I was self-taught by experience to respect the braveness women can conquer in the face of adversity. A basic universal guideline of recognition, sadly mistaken with a quality only men are supposedly entitled to possess. And I had just enough of that wrongful idea.
Today, I want to show the world that Mulan, Pochahantas, and Lara Croft, were not just ink spilled by creative minds on a piece of paper, but a reflection of our reality. I want to put forward the pieces of evidence that these amazing beings are as much capable than any man to survive the numerous adventures that await those who aren’t afraid to lose their body and soul in the broadness of sizzling landscapes; to take a leap of faith and uncover the mysteries of cultural diversity.
Too often, when I come back to my hometown after my whereabouts I hear this sad statement:
« But it is easy for you to do so Bryan, you are a man ! »
I was shocked to hear this from the mouth of my beautiful close friends. But also, ashamed I had no proper examples to prove them wrong. This injustice inspired me to find out if it was truly harder for women to travel alone.
However, I also understood it is not my place to answer that question, as I can’t possibly fully understand what it is like to be in the concerned party’s boots. I am just a humble curious story seeker, here to make their voice heard.
The adventurous women will always find better words than me to inspire every girl out there who doubts she can conquer the world by herself.
This is why, during my still ongoing journey across Europe and Asia from Paris to Kathmandu, I have gathered information and stories after losing myself in no less than 15 countries, 20 000 km of road. Walking and hitchhiking across deserts, beaches, and mountains, I was able to find the wandering women of our times in every landscape…
This Not So lonely Road I cherish put on my way these amazing humans offering me the treasure of their experience.
In this English second release, celebrating brave women traveling alone far from the beaten tracks of our planet, I will share with you the story of a young freshly graduated American traveler in South Asia: Ashley.
« When I said I was going to India people were freaking out: Oh my god you’re going to India alone? It started scaring me, but there was no need. »
« Of course a woman has to be a little more aware. I mean it’s just like home. For example, don’t go out in the middle of the night on your own… I say « don’t do » it but I’ve done it all.«
Her answers to my questions enlighten me on the reality of what a woman traveling alone really experiences. I hope it will have the same effect on you.
Ashley, tell me how can traveling change the way we portray the world?
« Travelling definitely changed everything for me.
You see new things and you realize you’ve been living all this time in your own bubble. Going out of it, at first, you discover lots of weird things. Until you step back far enough to realize: this shouldn’t be weird, it’s just different.
It also plants this seed in your mind: Some things have to be changed in our world. And some times it just takes that one person to do so. Start with yourself, other people will see what you’re doing, and it will inspire to do the same. »
What made you take this first step in the unknown, and on your own?
« So, I graduated from university in Florida where I studied business. I wasn’t really sure where as was going in life. And I hadn’t really traveled before. I would only go to Costa-Rica to visit my mother family.
A lot of my friends were not the same place as me in life. They had a strong relationship with their boyfriend, a job, a car to pay, a house to pay… So, I just said to myself: why wait for one of them to be ready to come with me? I am ready, and that’s all I need.
I started with a one-way ticket to Bangkok. And what was first planned to be a 3-month trip turned into 1 month in Thailand, 3 months in Malaysia, 2 months in India, 1 month in Nepal. And now I am heading back to India. I fell in love with India. »
India is often pictured as one of the most dangerous places for a woman to travel alone, what made you change this idea?
« The beauty and chaos
You don’t even need to plan anything for India, you just walk out the door and at the end of the day you’ll be just like ‘what just happened?’.
There are so many people… Chicken killed in the middle of the road, honking all the time. I always hear travelers complain about the number of people there is. But I think it’s just beautiful. Where else in the world can you find that many people with that many religious background and beliefs, all in the same place, being so close. And yes you hear the honking but when there is a crash no cursing, just a look. »
Do you think its harder for a woman to travel alone?
« I would say no. Because when you start traveling, you see they are everywhere.
You just need to be careful, respect the rules, listen to the locals advises.
Of course, then the Taken movie came out and freaked out an entire generation. My parents would show it to me as an example of what could happen to me. (It’s like watching plane crash documentaries before taking one).
My dad tried to change my mind with these examples but he eventually came in terms with the ideas. In the beginning, they wanted a picture every day, and now I call them and they don’t answer.
At first, the idea of me traveling alone was impossible to figure for them: What do you mean you traveling alone who is coming with you? But who’s to say a friend that comes with me will be a good thing or make a difference? »
Can you share a bad experience on the subject of Women traveling alone?
« Yes, it was in…I don’t want to say the country cause I don’t want people to judge the country based on that. But it was in Malaysia. Don’t get me wrong, Malaysia is an amazing country with beautiful people and this story also proves it.
There is that one french girl. It was the first time she was traveling alone. She went on a boat taxi to join the island where I was working in a hostel to reduce expenses. And the driver stops the boat in the middle of the ocean and starts groping her.
What could she do? She was in the middle of the ocean.
When she arrived we all greeted her as a newcomer the joyful usual way. Then she started crying.
After she told us the story, the locals were furious and started looking for the guy everywhere until he was arrested.
Another night we all went out to go and have some drinks. The party side of the island was the other side of a jungle we had to go trekking through half an hour. One girl decided to go home by herself. And while she was walking someone was hiding in the bushes and jumped on her. She started pushing him until she freed herself and ran. This guy was never found.
But that’s the 2 stories in 6 months of traveling. It’s sometimes just bad luck, being at the wrong place at the wrong moment. »
How do you organize your lonely journeys?
« I plan nothing, I just show up at a bus station and ask a question. People are very helpful.
That’s one thing I forgot back home. When I had a question I would just ask google. But there are also people all around willing to help you. The world is full of helpful people, so technically you are never alone.
And then someone is just like: Let’s grab a coffee ! and that’s how easily friendships forms. »
What’s your best experience so far?
« Coming to India, I find myself in that state of mind where I could do whatever I want whenever I want.
So, I got a little lost. Because at first, I was like: I am going to that one place google told me to go to, take an Instagram picture and go to the next one. But after a moment it just hit me. Why would I do that? Have I traveled to the other side of the world to do that?
I wanted to try something new, discover a new experience.
So my friend told me about this 10-day meditation called vipassana. -It’s a meditation technique supposedly used by Buddha, based on sensation and breathing-. You spend all day in a room without talking, and a very little eating. It opened a new outlook on my life.
Traveling changes my current life, these ten days changed the rest of it. »
Do you think women status is evolving around the world?
« I had a conversation with young South Asian guys. All of them see there is a problem with gender equality. But they see it from a « man’s » point of view, and you can’t blame them. It’s part of their culture. They were born and raised this way. But they feel something is wrong and that’s a good start.
All over the world, you can see there is an evolution. More women are working, studying, speaking for themselves, and most men see it and respect it.
We are going in the right direction. »