By Catarina Werneck da Fonseca
Throughout my twenty years of existence, I have had a fair share of encounters with the realities of female solo travel. Having been raised in Brazil by my mother – someone who is incredibly keen on world exploration – I was exposed to stories such as the time she had to switch hotels twice whilst travelling alone in America due to certain interactions that made her feel very unsafe. Wanting to pursue solo travel myself, I’ve heard the warnings from family members, seen their frowns and listened to their disapproving sighs when describing my travel plans. “Oh well, at least you are meeting up with that boy from school,” is what I heard from one of my female friends when I let her know that I would be meeting a male friend at one of my destinations; the underlying assumption being that having a man with me would provide safety and protection from the ‘big bad world’. The predominant feeling in society about women travelling alone is simple: they just shouldn’t.
The predominant feeling in society about women travelling alone is simple: they just shouldn’t
Thankfully I am not alone when I refuse to surrender to this perhaps ludicrous idea that limits my capacity and desire to see the world without requiring the assistance of anyone else. Whilst hundreds of thousands of words have been written in the form of books, essays and articles about the experience of female solo travel and how to safely do it, one of the most helpful creations in the eld of tourism is all-female hostels. By providing a safe environment for women who are travelling on a budget, fully-female hostels are the building blocks for the liberation of female travellers. Hostelle, a hostel in Amsterdam “founded for women and by women,” aims to facilitate the navigation of women to and from the city. Its founder Bianca Brasdorp describes its environment as “the ultimate girl power!” With themed rooms that range from homages to lms like Kill Bill and The Titanic to walls lled with quotes like “I got my own back” and African-inspired paintings of women, the hostel is the perfect place for an empowered travel experience.
Fully-female hostels are the building blocks for the liberation of female travellers
On the other hand, other women-only hostels offer less of a feminist stance and more of a gendered concoction of experiences. St. Christopher’s Oasis, a hostel in the heart of London, highlights amenities such as uffy pillows, full-length mirrors and “lotions and potions,” whilst other hostels like Ecomama, also in Amsterdam, go as far as to decorate their all-female dorms with blinding hot pink duvets, curtains and rugs in order to attract women who supposedly will be captivated by the ‘girly’ atmosphere. It is hard not to point out the gender stereotypes involved in the marketing of this type of hostel, but the truth exposed by their sheer existence is a much bigger one.
The female-only dorms and hostels are a disheartening re ection of a culture in which men are still a potential threat to women, falling under the umbrella of measures society has taken in order to protect women instead of attacking the root-cause that helps holds the patriarchy together: the misogyny with which men are raised and taught from a very young age. The famous booking website HostelCulture.com, wrote that “male-only dorms aren’t nearly as common” as their female counterparts, once again illustrating the sad reality of the demand for female accommodation being still so high in 2018. A world in which women feel the need to stay away from men in order to have a peaceful travelling experience should serve as enough indication that despite all the marches and the #MeToo’s, there is still an abundance of change that needs to be made.
All-women hostels are legitimate international bases for women on the go
However, it is unequivocal that while we must ght for this change, female-only hostels should continue to exist as a short-term solution. There is so much to be gained from seeing different parts of the world – those who are privileged enough to be able to do so will acquire knowledge and cultural experience that no web-site or book can provide. With fully-female hostels, women are allowed access to places they would have otherwise not gone to if shackled by society’s norms that advise women not to travel on their own. Without these spaces, would women perhaps more frequently need a husband, a male companion or family member in order to travel? Would they not feel as safe just jumping on a plane and ying to the other side of the globe, always having to watch their backs or pay for more expensive private rooms? These are the questions that reveal the bene ts of all-women hostels, the legitimate international bases for women on the go.
Photograph: rawpixel.com and Marco Verch via Flickr