by Alyssa Ramos
Follow up post to my recent article in The Huffington Post, “Yes, I’m Pretty and I’m Traveling Alone”
Yes, I got the typical hate-comments from my recent Huffington Post Article, most of which just re-stated the opening sentence that I wrote about how I expected some people to immediately jump to judge me for writing it, even though the entire article was about being judged for doing what I love…
But those comments haven’t even crossed my mind, because what I also got was an insane amount of loving, supportive, and excited emails, messages, and comments from women all over the world, sharing their stories of how they can relate, and the inspiration they have to go travel. (Kudos to the men who wrote me too, agreeing that it’s BS that women have to deal with that and that they hope we continue to reach for our travel dreams!)
Before I get to the actual point of this post, (or start crying) I just want to share what my overall goal is with traveling and travel blogging, and why despite any judgments or negative comments, I always have, and always will, continue to work my ass off to do it;
My goal is to inspire people to travel and do what they love. I’ve dealt with negativity and judgement my whole life, but now, I’ll be damned if I ever let what someone says or thinks about me stop me from achieving my goals.
Ok now for the actual story here — I knew for a fact that other women experience the type of judgment and fear that I do when I travel alone, which is why I wanted to share these real-life stories from real-life women about what they’ve experienced when traveling alone.
It’s not exactly a topic that’s fun to discuss, or easy to for that matter, but it’s also not a topic that should be ignored. As mentioned in my previous article, it’s 20-f*cking-15, and times have changed. It’s about time we all start acting like it.
(from Life’s a Beach, Huh? on Huffington Post UK)
“Yesterday I read Alyssa Ramos’s travel blog about the particular problems she encounters. Since I too travel, and have tits and eyelashes, I thought I’d share some of my experiences with you.
I have also been mistaken for a prostitute while travelling alone. Five times. All at locations I haven’t needed my passport to get to.”
“People do assume that I’m travelling alone due to a break-up and sometimes that’s true. Well, once. I wrote about it here. Mostly I have too much to do when planning a holiday to fit a break-up in as well as remembering to buy sunscreen.
So some people are puzzled as to the main reason why I travel alone. Let me solve that for you. It’s either that or take the kids with me. The main reason I want to go to Iceland is because they’re not there.”
While living in Barcelona was nothing short of a dream, it came with its unforeseen downsides in the form of harassment, not only as a woman, but as an African-American one.
I was so oblivious at the time, that I had no idea why cars would pull over, wind down their windows, and signal me to come inside. I just kept thinking, why do men keep offering me rides? I had no idea that I was constantly being mistaken for a prostitute for the simple fact that I had dark brown skin.
Many of the African migrant women who came to live in Spain could only find work in this area, so the assumption that I was one of them was something that I couldn’t change overnight. I found myself layering up, wearing scarves to dance clubs, and doing everything I could to divert attention away from me, especially at night. Yet and still, the police would wink at the male friends I was with, or the shouts asking “how much” in Spanish would still come.
No doubt it has tainted my Spanish experience, because the fact that I was probably doing more for the city than half the losers who hollered at me was an unseen factor. Many times we don’t talk about the ugly side of travel. But this is indeed one of the ugliest.
I am 27 years old and I have been traveling solo for five years to over 25 countries. A friend once said to me, “I wish I could travel too but I’m not a pretty girl like you.” People act like because I’m attractive that life is handed to me on a silver platter. Sure, sometimes someone might offer to buy me a drink but no one but me is financing my plane tickets, bills, clothing and living expenses. I have worked very hard to create the lifestyle that I have. The idea that successful women cannot also be beautiful, that they have somehow “cheated” or that things come easier to them needs to change.
Funnily enough I never experienced harassment where everyone thinks it’s probably most likely to happen on a regular basis: in Latin America. The worst situation for me happened in Zanzibar where people completely couldn’t understand how can I travel on my own. They kept inviting me to spend the night with them. When I finally asked what do they think of me they said that I’m surely just looking for new sexual adventures. Since then I’m always saying that I’m on a business trip.
Of course I get judged for traveling solo as a female — even more for doing it professionally. I often get a “are you married yet?” from elderly family friends. No, I’m not. I’m 25 and I’m traveling the world.
Most people seem inspired or are at least polite. But there are many, especially men that think there is something “wrong” with me for traveling solo. It’s like they think that I’m misbehaving because I travel solo and built my own business.
No, by traveling solo, I am not breaking any laws, hurting anyone, or mischievous. The only thing I’m challenging is the social convection that I can’t do something I enjoy because I am a woman. Travel makes me happy, so if no one is coming with me, I go anyways.
As I walked along the Great Wall of China, I realized I had forgotten something. I brought a picture of my 84 & 86 year old grandparents so I could take a photo with the photo of them. They know they’ll never make it to China and I wanted to do this as a gift. So, as I walked back to the car, alone, I was approached by several men who basically propositioned me. I tried several times to say “no” and “please, leave me alone” but they persisted. It wasn’t until my husband came down the hill to join me that they finally backed off. I wasn’t even traveling alone and I was still perceived to be a “working girl.” In the end, I got the shot and that’s all that matters!
I was in Frankfurt, Germany 3 years ago and I was in a bar having drinks when a bunch of guys on a bachelor party came in. Of course bought me drinks, casual. But when I left they were extremely angry because they thought I was a prostitute and I left with their free drinks and they didn’t get anything but good conversation. They cursed me on my way out (in Italian) saying I should’ve told them I wasn’t a hooker before buying me all of the drinks.
My experiences aren’t exactly harrowing, but I do feel judgement when traveling. Now I’ve chosen to go to somewhat conservative countries like Thailand so it’s more understandable that wearing a tank top in a country that views shoulders as scandalous would get me some stares. But I did hate when I would wear a knee-length skirt and my students would tell me it was “sexy” and therefore inappropriate.
Living in Colombia now, I get catcalls every day when I walk around no matter if I’m wearing jeans & a tshirt or get a little dressed up for a night out. I get A LOT more attention if I put on make-up or show some skin. Being blonde & pale skinned immediately sets me apart and it’s not something I enjoy it all. I’ve learned to ignore it and it’s not going to stop from traveling, but it is frustrating and I’m glad you’ve opened the discussion for this. I’m not sure if this helps with your article at all, but just wanted to try and share as this is something that has bothered me for a while.
My partner and I are currently traveling around South East Asia with our 2 year old son. Every time I step outside the door alone with my son, I am totally flabbergasted with the number of times I am asked “Where is your husband?”
It takes all my willpower not to shoot back with, “Firstly, he’s not my husband!” (We’re not actually married, but we’re staying in a deeply Catholic country so better to keep things simple), “Secondly, he doesn’t own my ass! Thirdly, mind your goddamn business – I’m busy arguing with a toddler about whether or not he can play on the road during peak hour traffic.”
When I do get a moment to get out on my own without the baby, my outings are scattered with comments like “You’re so sexy”; “You’re so beautiful”, and my personal favourite so far – “My friend likes your face.” This is all well and good for the ego, but not exactly great for making me feel safe in a foreign country.
I understand that the culture is different here, however I relish the day where I am not judged by my proximity to a male, or whether I have his permission to go on an outing with my son.