute, however, to remind us that we aren’t invincible, that we should always trust our gut, and just how lucky we are to have encountered the good and honest people of the world while we are traveling.
Because for the most part, people are kind and inviting, we just don’t hear about that because those aren’t the kinds of stories that make the news. But, maybe that’s the issue. We focus so much on the media and the pictures they are painting for us, that we work ourselves up and become fearful of the world around us. So much so that we refuse to travel and that we blame the victims when something does go wrong.
These two young women were exploring the world and their home continent and trusted the wrong people. But, in no way was this their fault. Maybe their guts told them to beware, but they thought that as long as they were together, that just for the night it would be okay. For them, the story has a sad ending, but that doesn’t mean that they should be criticized. What good does that do, especially postmortem?
My wish is that people will stop blaming victims, not just in travel tragedies, but in all tragedies, especially, but not only, when they involve women. Our goal is not blame the victims, but to find their attackers and give these women and men the justice they deserve.