Yet travel is the hard wall into which such assertions slam—and slide limply to the ground. When you’re off home turf, you don’t get to reframe how safety is perceived. Your priority is to stay safe. To this end, the Australian government’s advisory service, Smart Traveler, offers 2,000 words of advice; upwards of 50 tips for female travelers, specifically.
The tips are hard to flaw. It probably is smart to “act as if someone is expecting you” or “wear a wedding ring”. Smarter still to “avoid taking a room on the ground floor”, “make sure the telephone works”, check the “peephole, deadbolt or chain lock” and “use a door wedge”. And while you’re at it, “sit in train compartments with other women”, “check in using only your initial and surname”, “increase your privacy settings on social media” and avoid eye contact with men or sitting in the front seat because “it can be misinterpreted as a sexual advance”.
But such advice puts the exhausting onus on women to “avoid” being raped, groped, harassed, catcalled or even noticed, instead of on the perpetrators—usually, men. Implicit in each tip is that bad things happen because of something you have, or haven’t, done. Ah, the open road!
Running parallel to this story is another story: The Morocco I adored, wrote about rapturously and would visit again in a flash. My trip came at a pretty momentous time in history to be a woman and a feminist, causing me to reflect in a way that wasn’t always comfortable. Yet it also proved a maxim about travel I hold close: That sometimes it gives you what you need, not what you want.