Sunday, September 15, 2013

Go Girl! Travel the World

Last few years has witnessed a significant increase in Indian travelers and particularly women. Travel is indeed a hobby/interest that women have taken to with great enthusiasm; financial independence, connectivity, accessibility and technology have opened up the world to women. Several destinations have even gone a step further to offer special travel/holiday packages for women travelers.

Sadly an increase in brutal crimes against women across the country (both rural and urban) is going to have a huge impact on this new found travel freedom. One can debate and nuance the cause of increasing crime against women, but mobility and freedom to travel is indeed a key factor that determines the level of participation of women in the economy, politics and social structure. The fear is that the increase of violence against women will deter participation of women in all fields and will end up pushing us 15-20 years backwards.

One of the very important aspects of women empowerment is providing a safe environment for women who travel on work or leisure. As a traveler I am very concerned that incidents of violence against women will result in more social restriction and lesser focus on creating a safe environment and empowering women. It will be a sad day when the fear of crimes against women will stop many of us from going out exploring and traveling the world.

Yes there is a lot that the governments have to do to create a safe environment for everyone irrespective of gender. Our society should take more responsibility in not just condemning the crimes against women but also grooming the boys in their homes to respect women and treat them as equals, and more importantly as humans.

But as women travelers we need to start taking control, unless we do not get confident about ourselves and be prepared at all times we will be curtailed with restrictions and fears. As a traveler I have been travelling for many years mostly alone. Be it the buses in UP or Rickshaws in Mumbai or the Jeeps in Uttarakhand I have travelled in some of the most remote areas across the country, three things that always makes me feel safe are Confidence, Awareness and Preparedness.

  • Be confident about yourself mentally and physically
  • Learn basics of self-defense, which will make you more physically confident/aware
  • Do not disclose information about your travel
  • Avoid any eye contact or talking with strangers, particularly men
  • Do not let anyone get too friendly
  • Be aware of the surroundings, nothing happens all of a sudden
  • Have complete information of the destination you are travelling
  • Do not share food/cigarettes with any stranger during the journey
  • Be aware of your luggage and do not stack all the money in a single place
  • Try not to be alone in a bus/jeep/train
  • Travel in public transport or in a recognized transport facility
  • Avoid unscheduled night travel unless necessary
  • Take upper berths or women compartment if you are travelling in a train
  • Choose a reputed/recognized/authorized travel agency/tour guide, get references
  • Inform friends and family where you are travelling
  • Carry your ID card and emergency contact details
  • Carry a whistle either around your neck or clip it where you can access it easily
  • Have your phone at quick access with emergency/police control room numbers on speed dial
  • Objective is travelling so dress for travel, watch what you are wearing, don’t invite unwanted attention
  • Wear skin tights or a swim suite underneath your dress
  • Do not wear tight or revealing attire stick to full sleeve t-shirt, slightly loose jeans or khakis or salwar suit
  • Travel light, ensure you have your backpack/trolley bag packed properly
  • Do not wear expensive jewelry or display valuables like laptop/expensive phone/GPS/camera/cash etc
  • Carry a pepper spray if possible
We need to sometimes empower ourselves and be confident, be aware and be prepared, let’s be practical there cannot be a police constable standing guard on every road every locality at all times. Government, Police, Society are responsible to provide a safe environment for every citizen irrespective of gender, but we cannot outsource our dreams and destiny either.

So go travel the world do not wait for all the signals lights to go Green to embark on a journey!

- Kavitha Reddy, Director Basecamp Adventures