Okay. I may not be very experienced in the art of traveling solo. I’ve only taken a couple of trips on my own, this current one in Guatemala being the longest. I usually travel with Will, family, or friends. Why not? Sharing experiences with people you like is the best! During this trip, I’ve decided that solo travel is not my favorite. Who knows, maybe that will change eventually. But folks, so far I’m not seeing the Instagram hashtag appeal of wandering alone.
My biggest solo travel turnoff:
(not all of them, and thank god for the incredible men out there who are restoring our faith in humanity. I appreciate you!)
But the street guys? Some of you already know what I’m talking about. The catcalls, the butt-grabs, the hey-babys, the creepers who follow you in their cars until you scream at them, the strangers online who want “nudes.” Let’s be real: most of us experience gross men on a daily basis whether or not we’re on the road. But for some reason, traveling solo blows the problem up times a dozen, at least in my experience.
A typical day on my way to work (yes, this happened): I walk past two guys in their 30s. One subtly gestures to me as I start to pass and says to his friend, in Spanish, “How much to **** her, do you think?” The friend looks me up and down and as they fall behind me I hear him reply, “2 Quetzales (about 25 cents), she looks cheap.”
I am verbally harassed approximately 5-10 times a day walking to and from work here in Antigua Guatemala. I know this because I’ve been counting for weeks. Guys shout after me, make rude gestures, follow me, stare openly at me, and generally make complete fools of themselves. One guy rode his bike into an intersection and almost died because he was staring and yelling at me instead of watching the road, which was karma at its finest. It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing. I could look fantastic or I could have just rolled out of bed and am stumbling to work on legs that don’t function correctly (thanks, EDS). I’ll get harassed either way. Why? Because I’m alone.
I’ve been harassed here before. It’s a normalized thing here in Guatemala. But never to this extent. Of course, I’ve always traveled with my dad and brothers, male friends, or boyfriend here. If I’m avoiding harassment here, it’s not because the men respect ME. It’s because they respect the man I’m walking with.
So what’s a badass woman to do about this?
Acting threatening in return doesn’t seem like a safe idea. Ignoring it keeps me out of trouble, but makes me boil over inside. So far it’s been a balance of having a few adventures while being real about what could be dangerous.
Should we stop traveling solo? I honestly don’t know. So far, I’m not a fan. It doesn’t feel safe for me to be out more than I need to be. I can’t go out at night and my neighbors and coworkers have repeatedly warned me not to. I can’t go on long explores like I would if I had other people with me. If I’m being harassed this much in broad daylight, I’m certainly not going out after dark. What would you do?
Solo travel is something I’ll still pursue in the future if I feel like it. I’m not going to let a misogynistic society scare me off of having incredible adventures. I just wish I knew how to fight it as I went. Is our only form of resistance going anyway?
Stay tuned for some hefty public shaming of one of these guys…