But a female traveller will also face prejudice around the world, in the form of sexism and discrimination, misogyny and objectification.
How can she best minimise the impact of a potentially threatening situation?
Above all, she will learn to trust that feeling in her gut. This simply isn’t right.” Over the last seven years I’ve travelled through Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and both North and South America, predominantly by myself.
The cat calls and ‘complimentary’ phrases in Spanish of “” were actually preferable to the more silent advances; the lick of the lips and teeth, the sneer and accompanying grin which left no doubt, in my mind at least, of what they were thinking. The times where I turned around to glare seemed only to prompt further shouts.
I learnt to grow casually wary of old men, young men, street-cleaners and shopkeepers; all of them strangers, all seemingly unable to let you pass them by without a comment muttered under their breath.
What I did keep track of, however, was the way it changed me.
Walking along the street and noticing a group of teenage boys ahead, a cluster of old men, even a single male figure leaning against a wall while smoking a cigarette; all would prompt a stiffening of my body, a lengthening of my neck, a slight curl of the fists, and a quickened pace.
Despite meeting numerous men who’ve gone out of their way to treat me with kindness, I’ve also encountered stares and shouts, lusting eyes and flexed hands from car windows and unwelcome heavy steps echoing behind me.
Depending on the country, I’ve averted my eyes and refrained from ‘upsetting’ the perpetrator, or I’ve stared back sternly, raised my voice and made sure the surrounding people are aware of my discomfort.
Hell, they might even enjoy the attention that I found so problematic!
Walking through the narrow streets of Cuba’s capital of Havana one day, I found myself behind a Cuban woman and slowed my pace.
He was sweet; his suit looked a bit too big for him, and I immediately thought of the quintessential photos you see of male Latino pensioners. “Mi princesssa…” he hissed with a wide grin, turning his wrinkled and liver-spotted neck to keep his gaze on me as I picked up my pace.