Solo travel: empowering not dangerous

The news of backpacker Grace Millane in New Zealand broke my heart. I got really upset about it and how her family have lost their daughter, how she won’t be able to return home to them and share all her stories of her travels. Her amazing adventure was cut short by a sick individual who thought he had the right to end her life. Her solo travels ended by a tragedy.

Then I got angry. Angry at some of the comments I was seeing online. “Was she on a Tinder date?” “Why was she travelling alone?”. “Hadn’t she heard of stranger danger?”. Why do any of these things matter? Question the murderer, not the murdered. Grace was like me 2 years ago, checking into Base Backpackers in Auckland, starting a new chapter in a new country. As a female who travelled solo for 8 months, I can confirm it is the most empowering, enlightening and exciting experience, which is why this story cut me deep. Travelling solo did NOT kill Grace. A sick and twisted man did.

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Travelling alone will throw up questions of doubt and worry, regardless of if you’re male or female. It’s a daunting and scary prospect. However, the ‘wow’ moments really outweigh the ‘what if’s’ and the ‘what if’s’ should not stop people from doing what they want to do, going where they want to go and seeing what they want to see. Travel has it’s dangers, as does everyday life. But travelling solo is empowering. Everyone should have the opportunity to broaden their horizons through travel, whether that be alone or in a group. Technically I was travelling alone, but I met people through tour groups, hostel rooms and nights out. I contacted my family and friends daily, as Grace did, updating them with pictures and stories. She was living her best life, exploring the world and sharing this with her family back home.

When I was in Australia, I lived and worked in Melbourne for over 3 months. I shared a flat with 2 Aussies, I walked to and from work alone or got the tram solo. I went to local bars and restaurants, I got Ubers and taxis and LIVED. MY. LIFE. I met new people via dating apps. I trusted my gut and listened to advice, I updated my family and always told people what I was up to. As Grace did. So what if she was using Tinder? So. Fucking. What. For me, I applied the same safety principals when travelling as I do back home in the UK. I’d be savvy about my surroundings and learn how to think on my feet. If any situation made me uncomfortable, I would remove myself from it. It stood me in good stead when travelling and has stood me in good stead back at home in the UK. Women – or anyone – should not be scared into putting off travel because of one horrific tragedy like this.

Everyone should be able to travel freely without it costing them their lives.

And this applies to so much more than holidays and trips. Walking to work. Running of an evening. Going to concerts, parties and events.

Grace was a beautiful young woman, enjoying her life. It makes me so angry that we live in a world where people are still blaming victims for their own deaths/rapes/sexual assaults. Just so we’re clear: travelling solo, using dating apps, what clothes people wear, walking alone, dark nights, hotel rooms and alcohol are NOT responsible for murder. Victims don’t ask for this. Victims don’t deserve this. And anyone that questioned Grace’s choices should be ashamed. It’s not one isolated incident. This happens every day. Blaming the victims for being murdered is disrespecting their choices and how they didn’t deserve to die. Only one person is responsible for this: the murderer.

Fear should not stand in the way of us living.

My heart pours out to Grace’s family, who have now been able to bring her body home and grieve together for the bright young woman they have so tragically lost. I was lucky enough to surprise my family upon my return, go through my photos and retell my stories, bring them presents and show them my increased level of confidence. I think a lot of women are hurting over this. 

Women have voices. Women have choices. And we have every right to exercise our opinions without the fear of being hounded and to travel alone without such awful consequences. Men need to support us in removing these ingrained issues in our society and victim blaming needs to stop. End of.

Rest in peace Grace, you beautiful, adventurous girl.
xxx

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