When I mention my travels, automatically assumptions are made about by safety. I’m treated as if I’m already a victim before anything has even happened to me. But I don’t believe in shrinking myself down and closing off parts of the world to myself just because I’m a woman.
India is all you’ve heard and more. It’s hot. It’s dirty. It’s loud. There is a lot of staring. Western women do have a bad reputation amongst the men. But India is also deeply spiritual, dripping with culture and a culinary delight. With 1.2 billion people crammed within four borders, you get to witness the best and worst of humanity all at once. This makes it an irresistible destination.
Spending so much time on the road in India taught me a lot about myself. In total I’ve spent about 9 months in the region of India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. 7 of these months were solo.
I’ve been through New Delhi, one of the cities with the worst reputation for women in the world, almost 10 times. So I can confidently say, being a woman doesn’t prevent you from exploring the corners of this planet that interest you.
Being female does not translate to being a walking victim, and a country like India can be a transformative experience for anyone who wants to experience it.
The key to doing India safely as a solo female traveller is dressing appropriately and remaining confident. Dress well and stay confident, a mantra all women should follow anywhere in the world. Shoulders and knees are always covered, and if you’re worried you can cover your bum with a long shirt too.
To deliberately choose to ignore the cultural dress code is to make a public statement about your sexuality. This is not something that’s done in India. The Slut Walk or Free The Nipple campaigns have not yet reached Hindustan, and they haven’t yet grasped the concept of victim blaming. So to avoid unwanted attention, it’s much easier to take a blow to your feminist pride and wear the suitable clothing. Every now and again, a local even thanks me for dressing conservatively.
The second tip is to remain confident at all times. Even if you think somebody is staring at you, following you, or making unwanted advances. You look them in the eye, and you tell them in no uncertain terms to leave you alone. You must walk with your head held high and refuse to submit to the submissive nature expected of women.
I am a woman, but I find India an incredibly warm and welcoming place, where I’ve had thousands of positive interactions with men along my travels. In no uncertain terms, this country is open to female travellers. Your femininity is not a barrier. India can be exciting, breathtaking and yes even terrifying at times, but it is completely yours to explore. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
This article was written by the avid solo traveller, Jaclyn McCosker from Australia. Jaclyn is a community development worker, social entrepreneur and writer. Her main focus is the empowerment of women, especially in South Asia. Follow her blog on all things that matter at www.jaclynmccosker.com.