So I’ve been thinking about this post for a long time. Since way before the trip began. What does it mean to be a (relatively) young woman (?) traveling alone in 2018?
I have always loved exploring on my own, but in the past it has always been within the context of a group. I’d be by myself for a few hours at a time but always reconnected with others before long. This trip is the first time I’m traveling solo.
As I wrote in my pre-trip post (what a phrase) I was nervous about many things. But as most people who know me are aware, I never let what scares me stop me.
This is why I decided to walk back to my AirBnB from the wedding after-party last Friday night. It was 3:00AM, I had been drinking, I was wearing a dress, and the walk would take slightly over an hour if I didn’t get lost again. At this point, my phone was not functioning.
I wonder what you are thinking about me as you read this. I wonder if you think I was being stupid. I wonder if you are angry at me. I wonder if you are frightened for me.
All these emotions passed through my body as I walked. But I knew I wanted to do it anyway.
I love walking by myself, especially at night. The stars swing by overhead and it is quiet in a way the world never is during the day. For a little while I can be myself watching the world sleep. Wondering what the world is dreaming, wondering if I am a part of the dream.
I also like walking alone at night because so often I am told not to.
I know it is by people who are well-meaning, people who likely care about me and my safety, but when I consider it I have to disagree with them.
The one time I was mugged was in daylight a block away from my house. I had walked the road I would be walking in Wiesbaden during the day. I knew it was mostly suburbs, little to no people would be on it.
I decided to walk because I want to live in a world where it is okay for women to walk alone at night.
On my walk I was verbally harassed seven times. Twice by men in cars. Often the comments were on my dress. A few were on my gender. Having short hair, a rather masculine face, and oddly muscular arms often confuses people. Which is great since I also find gender confusing and not very convincing. I’m thinking about it a great deal at the moment. But usually men at night on the street aren’t commenting because they share my interest in gender fluidity.
By the time I arrived at the door of my AirBnB, I had my keys clenched between my fingers. As if keys would keep away people with the intent to turn the verbal into the physical. I was angry, I was shaky, and I was unbelievably proud.
It was 4:00AM and I had walked alone through the darkness of a foreign country.
You don’t have to agree with me. You don’t have to think that what I did was brave. You don’t have to think that this will help anything or anyone in the future.
Because all of the harassment I received was gender-based.
If I had been a cis-man walking the same path at the same time, dressed for a party, I do not think I would have been harassed at all.
This is what I believe: that people should not be harassed in general. That people should not be harassed based on their gender or perceived gender. I want to continue doing the things people tell me not to do. Because by normalizing this so-called dangerous behavior, I can move the blame from potential victims to the actual cause of street harassment.
Even though it was dark, I was drunk, I was wearing a dress, and I was a lone woman, I did not deserve to be yelled at. Repeat that to yourself.
Everyone should be able to walk alone if they want to. Everyone should be able to travel alone, work alone, live alone. And until such time as this is accepted, I will continue to participate in such “risky” behavior. Because it’s my goddamn life and I want to see the moon rising over the goddamn Rhein at 4:00 in the morning.
You should, too; it is a beautiful sight.