Chasing a Legend in the ‘Estate of Tears’

What’s a true adventure without a little breaking and entering, am I right? Nope, just me? Okay, that’s fine.

Hear me out here people; I usually tend to follow the rules. HOWEVER… when I arrived in Coimbra on a mission to see the famous gardens of Quinta das Lágrimas and saw they’re closed on Mondays I did what any logical person would do. I waited until the coast was clear and I hopped the fence, obviously. Anyway, this isn’t about me. Let’s get to the real story.

The epic tale of Quinta das Lágrimas (AKA The Estate of Tears) is one for the ages. If you thought it wasn’t possible to get more dramatic than Romeo and Juliet; buckle up and get ready.

As the legend goes, in 1340 the prince of Portugal had a forbidden love affair with a woman named Inês after he is forced into an arranged marriage by his father.

Immediately after his wife dies in childbirth, the two sneak off and marry in secrecy. When the king receives word of this, he orders that Inês be stabbed to death over Fonte Das Lágrimas.

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Some say the stone bottom of the fountain was formed by her tears. It’s a story, okay? Just roll with it.

After his father dies and Pedro becomes king just two years later, he orders the men who murdered his true love be publically executed. His wife was then buried in the royal tombs as a queen and all of those who disapproved of their union were forced to kiss the hand of her decayed corpse. How’s that for romantic?

Today it is believed that Inês still walks among the gardens searching for her lost love. Having the estate to myself with no life to be found beyond the birds chirping in the trees above, I can honestly say that these gardens have a presence. The haunting beauty of the ruins within the forest walls tell a story within themselves. Needless to say, that fence was begging to be jumped.

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Overcoming Ignorance as a Black Woman Abroad

Growing up primarily in the South, Jasmine is no stranger to the deeply complex and layered history of racial tension in the United States. The issue of exotifying African features has been a reality for decades from circus ‘freakshows’ to the objectifying Minstrel shows which ran like wildfire during the Jim Crow era.

While this time feels like long ago to some, in many ways these problems have simply taken on a new face with stereotypical representations of African Americans in music videos and reality television. To put it simply, the fascination and misrepresentation of black people is still a very raw and real concern for many.

As a woman of color, Jasmine has encountered an array of experiences overseas that challenged strongly held beliefs she developed growing up in the US. One of those being that no one under any circumstance should touch her hair.

As she put it, “You can look at me but you can’t touch me. I’m not a petting zoo. I’m not a circus freak show. Just don’t touch me.” However, after an eye-opening trip to Croatia, Jasmine began to see the world and herself in a whole new light.

A true wanderess at heart, Jasmine often opts to “venture away from the commercialized areas because I feel like it’s not a true representation of what life is actually like in the places I’ve chosen to visit.” Armed with the mission to journey off the beaten path, she took off to explore small towns of the Croatian countryside in search of an authentic travel experience.

After arriving at her Airbnb in a remote village, she walked up to the check-in counter. Immediately she was taken aback as the man behind the counter nervously avoided eye-contact, quickly looking back down each time he glanced up at her.

As if it could not get more strange, the man began to giggle “like a five-year-old schoolboy” and told Jasmine, “I’ve never seen anyone like you. You’re so pretty. Can I just look at you?”

Though this exchange undoubtedly made her a bit uneasy, “I had to remember what he just said. He has never seen anyone like me, so I could very well be the first black person that he has ever interacted with.”

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That evening she would have yet another encounter that took her out of her comfort zone. When she sat down for dinner at a local restaurant, Jasmine couldn’t help but notice that all eyes were on her. A large group seated across the room relentlessly peered in her direction for the remainder of the evening, quickly glancing away only when she would look back at them.

At this point Jasmine was accustomed to being gawked at by strangers, so she brushed it off. That is, she did until one of the women at the table stood up and walked towards her. As she approached the table, the woman said, “You know, we only see people like you in pages of magazines and pictures. We’ve never seen a person like you in real life.”

Jasmine was dumbfounded. Her instincts had been right after all. These people had never seen a black person before in their lives. The woman went on to inquire about Jasmine’s natural hairstyle, asking how she makes it so curly. Then ultimately the dreaded question pops up, “Can I touch it?”

Immediately the urge to stop this woman dead in her tracks courses through Jasmine’s body. The thoughts run through her mind, ‘Touch my hair? What are you talking about lady? Get your hands back!’ However, despite her initial reaction, in that moment Jasmine had an epiphany.

“I realized for some people, especially if you have only ever existed to them in a photograph or in a magazine, for them touch is a form of memory. In that, you’re learning about me. I’m learning about you, what you’re ignorant to, and what you’ve never been exposed to.”

With that, she gave in and allowed the curious Croatian woman to touch her hair. While this did not instantaneously make Jasmine 100% comfortable with strangers pawing at her luminous locks, she made the conscious choice to accept it.

The reactions that Jasmine received in Croatia, while a bit invasive, solely came from a lack of knowledge and innocent intrigue. These people meant Jasmine no harm; they simply wanted to learn more about the world through her.

After this enlightening experience, Jasmine felt compelled “to relinquish that notion of ‘Don’t let anyone touch your hair because you’re not a petting zoo’ and realized, “Hey, if that’s how someone discovers, through touch, that’s perfectly fine.”

Dozens of countries later, Jasmine affirms that the profound experiences and memories she has made overseas have been well-worth the discomfort. She puts it best that…

“I would say to other black women that I think you know when someone is being ignorant as opposed to being genuinely curious, so just listen to your own intuition.”

I hope you all enjoyed part two of Jasmine’s (AKA @_jmarietravels) interview. Don’t forget to follow her on Instagram and read through the amazing content on her blog Give Yourself the World. That’s not all though! In the third and final part of her interview, Jasmine will be discussing the very serious issue of safety as a woman traveling with her own story of being stalked and harassed in Havana, Cuba. Stay tuned!

Turning Pain Into Purpose

“I feel like pursuing your own adventure, feeling safe in the knowledge that you don’t need anyone else by your side is enough.”

The Love, Loss, and Lessons of a Solo Female Traveler

 

Jasmine Thurston has always been a dreamer. When she was just a little girl Jasmine spent her days flipping through the pages of National Geographic, losing herself in all the beauty the world had to offer. Since she can remember, exploring and adapting to new cultures have been a way of life for this bright-eyed beauty. Born in Hagåtña, Guam to parents in the military, Jasmine was destined to explore. Her life started over again and again all over the world until her family finally settled in El Dorado, Arkansas.

It is no doubt that growing up with a vagabond lifestyle certainly made an impression. However, it would take a major life shift to catapult Jasmine into the “wanderess” lifestyle she currently leads. As she put it herself…

It wasn’t until I experienced the heartbreak of a broken engagement that I really started to travel the world as a means of trying to heal.”

The day of her wedding had finally come and all of her plans for an exotic Caribbean ceremony were in shambles. Jasmine was devastated and at a loss for what to do, but she knew with certainty what she would not do. Staying home and crying was not an option; she needed to get out of her head and out of her house. Decked out in a white flowing sundress, Jasmine packed up her car and headed to the one place she knew could bring her peace and solace, the ocean.

At the exact hour of her wedding that never came to be, Jasmine sat on the sand, gazed out over the waves, and had an honest conversation with God. As a strong believer that everything happens for a reason, she asked for guidance. She needed a sign. She needed to know what she was supposed to do now. In that moment of vulnerability and self-reflection, rather than asking to repair her relationship or bring her true love, Jasmine had a very different request. She told God, “I’m not marrying a person today but I do want to marry my purpose.” That’s where exploration came in, both internally and internationally.

Her engagement falling apart was not what Jasmine wanted at that time, far from it. However, she admits that if things worked out as she’d hoped then she would not have taken on the enriching travel journey that has brought her where she is today. It was only after this heart-wrenching loss and sincere conversation with God that Jasmine’s new life as a courageous adventurer and global citizen would really begin.

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“It truly helped me in that it took me out of the world that I was living in, that world of hurt where all I could focus on was ‘What was so wrong with me? Why didn’t he want to stay?’ So just being away, being forced into environments where I had to learn about myself, my place in the world, and the world at large took my mind off all of that. Then I was able to eventually move forward because I was able to find a new outlook through travel.”

Several years and dozens of countries later, no one could imagine that Jasmine had endured this kind of heartbreak. Walking into any room she emits an aura of light and openness, ready to take on the world. The sparkle in her eye and the warmth of her smile haven’t been dimmed, rather strengthened. “I try to find lessons in the different things I experience in life. It took me a while to come to terms with that. I’m finally in a place where I can completely let go of what didn’t work out and embrace what’s coming behind the horizon.”

Breaking Barriers of Borders: Loving and Learning in a New Culture

Following the heartbreak that launched Jasmine on her solo travel journey, she has made countless connections with people from around the world. While many of these relationships have been of the friendship variety, she is no stranger to falling in love abroad. After a short week and a half jaunt to Morocco, Jasmine’s view of romantic relationships would never be the same.

She had been aimlessly walking around in the brutal Marrakech heat for 5+ hours. When she could no longer stand upright Jasmine took the advice of her host and headed to a local cafe to cool down. She sat down for a much-needed rest and peered around the small shop with drink in hand. That’s when she saw him. He was a real-life Aladdin; tall, dark, handsome, and most importantly fully engrossed in a physics textbook.

She’s a lover of a pretty face, sure, but nerdiness on the other hand… Now that’s a killer for Jasmine. As a bold woman of action, she confidently strutted up to the mysterious and undeniably sexy nerd. Then with a smile and Southern accent as sweet as honey, she said, “Hi! I’m new here. I was just wondering what’s exciting in this area.” At this moment, the magic carpet rider turned physics pupil looked up and did the last thing Jasmine expected; he mocked her voice.

After the initial shock of his response subsided they both burst into laughter. He subsequently invited her to join him and she warmly accepted. Then for the next five hours, Jasmine and the mystery man from Marrakech discussed anything and everything from their childhoods to the history and politics of their respective countries. He tells her about the deep pride the Moroccan people exude in spite of their struggles and the profound love he has for his homeland.

While the content and length of their conversation were impressive alone, there was one element of this exchange that made it particularly remarkable. English was his fifth language. For the words they couldn’t find between them, Jasmine would call on Google Translate to fill in the gaps. It was in that moment that their differences fell away.

“What was so revolutionizing to me was that you can be completely attracted to someone who does not speak your language at all. For me, that reaffirmed that attraction and love have no boundaries. If you like a person, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, you will try to make it work.”

They exchanged numbers and planned a date the following day, but there was a catch. He was completely unaware that it was a date at all. As they happily galavanted around the Old City, Jasmine couldn’t help getting stuck on one minor detail. Her new love interest continuously brushed his hand against hers, but at no point would grab hold of it. Questions and doubts began to whirl around her mind like hurricane winds making landfall. She wondered to herself, ‘What is it? Do you not want to be seen with me in public? Is it because I’m black? What’s going on here?’

After a hefty serving of overthinking she finally made her thoughts known. He then kindly but sternly responded, “We don’t date and we don’t do public displays of affection here. It’s just not something that we do in my culture.” He went on to explain that there are also strict social norms against men and women cohabiting in the same room after hours. Marrakech is a small city and everybody knows everybody, so word travels fast. For example, if an older person catches a local man or woman going into a hotel with someone before being wed then they will likely receive a not-so-friendly knock at the door from the police, the riad will be shut down, and they could even be arrested. To put it simply, casual dating isn’t too common here.

In Moroccan culture, it is expected that a prospective couple undergoes a thorough process of courtship. Physical contact before the wedding night is a no-no and it is believed that you should not pursue someone romantically unless you see clear “marriage material” qualities in them. While this new approach to relationships was an adjustment for Jasmine, she grew to appreciate it. “I actually found myself liking their perspective of dating because I felt like it forces you to get to know someone with their clothes on. Because most in the West use dating apps for casual and purposeless exchanges. I feel like it enforces morality by being mindful and intentional about the person that you’re trying to spend time with.”

However, that would only be the beginning of the challenges this couple would come to face; particularly the fact that she is a Christian and he is a Muslim. “What was so profound about that relationship to me was that it challenged my beliefs.” She wrestled with the idea of how they could possibly make things work coming from two different cultures, speaking different languages, and not sharing the same faith.

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“After much thought, it forced me to think, ‘Do I absolutely require that someone believe the same things I do?’ I ended up resolving to say that if you have your core beliefs intact and the expression of that is fairness and treating me the way I deserve to be treated then whatever you believe that’s what you believe. I support that.” With that, the couple opted to push past their differences and continue moving forward.

Following her departure back to the States, the two stayed in contact for six months and Jasmine returned to Morocco nearly four times. In an effort to manage the six-hour time difference between Dallas and Marrakech, her love would wake up at 3AM to video chat with Jasmine after she came home from work at 9PM. They were growing closer at rapid speed and he even asked her to marry him that December. Though she was flattered by the gesture and his commitment to her, Jasmine couldn’t help but feel that it was all too soon.

As time went on, the stark differences between the couple’s cultural values and belief systems became as clear as day. Particularly, it was an issue when she realized that the man she had fallen for adamantly denied that a woman has the right to voice her opinions, aka “talk back.” Now that was going to be a problem. Though Jasmine stood at about five foot nothing and was as sweet as can be, she had plenty of opinions and had no problem sharing them.

“I explained to him that I come from a country and culture where women have opinions and strong voices. We’re CEOs of companies. We’re in executive boardrooms. We’re entrepreneurs and creative geniuses. I myself am an opinionated woman and I come from a family of strong women leaders.” However, her clarification fell on deaf ears.

The disagreements and miscommunications began to build up higher and higher until their relationship was a Jenga game mere moves away from crumbling to the ground. As the days went on, it became increasingly apparent to Jasmine that this romance wasn’t built for the long haul, but not because of cultural differences alone.

“I measure all of my relationships, platonic and romantic, by how well we interact in times of disagreement and times where you’re required to be vulnerable because I can laugh with anybody. I require, in another, the ability to share vulnerability and engage in difficult conversations. Then at the end of the day, we know that it’s not personal. We’re just pushing each other to grow.”

Though this particular romance didn’t work out in the end, Jasmine remains a strong advocate of finding love abroad. She wholeheartedly attests that the personal growth she attained by taking the plunge to love someone completely unlike her was far worth the risk. In the end, what she gained within herself was greater than any loss.

Advice for Women Eager to Wander but Wary of Flying Solo

As insightful and eloquent as ever, Jasmine leaves us with this parting thought…

“Ultimately, my greatest hope for the women and girls who follow me is that they know they don’t have to wait on someone else to begin the pursuit of a life well-lived and explored. A lot of the women I speak with will say things like ‘Well, you know I’ve not yet reached your level of courage or level of bravery, but one day I’ll get there.’ Usually, my response to them is ‘Hey, do it afraid. Do it by yourself. Do it hurting. Do it broken. We all have some form of brokenness. Then ultimately, just do it.’ I feel like pursuing your own adventure and feeling safe in the knowledge that you don’t need anyone else by your side is enough. So I tell people, ‘Hey, you’re enough. Just get going.”

 

If you enjoyed this interview and want to hear more of what Jasmine has to say then check out her blog Give Yourself the World, or follow her on Instagram. Stay tuned for more wanderess wisdom… Part two and three of Jasmine’s interview are coming soon!

An Open Letter to L.A.

You were never my forever place. We both knew that. Yet i came to you with such optimism and enthusiasm. I was enthralled by the possibilities. Now we part ways as seamlessly as we came together and it is a blessing all the same.
A good friend once told me that if you can survive in LA you can survive anywhere.
I arrived in the concrete jungle the summer of 2017 and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frightened. I came here with my heart in shambles after a serious relationship came to a roaring halt. It crossed my mind to pack my bags and go home, but I don’t give up so easily.
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I found myself in an apartment in East Los Angeles packed with 7 roommates. I was working as an intern getting paid sweatshop wages in an atmosphere that made me want to tear my hair out at the root. This wasn’t how I imagined it would be, not at all. I was miserable.
I have encountered more toxic people in my 6 short months in Los Angeles than I have in my entire life. I have met perpetual victims who adamantly believe they have no ownership of problems in any situation ever. I have met people so far up their own asses they don’t see anyone but themselves. And I myself have been toxic because of it. I have used people. I have been unfaithful. I have told a lie or two or five.
Basically, if mistakes make you wise then I’m on my way to becoming a fucking genius.
The city of angels has made me anything but angelic, and I’m grateful. They say you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge and I say you can’t acknowledge what you don’t see. My time in L.A. has shown me how I don’t want to feel, where I don’t belong, and who I don’t want to be.
But this letter would be incomplete if I didn’t take a moment to thank you. My dear California, as my time here is coming to a close I have finally begun to truly appreciate you. Thank you for showing me that I can do absolutely anything. Thank you for the temporary friendships and volatile romances that helped me realize what a beautiful thing it is to be on my own. Thank you for reminding me of the life I want to live and the person I want to be. I guess what I want to say is thank you for planting the seed. Now, its time for me to grow.
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8 Considerations for Ladies Traveling Solo

Cause for Pause

1)     To Onlookers You Are A. Brave or B. Crazy (Maybe Both?)

When you tell them that you are heading out on your own with your uterus and other feminine body parts in tow this will strike a chord of fear in the hearts of many. “You’re going alone?? Be careful!”, is an all too common response. The choice to explore the world without being linked at the hip with another person (preferably male) is often seen as naïve or simply insane. The other option is to tell you that you are sooooo brave as if to say that existing outside of your immediate surroundings with your lady brain and body should win you the Nobel Peace Prize.

 

2)    Street Harassment Can Be a Complete Nightmare

Not all street harassment is created equal and not all occurs while traveling, but when it’s bad it’s BAD. Imagine walking down the street every day with countless men hurling unwanted comments your way, invasively staring you down, and even on occasion trying to kiss you. It’s enough to make any woman’s skin crawl. This attention is only amplified if you in some way are aesthetically “exotic” compared to the local women and reside in a populated urban area. It can be one of the greatest challenges of traveling while female. This treatment is designed to disempower women and pin them down to nothing more than a warm body rearing and ready for mistreatment. It can make you feel violated and hesitant to even step out the front door.

 

3)    You Will Be Told Not to Trust People

If you are naturally friendly then you may receive unwanted advice to repress your extrovert tendencies and avoid interacting with others as much as possible. Unfortunately, the frequency and intensity of these warnings is much greater when traveling outside of the Western hemisphere because all too often non-white men are seen as more predatory and violent. Well-meaning people in and outside of your life will push you to engage minimally with those around you because in their mind stepping outside in an unfamiliar place puts a target dead center on your forehead that says, “Ready to reenact Taken!” This can unfortunately lead to some unfounded fear that the world is out to get you simply because you have a vagina. You might feel discouraged and unsure of your decision to venture off alone.

 

4)    You May Encounter Some 1950’s-Esque Remarks

If you are a professional woman then the legitimacy of your career and capabilities outside of domestic goddess duties may come into question. If you are 20 or above without children or a spouse then this will appear as an oddity in need of fixing in more traditional cultures. You might be advised to get married soon and have kids before you God forbid age and essentially morph into an undesirable hag. Let’s just say if you don’t fit the bill of a traditional cookie cutter housewife then just be prepared to hear some sexist shit more than you may be accustomed.

 

Why You Should Not Let Fear Hold You Back

5)     People Typically Want to Help Not Harm

At times, you will be seen as a damsel in distress. You will meet people concerned for your well-being just as your friends and family were, and they will go above and beyond to ensure your safety. Whether this is from infiltrated kindness or simply wanting to leave foreigners with a good impression of their country and its people this happens ALL THE TIME. Don’t get me wrong, in traveling and in life you will encounter your fair share of takers and assholes, but don’t let that dissuade you. It is astounding how many truly good people you could meet in any given country if you approach the world with eyes, mind, and heart wide open.

 

6)    Other Solo Travelers Become a Beacon of Inspiration

When traveling it is often true that if you begin alone you are very rarely completely alone. Staying in hostels, riding on busses, and exploring areas outside of your own personal bubble brings continuous opportunities to meet amazing people along the way. The tales of the traveling writer, the rock climber, and the volunteer teaching English get your pulse racing. If they can do it then why can’t you? Seeing their eyes light up talking about pursuing their dreams regardless of how it looks to others ignites a fire in the soul. It’s mind-blowing how many bad-ass ladies are out there fearlessly taking on the world one country at a time. The sight of other women living their personal truth helps chip away at your own self-doubt and provides a model through which you may chase your own light.

 

7)     You Realize the World Is Not so Scary After All

Though there are countless differences in traditions, languages, and belief systems somehow the interconnectedness of humanity always shines through. What once seemed strange and unnerving now somehow reminds you of your childhood, your family, or yourself. You become more open to different ideas and practices because you can identify with those who may think or live differently. This is beyond tolerance. It is true understanding and acceptance. After all, ignorance comes from unfamiliarity and feeling as though you can’t relate to another group. When you begin to see yourself or those you love in others despite your differences you are better equipped to love them, and the world could always use more of that.

 

8)    You See How Strong and Capable You Truly Are

When you travel alone it pushes you out of your shell. It makes you more gutsy, more brave. If you don’t have your friends or partner to turn to you are constantly put in the position to figure things out on your own. You are forced to leave fear by the wayside. After the 20th or so confusing, language-barrier ridden conversation it seems routine and far less intimidating. You become adapted to uncertainty and begin to trust in your ability to make it work. It’s empowering and intoxicating to see what you can do and where you can go regardless of your gender or anything else.  You are not just existing in the outside world as a woman. Girl, you are conquering it.

Hesitations

“This isn’t just fun. This is the shit I live for.”

Let me be real with you for a minute. I was in a panic. My friend was heading back to the states that night and though I planned 3 weeks of solo travel that I-don’t-know-if-I-can-do-this anxiety kept creeping up on me. Traveling the Colombian coast just me myself and I. I got this. Right?

I became overwhelmed with the planning and couldn’t shake the feeling that if something happened there would be no one to save me but me. I will admit I can be a bit of a princess so this struck a chord of terror in my heart. I even called my mom sobbing and professing that I want to come home and in her kind but ‘hell-nah I’m not paying for another plane ticket’ kind of way she said, “Why don’t you sleep on it?”

Then after some self-reflection and time to decompress I decided. I hopped on that Marsol bus and made my way for Casa Elemento in Minca. And despite my anxieties I was showered with kindness from strangers the entire day as if they knew I needed a little encouragement. After a nice chat with my taxi driver when I got out my wallet he insisted that the ride was a gift of love. Then the mini-bus driver let me sit up at the front with himself and his daughter and they told me all about the town and what fruit I can pick from the trees.

Due to Casa Elemento being in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere I hopped on the back of a motorcycle with a very polite and unassuming local boy and we made our way up the mountain. We drove through rivers and dodged other bikers that were too close for comfort in my mind, but my driver seemed unshaken so I let it go. With my crazy curls flying in all directions as I watched the canopy of tropical trees shading our path, smiling from ear to ear was more of a reflex than a choice.

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At one point my fears melted away and I was no longer gripping his torso for dear life. I threw my head back and flashed my pearly-whites to all the birds flying overhead. This isn’t just fun. This is the shit I live for.

After a solid 45 minutes of adrenaline-filled bliss we reached Casa Elemento. Once I was settled into my room I ventured to the back of the hostel to see the awe-inspiring view of the Sierra Mountains sprawl out in front of me. As I laid out on the biggest hammock in the world looking out over the edge of the world I thought to myself, “What in the hell were you thinking?’

That previous night I was dying to run. I got so worked up with fear and uncertainty that I almost missed out on the pure magic that was Minca, Colombia. Not even just the destination but the journey of it all and the kind souls I met along the way were a blessing in themselves. But the best part about it was when I stepped on that bus I made the proclamation that I know what I’m capable of, and I’m not afraid. I decided that insecurity and fear were not going to hold me back. Not now. Not ever.

The advice I have for all of my travel-loving mamasitas out there is that if you experience self-doubt and that urge to run in traveling and in life be sure to run forward not backward. Trust yourself in your abilities and your decisions. In all that you do… you got this boo.

“You’re traveling alone??”

This is the excerpt for your very first post.

This is typically the first question I receive when I share my plans for an upcoming trip overseas. This tends to be followed by a disconcerted look questioning my sanity and/or naivety. (Especially when my destination lies outside of Europe or the United States)
I am asked questions about whether I am fearful about being raped and/or kidnapped paired with a reference to the film Taken. As a blonde, I am asked whether or not I plan to dye my hair to avoid standing out from the crowd more than I already do. I am advised to cover up as much as possible.
Let me start off by saying I get it. I really do. Traveling solo as a woman inherently comes with more risks than it may for a man. There are risks anywhere from sexual assault to harassment such as cat-calls in the street that female travelers must take into consideration. In some places women from the Western world are seen as more promiscuous largely due to sexual objectification in the entertainment industry, and this can unfortunately lead to unwanted attention.
However, as one solo female traveler to another I believe precautions are important, but I highly advise against letting fear limit any opportunities for self-growth and adventure that travel may bring. There are risks involved in stepping outside your front door every day. By simply existing anywhere we take on that gamble every day. The world is so much bigger than negative news portrayals of foreign lands or paranoid hearsay about worst case scenarios.
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I had my own experience traveling from Nicaragua to Guatemala by bus, and I have to say I was terrified of traveling alone. The moment my friends left and I had 2 weeks of solo travel and I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was tired of cat-calls and I was consumed by the notion that everyone around me wanted to take advantage of me in some way. However, the more I opened myself up to the experience the more I connected with those around me and I realized something. I LOVE traveling solo. I prefer it actually. Without having to be cognizant of the realities and wishes of travel companions I’m free to be lost in the experience. I could go anywhere my heart desired and I was more apt to meet fellow travelers and locals along the way. If you are a woman who is hesitant about traveling alone I highly encourage you try it at least once. Especially if you stay in hostels or homestays you will be amazed at how many people you meet along the way.
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I urge you to be a “smart” traveler. Do your research. Practice precaution. Trust your instincts. However, do not let paranoia of the unknown squelch your taste for adventure. Don’t be naïve, but do be courageous. The world outside of your comfort zone is not inherently unfriendly and people are not generally out to get you. In fact, the more I travel the more optimistic I become about the goodness of people. The world is not as scary as it may seem, and opting to travel solo could very well expose you to more beauty and human kindness than you have ever imagined.