With this post I do not want to scare women to travel and see the world alone. I want however only to create awareness. This is because personal experiences around sexual harassment during travel is rarely discussed, although they certainly should have been.
Nevertheless, there are some articles and posts online about how a woman can avoid sexual harassment while travelling. However, my experience is that if you so dress like a conservative nun, follows the norms and rules of the country you are in, do not smoke or drink alcohol or go out alone at night, harassment is an issue that is impossible to avoid. As a white, blond and blue-eyed “tourist” like me, you will always stand out. It will in no way be possible to blend in with the natives, or do anything with the condescending thoughts some men have about women in their head.
I cannot count how many times I have been a victim of harassment during my travels. All of the words shouted after me, whistling, repulsive compliments, trying of kissing, stirring, burglary and indecent exposure. Everything felt disgusting and uncomfortable. Ask any woman about harassment while travelling and you will hear stories about all this and more.
Some of the events I have experienced while travelling, I have not told anyone except my husband. Simply because it feels shameful and kind of taboo. But now I am ready to speak out and share some of the stories I have experienced related to this issue. Simply because it is necessary,and very few do it.
In India, a man broke into my hotel room and tried to force me to kiss him. In Cuba, a man tried to prevent me from getting out of an apartment by holding me by force in one arm while closing the door again with the other, in what I felt was an attempt of rape. When visiting a tourist attraction in Jaipur, I heard a bunch of young guys that spoke loudly about me, where one of them said when pointing at me with one hand and holding his penis with the other: “Now, I’m horny.” I have had countless of unknown young men asking me if they could take a picture together with me, and then holding around me in the picture. I have seen some of these images have been abused in social media, saying I was their girlfriend. This took place in African and Asian countries. In the Middle East, I have been repeatedly tried bought by camels. Otherwise, there is much yelling like; nice ass, sexy, and whistling. In Bolivia I do not like to walk alone in the street without my husband, because I know there will be some remark from men passing in their cars. I know that for many men that do this, they just maybe want to give you a compliment. Yet it has never made me feel beautiful or attractive. On the contrary, it make you feel seen like an animal, cheap and objectified.
That being said, I am not the only one being affected by this. Most women who travel alone experiences much of the same. A friend of mine was hit by a car in Dubai because she ignored the harassing comments the driver shouted after her. For other friends it have gone so far and they have been so unlucky that they have been raped during their travels. Unfortunately, this is a reality for women travelling alone.
As written earlier, I do not want this post to scare women to go out and experience the world alone. I just want to create awareness by sharing some of my stories. And do not take this wrong, because most men I have met on my travels, regardless of country or culture, have been respectable men who have nothing to do with this. So if you are a woman and want to travel and see the world, do not let this scare you to stay at home. I believe this will be the opposite of feminism; simply because you do not do what you want because of your gender. So do not let this stop you!