I’ve been planning my round-the-world trip for almost a year now, and without fail, the first thing anyone says to me when I tell them my plans is ‘Ooh, be careful’. Not ‘wow, that’s amazing’, ‘have fun’ or simply ‘why?’, always a warning about the dangers that await me out there in the big wide world. I have no proof but I could bet my bottom dollar that a male announcing a backpacking trip wouldn’t get the third degree.
At first I wasn’t annoyed by all the negative ninnies but after the 100th time I just told the person expressing concern for my safety to f*ck off. It’s boring. It’s rude. It’s xenophobic actually. There are dangers everywhere, of course, but when someone tells me they’re going on holiday I don’t tell them that their plane could crash, they could get robbed or they could trip over, bang their head and die. If I did tell them that I’d be called many things, but definitely not caring.
Though not the same, this faux-concern reminds me of the despicable victim-blaming when talking about the sexual assault of women. The onus is on us to not wear short skirts, not walk alone at night, not do anything that could make a man want to rape you. Obviously it would be stupid to tell men to NOT attack women, that’s ridiculous, clearly.
So when friends, family and acquaintances keep telling me to be careful, it’s not appreciated. When people share stories of dead backpackers, rape statistics in South America and racism in Australia it falls, if not on deaf ears, weary ears that have heard it all before.
Don’t you think that as a young woman I’ve had this same lecture a million times already? I’m always prepared for possible attack. I know if I walk down a dark street and heaven forbid something were to happen, then I would be blamed, for walking alone. So of course I’ll ‘be careful’, but I resent the burden falls on my shoulders. If someone wants to hurt me, sadly there’s little I can do about it – even if I’m in broad daylight, covered from head to toe.
Also, I’m from a western country, that doesn’t mean the UK is exempt from danger. I’ve walked streets in England terrified. I’d love to see official statistics for crime per capita for every country I’m visiting (but I’m too lazy), I don’t think countries are dangerous just because other people say they are. I’ve been told to watch out for drugs cartels in Latin America… I’m going on a holiday, how the f*ck am I going to get mixed up in a Columbian drugs cartel?!
I’m not pig-headed or stupid, I too have read the story of a young British backpacker, or American tourist being hurt whilst travelling – but I also know that thousands of people, men and women, go backpacking every year and stay perfectly safe.
You can’t let your life be ruled by fear, otherwise you’d never leave the house, no matter what country you live in. These people (you know who you are) that tell me how dangerous my trip is, how silly it is, how I’ll definitely get robbed, or scammed, or molested in these countries… what are they trying to achieve?
Do they want me not to go? Do they want me to spend the trip too scared to venture out on my own? What’s the purpose?
I wrote this post to let anyone who has ever told a girl, or woman to ‘be careful’ that you don’t need to. WE KNOW. It’s been drummed into us since childhood. And while you may mean well, just keep your trap shut.
Phew, that feels great. I just hope that there’s no woman out there that has been prevented from doing something, or going somewhere, because her dad, or her boyfriend or her friends have said it’s not safe. If the Paris attacks have made anything abundantly clear it is that life can be extinguished prematurely, without reason and in the blink of an eye.
Make sure you’ve lived yours to the fullest!