Pals, this is important – #doitforgrace.
Last night, after a week at the beach, I was waiting at baggage claims in Mexico City. I hadn’t been online in a few days because I’d been busy travelling solo and hanging out with a shit-load of brilliant strangers, so it was only then that I learned of the awful death of Grace Millane. If you haven’t read about Grace, she was a 22-year-old English woman on a year-long solo adventure. She was murdered in New Zealand, allegedly by a man that she met on Tinder.
Through tears, I read about her death, about her life, and about her travels. I cried because as a solo female traveller and an avid fan of dating apps, her murder hit extremely close to home.
Then, I read too many comments blaming her for being murdered. “Why was she travelling alone?” people wondered. “What was she thinking using a dating app abroad” others chipped in. And with that, my sadness turned to white-hot fury.
BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE TIME A WOMAN IS ASSAULTED OR MURDERED IT’S THIS SAME STUPID SHIT.
It was not Her Fault
Grace did not murder herself, nor did she do anything at all to deserve her fate. But sadly, so many people don’t seem to feel that way. Nobody is asking why a 26-year-old man allegedly decided to end Grace’s young life while she celebrated her youth and her freedom. Instead, the internet was alight with accusations that she was idiotic to travel the world alone, or that her parents were irresponsible for letting her go on the trip that was to be her last.
My parents let me go to Tanzania for eight months when I was 21 and I am still grateful to them today at 31. That trip sparked in me a love of travel and adventure that is now at the centre of my entire existence. Without my solo voyages, my life would be infinitely duller and much less satisfying.
I know that my parents worry about me, and I am all too aware of the dangers that can arise from being alone and far from home. For that reason, my mum and I message every single day. I always tell her where I am and what my plans are for that day. She has the contact details of my landlord, too, because in the back of both of our minds, there’s always the possibility that one day I won’t get in touch. That I, like Grace, will have the unfathomable bad luck of crossing paths with a monster.
I was in the north of Panama a few years ago at the same time and in the same place that two young Dutch women vanished. That week I was locked safely in my hostel every evening before nightfall, and I only went on organised group trips. I felt that same fear of ‘it could have been me’ that so many female travellers will be feeling right now, and it’s really, really shit.
Women are Always at Risk of Male Violence
But, this kind of hideous situation could just as easily happen at home. Grace and I went to the same university and we both could have encountered danger in the sleepy city of Lincoln. Grace is from Essex where I lived for five years before beginning my new life as a solo traveller, and either of us could have been unfortunate enough to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person there, too. The sad truth is, women are always at risk of male violence.
And so, this tired rhetoric of victim blaming HAS GOT TO STOP. Grace should not become a cautionary tale used to keep young women at home. Nor should she be shamed for doing what so many of us brilliant women are doing: chasing our dreams, chasing love, and chasing adventures.
I’m promoting the hashtag #doitforgrace to encourage women to keep travelling and for men to keep holding each other accountable for their actions.
If any woman reading this is thinking about travelling alone, PLEASE, PLEASE DO IT. Don’t let the fearmongering and woman-bashing hold you back, it is an experience that you deserve and that we need to keep fighting for our right to have. Like one of my favourite solo female travellers Claire from clairesitchyfeet.com told me last night when we were discussing the reaction to Grace’s murder, “we can do what the fuck we want”. She’s right. Do not forget that.
Men, please continue to be our allies and stand with us whether we’re travelling abroad or on home soil. Speak out when you see or hear troubling behaviour, and help to keep your sisters around the world safe. In turn, we will do the same for you and will show appreciation for your awesomeness by sharing beers, stories, and adventures in whichever far-flung corner of the earth we’re lucky enough to meet you in.
Let’s change the tone of the Grace Millane conversation by holding her up as an inspiration rather than a tragic example of why women shouldn’t travel alone. She deserves more than that. I deserve more than that. Every single fucking woman on this planet deserves more than that.
Can we all please #doitforgrace – let’s take her with us in our hearts wherever we venture.
Oh, and p.s. the main image of this post was sent to me by a dear pal @mandy_aroundtheworld. Mandy took this photo when she travelled to New Zealand alone earlier this year and she is a huge solo travel inspiration for me.