‘We know how dangerous the world is, we are women’

Society wastes its time patronising women, warning us about how dangerous the world is, instead of telling the men who make the world unsafe to stop

As a female digital nomad who benefits from the privilege that comes from travelling with my male partner, the experience I’m having now stand in stark contrast with the experiences I had when I’ve travelled solo.

And while I can acknowledge the difference, it won’t stop me from continuing to travel on my own.

Here’s why.

Four years ago, I had just booked a very last-minute solo trip (1½ days before going to be exact) to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh. I was excited as I had never been to Egypt before and couldn’t wait for a few days in the sun after what had been a busy few weeks of work.


The excitement quickly diminished after I informed those closest to me of my plans. I got a barrage of concerned texts from my boyfriend sending me links to news stories about bombings that had taken place in Cairo and orders from my dad to make sure I texted him at least once a day every day I was there. I also got two extra-long hugs from my colleague as I left the office the evening before the trip. She “hoped to see me next week”, she said.

While on the trip I felt perfectly safe, but out of a sense of duty and respect for those who love me, I ended up limiting myself, my movements, and ultimately my enjoyment of the trip.

On my last night, I ventured a bit further afield than I had for the whole trip and ended up having a lovely night, berating myself for letting the concerns of others get to me and nearly ruin the whole trip.

I came back resentful and still am, four years on.

Society spends so much time telling women to be careful, whether that’s travelling home after a night out or travelling halfway across the world.

Society tells women to not drink too much, not to go out late at night, not to talk to strangers, to watch what we wear. The list goes on.

Why? Because people are afraid of what, let’s face it, men will do to women.

Optimistically but, ultimately, foolishly, many think women have power to prevent what others choose to do to them. Society wastes its time patronising women, warning us about how dangerous the world is, as if it hasn’t been made abundantly clear since our birth where exactly we stand in this world and what could be done to us and our bodies at a moment’s notice.

We know how dangerous the world is, we are women; it is not safe for us to go to the shop down the road. That is why it doesn’t make a difference whether I’m walking down Patrick Street in Cork or walking through a market in Egypt, the threat will always be there.

In Europe, we have a particular brand of Islamophobia-coded concern for women and believe some countries are more oppressive to women and, therefore, should be avoided when, as a matter of fact, studies show that many women who report sexual assaults know their assailant. So I might actually be safer abroad with strangers than I am in Ireland.

Of course, there’s a risk; there’s always a risk. But just because there’s a risk that someone might decide to do something to me does not mean I am not going to live my life. I cannot control the actions of others, but I can control how I live my life and I’m not going to shrink myself or my desire for adventure just because society might want me to.

Even more rich is that society tells us to be careful, then when something is done to a woman, she is called a liar or blamed for what happened.

Where is the concern then?

I am not in fairyland. I will continue to instinctively take precautions and trust my gut because it is what I have been trained to do and what I have to do as a woman. But if the worst does happen, I’ll know it is not because I decided to travel on my own or because of anything I did.

My wish is that society would redirect the time and energy it puts into telling women how to be safe into telling the men who make the world unsafe to stop harassing women, to stop raping women, to stop killing women.

My wish is that the next time anyone gets the urge to try prevent a woman going on a solo trip or to tell a woman how “dangerous” the world is for women, as if she doesn’t already know, they instead have a chat with their male friend, colleague or family member, and put that time and energy into making the world a safer place for women.

Then we can be free and travel and not have to worry about our safety every minute of every day, no matter where we are in the world.

Earlier this year Lauren Foley wrote about packing her bags to explore Europe. The company she worked for was based in London, but she then worked remotely, first in Lisbon and then on the Greek island of Syros. Recently, she moved to New York to work at UN Women.

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