Sarai Sierra, a 33 year old woman from New York, was a solo female traveler. She was traveling in Istanbul alone, and she was brutally murdered.
Its a terribly tragic story and it is proof that the world can be a scary place at times. However, it is by no means proof that traveling solo as a female is a dangerous endeavor.
As a female who is currently traveling solo in South America, and has previously traveled solo in Southeast Asia, I won’t deny that there are challenges. It can be lonely. There are times when I feel uncomfortable with my surroundings. And there are extra precautions I must take as I only have one set of eyes and ears to rely on. But I’m careful and responsible and I am having a wonderful trip — in a foreign country, all by myself.
Last weekend I met two other solo female travelers who have been all over South America by themselves. We went to Carnival together, enjoying one another’s company for an event that could have been overwhelming had we gone alone. Then we split up again and went out separate ways, enjoying completely different, individual paths on three solo trips.
Some reactions to the initial news of Sarai’s death have been appalling and they don’t deserve the attention of being quoted here. In short, many misguided comments have blamed the fact that she was a woman traveling solo for the cause of her death. People have suggested (all behind the cowardly veil of a screen name) that husbands shouldn’t let their wives out of the house, and that it was ridiculous and/or irresponsible for her to have been alone in Turkey. Blaming her death on her choice to travel solo is about as heartless and absurd as saying the tragedy in Newtown occurred because children were attending school.
Senseless, heartbreaking things happen in the world every day. But most of them can not be prevented by instilling fear of the situation in which they occurred. Should Americans stop driving because about 30 people a day (in the United States) are killed by drunk drivers? Should New York have banned elevators last year when the woman was killed in Manhattan by a freak malfunction? Should every pregnancy be terminated because women are 14 times more likely to be killed during childbirth than they are during an abortion? I’d like to see someone suggest THAT one on a comment board.
The same goes for suggesting that females shouldn’t travel solo. Bad things can happen while traveling — to men and to women and to those who are taking every precaution necessary. But a woman is much more likely to be killed by her husband at home than she is while traveling abroad.
The issue is not her decision to travel alone. The issue is violence against woman. The issue is the person who chose to kill her. Those who point their fingers at solo female travel are neglecting the glaring fact that this woman was murdered at the hands of another human being who should be caught and punished.
There is a person to blame for Sarai’s death and it isn’t Sarai.
The words solo female travel should signify freedom and empowerment. They should not be used as a scapegoat for a sick person’s malicious act of violence, or as a scare tactic to keep future generations of would-be female vagabonds from exploring new places.
Hopefully, the tragic death of Sarai Sierra will serve as a reminder for females to stay cautious and alert while on the road — not because she didn’t, but because bad things can happen anywhere and to anyone. And hopefully all of those mindless commenters will find better ways to spend their time other than filling the internet with nonsense.
Get out there, ladies — stay safe and stay adventurous.
Are you a solo female traveler? Please share your story in the comments below and let’s show people what “Solo Female Travel” really looks like…