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Traveling solo in Rio de Janeiro in Sept. 2012.
I get why it's doing so well. It's provocative and timely. There's been a flood of news recently about sexual violence against foreign tourists and people are constantly looking for tips on where to go and where not to go. Throw in a little dash of danger and you've got an hit.
But this kind of over-simplification sometimes does more harm to women than good.
Here's why: It could scare women away from some pretty incredible places.
I am a woman under the age of 30 and I have traveled to at least two countries on this list, with plans to visit another in October. Each time I was alone and had the time of my life. And each time I came home to the U.S. unscathed.
I'm curious and love traveling enough to ignore these kinds of stories, but I know there are women around the country who will read this and use it to justify never leaving the comforts of their all-inclusive resort or, God forbid, their own zip code. Like the writer mentions, so long as women do their homework and prepare themselves for the possible dangers involved in traveling in a foreign country, there's no reason they shouldn't go for it –– no matter how horrible the news makes it seem.
The women in these countries need us as much as we need them.
There are heartbreaking statistics in this story. But a lot of them focus on crimes against female tourists. I can guarantee that if you do some digging, you'll find it's women native to these countries who are suffering the most. There are a number of women-backed nonprofit organizations that have been born simply out of the need for foreign aid to raise awareness and help prevent crimes against women.
In some cultures, women are too afraid to go for help because men are so prominent in law enforcement and in a lot of cases, these are the very people who are behind the violence in the first place. You have no idea how powerful it is for victims of crime to meet someone who is like them from another country and realize that what they are going through is NOT alright. Women need women, plain and simple, and promoting female tourism will help spread crucial awareness –– and let those in need know that we haven't forgotten them.
You have more to gain than to lose by traveling in dangerous places
I realize that I am a special case and that not every girl out there thinks bopping around the world on her own sounds like a good time. My boyfriend and parents would probably agree with you. That's OK. But I can tell you one thing for sure: Just about every ounce of knowledge and maturity I've gained in the last decade has come from the time I've spent exploring new places in the U.S. and abroad.
I'm not suggesting every rookie traveler hop a flight to Mumbai or Bogota right out of the gate. Start small. Hop across state lines. Study abroad. Talk to the locals when you travel somewhere new. Then gently start working your way out of your comfort zone. Trust me, as a girl from a small town in the South, visiting Fargo, N.D. for the first time last year was just as fascinating to me as my trip to Rio de Janeiro the month before.
The bottom line:
Yes, there is indeed danger in each and everyone one of the places on this list, and yes, I have known people who encountered a number of horrific crimes while traveling in some of them (for the record, none of them were spooked enough to quit traveling).
The point is that women should be educated on ways to protect themselves while traveling abroad, not simply given a map of the world with all the dodgy areas blacked out. This isn't the Lion King. There's still plenty of worthwhile stuff to see where the light doesn't touch. You've just got to get out of your own way first.
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