Female travelers should stay vigilant

Sophie Hillmeyer

Travel is becoming even more accessible with the help of our smartphones because of so many apps that make planning for travel so easy. For example, if I see some picturesque travel destination on my Instagram feed, I can search for a flight on my Expedia app and then I can browse beachside bungalows on my Airbnb app. Thankfully, navigating a language barrier isn’t nearly as daunting with the help of my Google Translate app. As the world opens up and possibilities seem endless, I can’t help daydreaming about planning the vacation of a lifetime.

I have done a fair amount of traveling, mostly with friends or family but I have ventured away on trips by myself. On these trips, I relied on Uber for transportation and I used Airbnb to find a place to stay that was within my limited budget. Other women around the world are finding the confidence to travel by themselves too.

According to a New York Times article titled, “Adventurous. Alone. Attacked.” written by Megan Specia and Tariro Mzezewa, the number of female solo travelers is at an all-time high. A 2018 survey of 9,000 female travelers from British Airways stated that over 50 percent of them had traveled alone in the past and 75 percent of them were planning solo trips within the next few years. Google trends show that “solo female travel” searches have risen drastically within the past five years.

This increase could be due to a variety of things. Maybe it’s because of social media, with Instagram hashtags like #LadiesGoneGlobal, #WeAreTravelGirls or #TheTravelWomen that bring images of empowered women trekking up mountains and posing on beaches to our feeds. Maybe it’s due to an increase in confidence from experiences on study abroad excursions or from reading self-transformative books like “Eat, Pray, Love.” Whatever the reason, women are increasingly willing to venture out on their own, which could be either liberating or, unfortunately, devastating.

Headlines about solo-traveling women being violated, sexually abused or murdered have risen in the media. Statistics aren’t clear because most countries don’t comprehensively track violence against female travelers, but the personal stories of women who fall victim to this are irrefutable.

Specia and Mzezewa discuss the story of 36-year-old Carla Stefaniak who traveled to Costa Rica by herself to celebrate her birthday. Costa Rica is one of the safest countries for women in South America, but they still struggle with high rates of gender-based crime. On her vacation, she had rented out a gated villa from Airbnb near the airport. The premises was patrolled by a security guard and it was located in a safe neighborhood, so it seemed like the safest option for her celebratory getaway.

Stefaniak was FaceTiming a friend the night before her flight home and told her that something seemed “a little sketchy” about the villa but never elaborated on it. She took her friend on a virtual tour of the villa and showed off some new jewelry from a local market before saying goodbye.

Stefaniak did not make it on her morning flight to Fort Laughterdale and her body was found in the forest near the villa. The security guard was arrested in connection to the murder.

This is just one of many tales of women traveling alone who fall victim to this fate, which definitely raises questions. Is there an actual increase in crime or are we just more aware of it through media circulation? Should we tell women not to travel alone? Why do these crimes occur when women do everything they can to prevent them?

Some say there are no dangerous countries, just dangerous people. Some say the more we spread the message about how dangerous the world is, the more we support that belief. However female solo travelers decide to move forward, it is important to always stay vigilant and remember that drive and confidence do not make us indestructible.