I want to share with you a personal story.
One day when I was in middle school, I came home and heard a sound I had never heard before which stopped me in my tracks. It was my mom and she was crying harder than I have ever seen another person cry in my life. It was one of those moments that you never forget, and it was a sound that I hope to never hear again as long as I live. What caused my mom so much pain that day? One of her dearest friends had died. Why am I telling you this? It wasn’t an ordinary death. My mom’s dear friend Susan was killed in Uganda while on a safari tour by Ugandan terrorists.
The reason I’m even talking about this at all (it’s actually painful to think about and consider how my mom is going to feel when reading this) is because of the recent buzz that this story has sparked. Maybe you haven’t heard, but a New York mother was killed recently while in Turkey and now the big debate is about the fact that she was traveling alone. People are coming out saying things like “A woman has no business traveling alone,” and “A single woman traveling alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish,” which I find absolutely ridiculous. It is a sad story and terrible loss for the woman’s family and friends and should not be taken lightly, however to say that women should never travel alone because things like this could happen is just ludicrous. After the brutal rape and murder of the anonymous girl on the bus in India, should we now refrain from all forms of public transportation as well? What about violence in your hometown? Where does it end?
As for my mom’s friend, Susan wasn’t traveling alone. In fact, she was with her husband as well as an entire tour group. So now how do we explain that tragedy? I know many people who have visited countries throughout Africa who have had nothing but wonderful experiences so what is to be taken from that one horrible story? I’m not going to lie, I have reservations when it comes to visiting that area (Uganda specifically) and if and when I ever find myself there, it will always be in the back of my mind but I don’t know if I can let it stop me from my own curious desire to see the world.
I’m American. We’ve witnessed school shootings, serial snipers, bombings, etc. ravage our people. We are no stranger to violence and it is awful but it has become an unfortunate trait of our nation and society. I travel and I get asked by foreigners how many guns I own and if we all really do carry them everywhere. That’s how much of the world sees us. So what does that tell you about the way we see the rest of the world?
Traveling solo as a woman is not the problem. Violence and ill-intentioned people are the problem, but the sad fact is that they are everywhere. Staying in your bubble does not necessarily keep you safe from those who mean to do harm, no matter what your gender may be. If you have dreams and ambitions, don’t let a little fear stop you from seeing them through. Be smart, make informed decisions, but live your life. And most importantly, don’t let someone else tell you what you can or can’t do.
Rest In Peace Susan, Sarai, and all those who have lost their lives at home and abroad.