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Who Does Solo Travel Better, Men or Women?

Tom Swick is one of Journeywoman’s favorite columnists. He publishes his extraordinary travel articles at worldhum.com. Tom and I met face-to-face once when he interviewed me in Toronto. I think his point of view will make you smile...

He has slight travel advantage...

Hitch'nOn a recent visit to Toronto I discovered one of the advantages of traveling as a woman. It was something that had always intrigued me. I had long assumed that, as a man, I held a slight advantage in travel. I could go to bars alone, and not worry about striking up conversations with strangers. I could wander through the more interesting and disreputable neighbourhoods at night. I could dry my hair faster. I could take less luggage.

Not that any of this has held women back. Freya Stark, who died several years ago at the age of 100, penetrated the Arab world as few travelers -- male or female-- ever had. But her modern-day successor, Mary Morris, seems to me too preoccupied with herself, so that her subject too often becomes not the place she is visiting but the phenomenon (read: problem) of travelling as a woman. Her writing gives me yet another reason to be grateful for my maleness: I can forget about self and focus on the people.


She has slight travel advantage...

GuideBut in Toronto I found a reason to reconsider my position. It was during a dinner with Evelyn Hannon, editor of Journeywoman. I was halfway through my sauerkraut when Evelyn started to tell of a recent visit to Hong Kong. Didn’t care for it, I said, swallowing a bit of sausage. Too impersonal. Well, she said, she’d always had a very different experience there. Always enjoyed it immensely.

On one of her visits, she had had a guide -- a young Chinese professional woman. She described her uniform: short tight skirt, dark jacket, leather briefcase, cellular phone. I remembered the look well. These women had seemed to me unapproachable.

The guide had started out showing her the sights, until Evelyn delicately hinted that she was more interested in the people. This was enough to part the curtain.


She is gaining ground...

Men are from Mars, Women are from VenusSoon, the woman was telling Evelyn all about her life: her job, her family, her boyfriend, their problems. (My eyes widened with envy. No tour guide had ever come to me for romantic counsel.) Evelyn was getting better insight into the culture of Hong Kong than a week’s worth of temples would have given her. She went to a bookstore and bought her new friend a copy of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

Before Evelyn left, the new friend invited her to her home, to meet her family and her boyfriend. They sat together in the small living room, drinking tea and looking through the family album.


He concedes...

driving As I headed back to my hotel, I ruminated on the potency of the female bond. The fact that both these people were women turned what is traditionally the most artificial of relationships -- guide and tourist -- into a genuine friendship.

And, I saw that my envy was mixed with regret because I knew that no man could ever hope to achieve so much in so short a time: certainly not with another man (lifelong male friends are often less open) and not with a woman -- short of a romantic attachment. As travelers we men are -- socially at least -- relegated to the back room where we try desperately to coax pearls of wisdom out of the mouths of barflies.


Editor’s note...

coupleThis article written by travel editor Tom Swick was based on a trip that I took to Hong Kong. At that time my guide, Anne was single and in her late twenties. She taught me so much about Hong Kong culture. I remain grateful for her openess and ability to share her knowledge. A year after I met Anne I received, in the mail, a photo of her and her boyfriend and a note telling me that they were making wedding plans. It’s fun for me to think that maybe the book that I bought for them that day in Hong Kong helped them to make their decision.


Women do it differently...

Women travel differently than men. Whether they choose a hot pink nail buff, a fake wedding ring or the proverbial baggy dress while trekking in Nepal, life on the road for women is simply a different trip.
(Debra Cummings, Travel Editor, Calgary Herald)We girls do it very, very differently!

I’ve been travelling with my kids since the youngest was three months old. When she fussed, I went into a larger than life dancing routine to distract her. Often, this made fellow travellers laugh and sympathize instead of trying to get as far away as possible from an upset mother and child.
(Kathy Kaster, Vice President, The Parent Channel)

Did you know that in Southeast Asia, signs are posted at religious landmarks asking women not to enter if they’re menstruating?
(Stephanie, a Canadian)


 




Female Friendly Travel Canada

 

 

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