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10 December 2018

The Reality Of Travelling Solo For Women In The Wake Of Grace Millane's Murder


If you happen to have not been keeping track of the news, Grace Millane was a solo backpacker who was tragically murdered whilst in New Zealand. Grace's death is not being used by myself as a form of fear-mongering, and I want to make that abundantly clear now, and throughout this post.

But it has opened up a discussion. Because on almost every single news article I have seen across social media, there are a tidal wave of comments, almost all of which relay the same advice.

"I wish young women would stop travelling alone."

"Why haven't young girls learnt by now, they should not be travelling solo."

"Why did her family let her go? A young, attractive woman on her own, it's asking for trouble."


Grace Millane's death is horrific. There are no words to cover the senseless, cruel act of murder.

But backpacking solo did not kill Grace Millane.

As a woman, I have spent the last eleven months travelling around Australia alone, and I returned home safe and sound last week. The likelihood is, I made many of the choices Grace Millane may have made during her travels. I got drunk, I used dating apps, I walked home alone at night, I went out with friends.

The difference is simply that I didn't meet someone along the way who wanted to hurt me. And that lack of interaction is the only difference between myself and Grace Millane.

Which begs the question, why are people questioning her actions? Why are they not condemning the sick, twisted man who decided he wanted to hurt her?

Grace Millane's death shouldn't stop women from backpacking solo, because the awful, brutally honest truth, is that the case of Grace Millane happens every single day, across the world, except the victim is not a backpacker.

The truth is, as a backpacker, you are more astute. As a female backpacker, you are more aware of the risks, of who you meet, of the steps you take. You take precautions you may not think of taking back home, but because you're abroad and you're on your own, you make sure you're as safe as you possibly can be.

Why should young women be told to stop travelling, why should we give up our freedom to experience new countries, new places, new cultures? Why are men not being told to leave women alone? To stop attacking them as they walk home at night. To say goodbye and mean it, after a date.

Travelling solo is one of the most invigorating, eye-opening experiences you will have in your life, whatever your gender, and whatever the Facebook comments say, there is absolutely no reason why you should be afraid to go.

You will grow in confidence, you will meet new people, you will have stories that make you laugh so hard you can burst and moments which bring tears to your eyes, and if you are passionate about travelling, there is no reason why you should miss out on this experience.

The fear of travelling alone is legitimate, and it is not to be underestimated. There was a night recently when I walked home alone in Cairns, a large rural north Queensland town. It was 1am, there were no taxis and I had thirty minutes to walk. And with every step, I could feel my heartbeat hammering against my own chest. It would be dangerous for anyone, but my identity as a woman made it more dangerous for me.

I didn't encounter anybody on that walk home, and the whole time I was walking, I recounted every defence mechanism I'd learnt growing up, because of my vagina. Keys in fingers. Hair down. Walk fast. Cross the road away from people. Walk in lit areas.

But that fear of travelling alone, it should not stop you from actually doing it. It should never stop you from stepping foot on a plane and having the time of your life. And you should never ever feel, that because you're a woman, you don't deserve to experience travelling alone.

Of course, you need to keep your wits about you. You need to prioritise your safety and be more aware than ever of the choices you're making.

But the tragic reality is, statistically, you are more likely to be harmed by somebody you know, then somebody you don't. Which ironically would indicate that the further away from home you are, the safer you will be.

So why, as a result of this case, are we telling women to not travel solo, when it happens every day on our own shores.

Why, in the wake of Grace Millane's death are we not telling men to stop committing acts of violence against women?

12 comments:

  1. I have travelled solo so many times over the years and agree you do need your wits about you. The only person you can really trust and rely on is yourself. I was 18 the first time I travelled on my own, when I went back ‘home’ to England and Ireland. Yes I had family to stay with, but there were times when it was just me, my suitcase and my faith in humanity.
    Since then I have lost count of the many adventures I have experienced. With each one I have gained and learned new life lessons. I have been in some scary situations like cyclones, high seas and earthquakes. I have been left stranded in the night. I have been in areas of crime, terrorism and danger. I do not go blindly into these situations. I do not think I am ‘untouchable’, or ‘it won’t happen to me’.
    There are people out there who are pure evil. Who think nothing of taking a life. I cannot control this. But I can control what I choose to do. I choose to take chances. I choose to drive around the outback. I choose to to ride pillion through rice paddies without a helmet. Or drive a quad bike through the olive groves of Crete. I choose to meet new people, see wondrous sights, laugh, love and cry. I am now entering my 60th year on this planet and I will continue to live life as best I can. My sixth sense and intuition have got me this far.

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  2. Thre's a certain risk you take when you leave your front door. There's bigger risk if you leave your home town and obviously even bigger risk you are taking when you go backbacking all alone, especially as a woman. As a numbers person I can assure that almost always things work out for the best, sometimes you meet shitty people and bad shit happens, but whoever has ever been travelling knows that good shit over weighs the bad by 1000 times; think how many times have you been amazed by the goodness of people vs times when you were really let down by someone; EXCEPT when you die. So keep doing what you do, south-east Asia, Australia and New Zealand are all full of backpackers, alone, duos or groups, doesn't matter. One person dying is just a bad end of good statistics, that actually shows that it is super safe to be doing that. Chances of dying in a random ass car crash anywhere in the world are way bigger. So I am sorry for the victim and her friends and relatives, but everyone else backpacking KEEP ON ROCKING. Cherish the good and fight the bad. Together we can make the world a better place.

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  3. The reality of this post is so true, ive been travelling for 4+years now (visited 5 or more countries alone), and I have loved every second I take the same precautions as Grace did I also truly lived, I went drinking, I used tinder, I went to strangers house partys, hitchiked in NZ, drove the westcoast of australia with a group of people I met on the internet, I camped in the outback on my own the list is endless.

    The reality is after the news of Grace, I still feel as safe as I did before and as safe as I did back home. Theres moments in life where you could question if you did things differently would the outcome be different. Dont waste your life worrying about what could of happened or what might happen otherwise it will jeopardize your travelling experience and your outlook on life. Im not saying dont be safe, be precautious, keep in touch with family and follow your gut. Remember this could of happened to any one of us and without sounding naive some incidents in life happen down to being in the wrong place at the wrong time not down to be unsafe and careless.

    I dont believe that the incident of Grace should stop fellow female backpackers or travel enthusiasts enjoying there new experiences alone. I would never of had the same experience or met as many friends as I have without travellling Alone.

    The majority of the comments people are writing on the internet about "why was she travelling alone" etc are from people who have never travelled the world and experienced new cultures. Instead of using graces incident as a way of scaring backpackers and victimising women. We should be honouring her memory for the brave, independent girls she was.

    Rip Grace

    Be Safe. Take Precautions.Keep travelling. Live life to the max.

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  4. "Why are men not being told to leave women alone? To stop attacking them as they walk home at night. To say goodbye and mean it, after a date." They are, we are. It turns out people who are going to commit crimes will commit them whether or not they're taught it's wrong, the same as no one is raised believing it's okay to steal or murder but there will always be thieves and murderers. This line of thought is honestly quite tiresome because of how often it is regurgitated when it is so obviously flawed in logic.

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    1. I completely agree in respect to the fact that an individual who wants to commit a crime, will indeed commit a crime. But I believe you have missed the point of this blog post. It's all about accountability. Why are women being told to stop travelling alone, when men are committing crimes against us? The whole issue is much more deep rooted than theft, because there is literally an issue within society (misogyny, sexism, patriarchy, whatever you'd like to call it), which makes many men believe they "own" women, believe they are more superior to women, and believe that women are really, their own property. Whether that's found in catcalling, or more serious assaults. So actually, until this stops, we should never tire of calling men out on this bullshit. We should never stop holding men accountable. And we should never stop living in freedom, in fear of men taking it away from us.

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    2. If you think that line of thought is tiresome, wait until you realize that after every case of rape, sexual assault, physical assault, and murder that women encounter, there are people saying that the woman wasn't safety conscious enough. That she was wearing the wrong clothes, she shouldn't have consumed alcohol, she shouldn't have been at that place at that time.

      Except that never works. Saudi-Arabia has rapes despite nobody being drunk or any woman showing an inch of skin. Most sexual violence is committed by men close to women - family members, friends, colleagues - than random strangers in a dark alleyway. Similarly, every day women are beaten and killed by their husbands or fathers or brothers or boyfriends.

      So if you are tired of hearing what Alice wrote, just try to have an ounce of empathy and think how tired women are of hearing the other side. And that "story" has been going on far, far, far longer, and with much worse consequences than what you're whining about.

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  5. Grace’s death is tragic, but it is the act of a single murderer, not of the world’s 3.6 billion men.

    It's a shame blogging and journalists are hijacking her death to make a cheap, and frankly intellectually bankrupt, argument for a delusional brand of militant feminism that is only discouraging the safety of travelling alone as a female.

    As a female traveller I have met hundreds of incredible men and unfortunately many not so nice men. To hold an entire sex accountable for the actions of a few will not help solve this. If your writing wants to engage with men with a view to change them, you should start by not presuming them all guilty, and confronting them on that basis. Writing in this manner has existed in blogs for decades and will only continue to cause problems via vague, majority fuelled, cheap shots.

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    1. I completely agree in that it isn’t every man on earth, I come from a family of fantastic men and am best friends with men. I am absolutely not saying that every single man is bad. I am saying, however, that victim blaming is completely inappropriate, and the victim blaming in this circumstance has highlighted why women shouldn’t travel alone, something I believe it completely unwarranted and indicates the issue with society. I truly believe, had it been a male victim, his actions would not have been questioned, but because this victim is female, there is a blame placed upon her. Quite honestly, I write my blog for myself, I share my own opinions and I am not trying to promote myself to any particular audience. However, many men have shared this post and understand the message of it, and if educating some men on this matter offends other men, so be it.

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    2. You're right Alice, and don't let misogynists pretending to be women to sway with non-arguments. A male victim would have been grieved over by the family, but then it would been boys will be boy, business as usual.

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