I love camping and I adore traveling alone. Camping alone has taken me a summer to get comfortable with
I’m high on a hill outside of Kennewick, Washington about 2 miles off the paved road on Bureau of Land Management property. I have my tent staked in because of the wind, veggie soup heating up on my single burner (extreme fire risk means no fires!) and I’m listening to one of my favorite podcasts, Over it & on with it with Christine Hassler- life is good! All of a sudden up walks a man and his dog. My heart rate immediately goes up, I grab the bear spray so it’s next to me, hidden behind the cooler I’m using as a counter, and initiate a, “hi” with clear eye contact.
I. See. You. And. Will. Describe. The. Fuck. Out. Of. You….. but in a nice, midwestern way- you know? He nods and says hi, but keeps walking. Phew. Nothing to see here folks! Just kidding, his teenaged son comes bolting up the hill about 30 seconds after him. Great, two of them. It was just then that the supposed wife and mother crested the hill. Instantaneously I felt better. Calmed and reassured that another woman was there, and I was safe. #The Power of female connectivity flooded over me and I paused as I recognized the feeling for what it is. I think if asked, “If in a potentially scary situation, who would you want to appear more, a man or woman?” I would naturally say a man because men are “stronger” and are stereotypically (thanks, Disney!) the ones who “save the day”… geez, when you hear it out loud that sounds so wrong and untrue.
The overwhelming number of crimes committed against women are at the hands of men, it only makes sense that a counter energy to that, the feminine would be the comforting, even stronger sense of safety. Either way, it’s my truth. Or it’s what my cognitive mind would say, but sometimes our mind, separate from our bodies and souls, can be deceitful and fall for the ways of the world as it is still learning. My body and soul in direct defiance to my mind answered in the moment for me, “WOMAN”.
It happened to me in India this past spring also, not that I should be terribly surprised with India’s reputation of violence against women. I was traveling alone and essentially had about an 8-hour “layover” in Jodhpur, The Blue City, between my bus from Udaipur, The City of Lakes, (thanks again Nishant!) and my overnight train to Jaisalmer, The Golden City (picking up on a theme??). In Jaisalmer, I had booked an overnight safari in the Thar Desert, about 19 miles from the Pakistan border and thus the closest I had ever been to the Middle East and I was very excited! I was less than a mile from the train station and found the perfect spot to enjoy a Bombay and tonic (only 1 because heaven forbid I am not able to defend myself at literally any given moment) on the rooftop in the shadow of the ancient Mehrangarh Fort and overlooking the current Umaid Bhawan Palace in the distance.
Ideally, I would have gotten to the train station before dark and just waited there in the 2nd class passenger lounge where I had stored my pack for the day. I just felt so safe and was flying high, having spent a wonderful few days in the comfort of my friend Nishant’s family home and I was journaling so contently….. shit. Darkness. I asked the waiter if it was safe to walk to the train station to which he replied, “If I was with you!” Ugh. Well unless you’re escorting me there…. on second thought…. I headed out into the night alone.
I walked out into the blue city on a dark night with my mace in one hand and my phone with screen shots of the google maps directions I was able to thanks to the restaurant’s wifi in the other. I’ve traveled alone, abroad before and I remember trying to pull on every lesson in self-defense and awareness I had ever heard; staying alerted, checking behind me, making eye contact with every man who I catch looking my way. All of a sudden I realized that I’m the only woman to be seen. It’s barely 8:30 pm, but it’s dark and in nearly every city or village I visited in the north of India, the women went inside after dark. When I inquired about it, I was told it is just safer inside for women after dark inside and I would be wise to do the same. Not that there were a ton of men around, actually not even enough really to make you feel that crowd safety that can sometimes be a saving grace. Nope, just 6-8 men lingering around watching me with intensely menacing gazes. I was so scared that I eventually just held my mace up and start saying loudly to anyone who is listening (in English mind you, when most Indians in the north don’t speak English other than their numbers), “This is pepper spray. Did you know mace? That’s what this is, pepper spray! I don’t want to use it, so please don’t give me a reason.” LIKE A CRAZY WOMAN. You know when I stopped? When a couple about my age turned a corner and all of a sudden I wasn’t the only woman on the street! I had a comrade! And potentially the strength of my comrade’s partner, who if he’s progressive might actually believe in women’s rights! “Thank you sister”, is all I keep saying in my mind, “Oh thank you for just being across the alleyway.”
I made it to the train station- hooray! Unfortunately, it was almost scarier than the walk with how many homeless families and “street babies” on their own had made it their residence and designated area to beg every traveler for money. There were enough people that I at least felt safe that someone would come to rescue. I smoked one of my emergency- really-freaked-out-cigarettes to calm down and headed in. My bag was chained up in the luggage closet I had left it in with everything in it- hooray again! It was a night that will always remind me of both what a dumb kid (a term I use with endearment referring to the adventurous and potentially life threatening situations and something I fear and kind of hope I will never grow out of at any age) I had been walking alone, at night through a dangerous area like that, but also what a badass I can be when life demands it. I think it’s good for everyone to have a little, or not so little, mind folder of all the times you exemplified bravery, honesty, badassery (as the wonderful Ms. Jen Sincero would call it), strength, love, joy, peace and any other characteristic you might need to call upon in a time of need.
We all have all we could ever need within ourselves if only we could remember to be still enough to ask and receive
As I sit here with the holy fury of mother nature’s winds shaking the shit out of my tent that sits high on this hill overlooking Washington fields of vineyards, I thank all the women who have shown up in my life just when I needed you. I hope so many of you know who you are and for the ones who will never read this, the woman on the hill in Washington State tonight, the young woman in India, the woman I’ll never meet halfway across the world meditating on the strength of feminine sisterhood, thank you. May we more boldly recognize and embody the power of the feminine. #Femininity #travelingalone