“59% of woman solo travelers would travel alone again in the next 12 months”
In more than one culture, the idea of a woman traveling alone is the start point for comments related to safety, income, future, male company, insurance, risk, assistance, and more. There is no such thing as a fully safe environment. Offenders are everywhere all the time. Before making a review about what academy, and hopefully, what women say about the experience, it is necessary to be clear about the fact that dangerous people are everywhere; a rapist, an abuser, and/or a sexual offender could be a neighbor, a teacher, even a member of the family. The hegemonic speech about women's vulnerability can be fought through this empowering practice of traveling. The real vulnerability is to act according to the hegemonic speech about what is supposed to mean "being and behave like a woman."
Actually, acting in the opposite way is going to help women being safer while traveling.
"Solo travelers" have been defined, literally, as people who arrive in a country alone (Foo, 1999 on Wilson, 2004) and it does not exclude the possibility of meeting people once, inside the country. Another identified profile of the individual travel spectrum is the “independent traveler” and here the tourism industry defines it as people who have different needs and motivations than the mass. At the end of the classification, there is the “Fully Independent Traveler” as the ones who do not travel in a fully inclusive package nor group. (Chai,1996 on Wilson, 2004)
“In fact, the world’s earliest travel writings were produced by a woman named Egeria. In 381 AD, she climbed Mount Sinai on her pilgrimage from what is thought to be either Spain or Rhone Valley to the Holy Lands. The letters she wrote on her journey are regarded as the first travel memoir.”
From the invisibility of women in the tourism industry to their full recognition, a long time has passed. It would be wise to add that industry and academia of any kind, even today, have always been dominated by patriarchy-centered cultures. In regard to tourism that is based on an academic framework, the idea of travel experience was always assumed and told from a male perspective, there are few female voices in the early ’60-’80s period taken into account. In consequence, there were no academic writings or tourism industries considering the female experience of traveling that started to change in the middle ’80s partly through publications like Valene Smith’s (1979) paper titled ‘Women: The Taste Makers in Tourism’. Later there were compensatory studies for this historical omission, followed by bifocal studies that still were not enough to encompass the phenomenon until finally, it got female-centered (it can be said around 15 years ago) to finally been able to find academic literature focusing only on women experience and requirements, sometimes translated into the tourism industry.
Another thing to be addressed is that, as in general feminism, one important matter to consider in the production of identities among female travelers is the ethnic component. It has to be said that nowadays, there are more women from developed countries traveling alone than developing ones, but with the massive insertion of women into professional fields and feminist movements that do not start in dominant cultures and are impulsed by women who belong to ethnic minorities. This reality about the ethnic profile of women solo traveling is changing every day.
The attempts to profile women who travel alone have settled around that the 1% of solo travelers are women between 18 and 24 years, and most of the women who travel alone are over 45 years. The consulted articles have an important gap in percentage by age in regard to the culture that is being studied; it can be said that in European countries, 80% of women who travel alone are over 45 years, and in Latin-American studies, 46% of women who travel alone is centered in the 24-39 years group. It can be easily read that most women start to travel solo at the end of college and, specifically, women start to travel alone after their 30s. Another thing to have in consideration is that 80% of women who are traveling, have a job and the same percentage applies to women in possession of a college degree. Half of the women traveling alone have a relationship, and by that, it can be addressed already that the seeking for traveling alone is not related to the partner subject.
“Ideologies of the family have shifted so that women are no longer expected, nor do they automatically choose, to be partnered or to parent children.”
There have been registered a wide variety of reasons why women start to travel alone; some of them are related to the need for a life shift, inspiration by other women who travel alone, personal growth, leaving a relationship, or just because one trip leads to another. What has been said that women seek the most while traveling is the nice weather, beautiful landscapes, and cultural interchange; that is why experienced women travelers are not going to seek mainstream culture countries. The impact on the media can be partially portrayed by the fact that to the 15th of August 2021, the search of “women traveling alone” has near 79 million results on Google.
“Traveling with a partner or group of people can take you away from the meaningful kind of personal growth-oriented experience and orient you toward activities and the day-to-day stuff”
Finally, academic research and prominent statements made in various blogs and articles about and from the experience of solo female travelers lead to the conclusion that there is a deep connection between this experience and the development of identity in conjunction with increased self-esteem. Women traveling alone have stated that they feel free and confident, and that is not what most female experiences lead to.
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McNamara, K. E., & Prideaux, B. (2010). A typology of solo independent women travellers: A Typology of Solo Independent Women Travellers. International Journal of Tourism Research, 12(3), 253–264. https://doi.org/10.1002/jtr.751
Pereira, A., & Silva, C. (n.d.). MOTIVATIONS AND EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN SOLO TRAVELLERS. 5.
Smith’, L. (1979). WOMEN THE TASTE-MAKERS IN TOURISM. ANNALS OF TOURISM RESEARCH, 12.
Su, C.-P., & Wu, T.-C. (2020). The Dark Side of Solo Female Travel: Negative Encounters with Male Strangers. Leisure Sciences, 42(3–4), 375–392. https://doi.org/10.1080/01490400.2020.1712277
Why a solo female travel experience is incredible for the soul at any age. (n.d.). Retrieved 15 August 2021, from https://www.trafalgar.com/real-word/solo-female-travel-experience/
Wilson, Erica Christine. (2004). A ‘Journey Of Her Own’?: The Impact Of Constraints On Women’s Solo Travel. https://doi.org/10.25904/1912/3676