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Traveling experiences based on gender

I’m a huge fan of watching shows where people travel to countries I’ll probably never visit (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc) and to see what it looks like through their eyes and lens without having to actually go there myself.

So it comes as no surprise that I really enjoyed the guys from the TV series Departures and Anthony Bourdain’s travel series like Parts Unknown (CNN).

As BF and I watched episodes on and off, he mentioned that he would kill for Bourdain’s job to just travel and eat.

I mused that it would be interesting if it was countries like France, you know, an eating & drinking tour of France or something, but I wasn’t too keen on going to countries like Libya due to political unrest and so on.

…then it occurred to me that it wouldn’t really matter how I felt about going to unstable countries anyway, because I’m a woman.

The simple fact remains:

Guys can go anywhere they want in the world and not be hassled.

Women, can’t.

Women can’t just pick up and go with a film crew to Libya and get into the heart of the culture because there are places and events that only men are allowed to participate in.

A good example of this was when Bourdain visited Libya and only the the boys and men were allowed to celebrate Mohammed’s birthday in the streets and eat treats from trays being passed around (undoubtedly baked by a woman), whereas women were only allowed to watch the celebrations from the rooftops and not participate.

Afterwards, Bourdain went to a male-only establishment to continue the celebrations.

Now, obviously women have their own environments where they relax privately and men are not allowed to visit or see, but even their environments are controlled by men.

Women in many countries particularly very strict patriarchal ones, are also not really allowed to show to the public what their domain or world looks like because they don’t get to make those decisions – they have to ask for permission beforehand.

I remember reading Kabul Beauty School, and I can’t imagine film crews ever being allowed to go into a beauty school there to film women without their headscarves on, talking freely, openly and independently about their lives.

As a woman, my experience traveling is far different from a man’s.

A woman also can’t really travel safely on her own because things like being gang raped actually happen (e.g. like recent tourist rapings in India), whereas a man has a lower to no chance of this happening to them.

At the end of the day it’s really irrelevant to me because I don’t really want to visit those places and I wouldn’t really travel alone because I like traveling with others, but the principle of the matter is that I am not even given the choice or chance, even if I had chosen otherwise.


  • Lani

    Oh where to begin on this. I have traveled in a group and solo many times. I lived in France and Italy too. The Italian comment above particularly rings true. When I lived in Florence, I went to see a play with a male friend. We parted ways and I was walking to the bus stop to go home. I was being followed by a gang of boys who were cat calling me. I quickly hopped on the cell phone and jumped into a well lit store until the boys got bored and walked away. While travelling solo in Turkey, I was on my way to the bank to exchange American cash for Turkish Lira. I noticed a man glaring at me from across the street. I walked another block, felt unsafe, and quickly returned to the hotel where I exchanged my cash for a ridiculous exchange rate. Finally, travelling solo in India, I hired a really tall bulky looking dude from the hotel to walk around with me for an entire week and go with me to museums. I did not feel safe there…at all…as a White Female especially. Looking back, I can’t believe I went there for a week by myself. I don’t think I would go back.

  • tomatoketchup

    More specifically: white guys can go nearly anywhere and not get hassled.

  • Taylor Lee @ Yuppie Millennial

    Having had just a layover in Italy, the few interactions there made me think twice whether I would ever want to visit as a solo female traveler.


      I’m hearing reports of pretty bold gangs of teenage thieves and other disturbing trends in Italy. Makes me wonder if I even want to travel there .. especially with Baby Bun.

      • Dunny

        No problem travelling alone in Italy at all. I have done it many times in the last few years in many areas. Never any problem of any kind or noticed any gangs or bad guys.

        In Turkey I have been hassled shopping alone. In India as well. Spain can be a little dangerous in places with pickpockets and thieves. In the US, I am pretty careful, have had a few dicey taxi situations. I have driven all over Mexico by myself with no problems from people (just police).

        I travel with groups, with friends, and solo a lot. I would the biggest problem (and it is rare) is being turned away from a restaurant that just does not want to seat a single woman (not enough money to be made although I don’t think a single male would be turned away. This has happened in Palm Springs (outright told me they could not seat a single person but I could sit at the bar with many empty tables), Tucson (same as PS), Glasgow (totally empty restaurant but they were expecting a crowd?!), and Stralsund, Germany (but they treat everybody badly there). Everywhere else I have gone, I am welcomed like family, treated very well, given a great table and great service. Better than in Vancouver where I might get seated but in a not so nice table.

        I avoid is arriving in a new country after dark especially late at night. Not comfortable with any kind of transport after dark. I nearly always rent a car whereever I go, because I feel so much more safe and secure, especially in the US, but again do not want to be driving after dark so arrange to arrive in daylight.

  • raluca

    Yeah, actually, it’s not only “dangerous” countries like Libia and so on where it’s not safe to be a woman on her own after dark,
    I mean, how many women can go chasing after Pokemons by themselves at 3 AM in the morning in New York or London or Paris? Not that I particulary would want to do that, it’s just anoying to know this is a dangerous pastime for me, because of my gender.

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