Beth Santos, founder and CEO of Wanderful, which specializes in empowering women to travel the world, talks about the focus on the perils of traveling solo for women, and why it’s important to move away from this talking point.
You’re very outspoken when arguing whether solo travel is safe for women or not. Could you explain why and where this comes from?
There is a lot of dialogue lately about how women can stay safe when traveling alone. A quick Google search will reveal loads of articles, many of which surface around March (Women’s Month).
Typically, when we as a society talk about solo travel for women, we follow one of two narratives. Either it’s the Eat, Pray, Love narrative, in which a woman has a magical and life-changing experience abroad, usually involving a gorgeous romantic interest (and no shade here to Eat Pray Love itself– I actually loved the book myself but still the narrative exists); or it’s the “murdered in a dark alley” narrative, in which a woman makes the bad choice of traveling by herself and pays the ultimate price for it.
Often there’s very little nuance, and that’s my main frustration. We oversimplify safety and immediately apply a gendered lens to it. You won’t find nearly as much information directed to men about traveling safely as you will for women, yet it’s a topic that’s relevant for everyone. Not to mention, often by providing “tips” for women to travel safely, what we’re actually communicating to women is that it needs to be our responsibility to protect ourselves. But we, as a society, need to have a conversation about how to stop sexism, harassment, and violence against women in the first place.