by Sasha Tobago
In the first three weeks of December 2018, four women were brutally murdered while travelling abroad.
Their names: Louisa Jespersen, Maren Ueland, Grace Millane and Carla Stefaniak. Each hailed from a different country — Denmark, Norway, England and the United States.
Each was young, adventurous and living her life to the fullest.
RIP Louisa Jespersen and Maren Ueland pic.twitter.com/UVdblgAvlh— Travel w Sasha Tobago (@sashatobago) December 22, 2018
According to authorities, each died at the hands of men they didn’t know — in Morocco, New Zealand and Costa Rica. Some of those men were cowardly terrorists. Another, a local she met on Tinder. Another, a local security guard at the Airbnb she was staying at.
Each of these murders has broken my heart in two. I am deeply sorrowful for the horrid way Louisa, Maren, Grace and Carla’s lives were stolen away.
A Wrenching Reminder
For women who love (or want) to travel, this is a wrenching reminder that travelling-while-female comes with heightened perils, even in havens like New Zealand.
Grace Millane’s murder rattled all of New Zealand, and the female travel community at-large, because Nzed is one of the safest countries in the world.
10 Safest Countries for Women Travellers
It still is. Grace’s murderer hasn’t changed that.
But the sobering truth is, we still live in a world that is toxically sexist. Where, in many countries, female travellers are advised to wear a wedding ring or walk with a man to avoid being harassed. Where, in many countries, men assault Western women because they view us as “loose.”
Where, in a few countries, if a female traveller is raped, SHE is charged and thrown in prison. And, in most countries, women have to be on guard when using a taxi or public transportation or, hell, even sitting on an airplane.
I have experienced this myself as a woman who has journeyed on six continents, often solo. I’ve worn a fake wedding ring in Egypt — which made zero difference. I’ve had men assume I was going to sleep with them within seconds of meeting me, just because I’m American. I’ve had to stuff a pillow between my seat and that of the creep next to me, who kept spreading his legs to touch my thigh during a flight.
I’m mindful of being out past dark. Being nice or smiling freely (which foreign men too often view as an invitation). And a litany of other things that makes travelling-while-female rather exhausting.
Yet, Still I Travel…
Yet, still I travel. I, along with millions of other women around the world.
Partly because I’ve had way more positive encounters with foreign men than negative. And partly because I refuse to allow fear and misogyny to keep me from seeing the world and living my life to the fullest.
We as women have the right to travel without being harassed, drugged, assaulted or murdered because of our sex. We have the right to walk, smile, drink or sit without being bothered. It is not us who need to change. It is not us who need more bullet points in the female traveller handbook on how to act, dress or be.
Dyk? More American Women Travel than Men
When one dives into national and international travel statistics, one discovers that more American women travel internationally than American men. And most do it solo.
American women spend over $73 billion annually during journeys abroad (beyond North America). U.K. women, £19 billion.
Combined, we are among the top spenders in global travel. And that’s just U.S. and U.K. women. Add in millions of others from Denmark, Norway, China, Germany, Australia and so on.
Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries, employing a tenth of the planet’s workforce. Pouring $1.3 trillion into local economies large and small.
Our Pocketbooks Fuel the Travel Industry
Our female dollars keep hostels, Airbnbs, restaurants, airlines, tour companies, et al., afloat.
It behooves every government, every tourist bureau, every hotel, every travel company and every citizen to go above and beyond to make their country safe for female travellers, and women as a whole.
If you’re thinking, yeah good luck with that, consider this.
Leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Chinese government enacted a “civilization improvement” campaign — with nearly 1 million volunteers; and 4+ million etiquette pamphlets — to socially re-engineer Beijing residents to be more couth. To form orderly lines, not litter, not wear pajamas in public, not spit on the sidewalk (or incur a fine). All so China would appear modern and more enticing to Western tourists.
In 2014, worried about Denmark’s low birth rate (and its affect on outbound tourism dollars), a Danish travel agency ran an ad campaign encouraging couples to go on a babymoon and, literally, “Do It for Denmark.” If they got pregnant as a result, they could enter to win a 3-year supply of diapers and a family holiday.
Money Talks & Money Can Walk
Suffice it to say, if they wanted to, governments and travel companies could enact measures and campaigns to make their country safer for women travellers.
It would be in their financial interest to do so. Because there are 190+ countries for us to choose from.
If your country isn’t safe for us. If your rapers and murderers aren’t punished to the fullest extent as a deterrent. If your males aren’t socially expected to fully respect women.
Then we will take our multi-billion dollar pocketbooks elsewhere.
Sasha Tobago is a filmmaker, adventuress and cultural explorer who has journeyed on six continents. Watch Season 1 of her new travel show, Sasha Tobago Presents. Follow her on: YouTube | Instagram | Twitter | Website
10 Safest Countries for Women Travellers