For the last 102 years, March 8 — better known as International Women's Day (IWD) — has served as a time to honour the achievements and contributions that women have made around the world. Since 1975, every IWD has come with an official theme, and this year's focus on the momentum behind the gender agenda — the movement powering the years of progress behind women's rights — is no different.
While gains have been made in areas like education, health, and reproductive rights for women over time, the issue of violence against women still persists, even in the world of travel. Today, as much 64 per cent of the all travel is done by women, according to Intrepid Travel. Yet travelling for women has been cast in a shadow after the death of Sarai Sierra, an American woman killed in Turkey while travelling by herself back in February.
Since then, the idea of a women travelling by herself in a foreign country has come under fire, spawning the idea that "a single woman traveling [sic] alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish,” according to an online comment in Forbes Magazine. Women in the travel community have since battled back using the hashtag #wegosolo to argue the issue isn't with women travelling, but a global attitude against women that needs to change.
HuffPost Canada Travel asked nine Canadian women from diverse backgrounds, all who consider themselves travellers, on what they would change about the world of travel on behalf of women, as well as any advice they wanted to share. For the most part, their responses shared a common theme: this culture of fear surrounding women travelling alone needs to end. They believe the empowerment achieved through travelling by yourself is something no one should miss out on. To see what each traveller had to share, check out the gallery below and join the discussion on Twitter today with @HPCaTravel
International Women's Day Travel Wisdom:
Candice Walsh, Editor With Matador Network
<strong>On one piece of advice she'd like to share with other travellers:</strong> "Do what makes you feel comfortable. There are a million travellers preaching the virtues of a certain travel lifestyle, but ignore it. Pack what you want. Go where you want. Stay in hotels, or hostels, who cares. Hop on a tour bus. Just GO!" -- Candice Walsh, <a href="http://www.candicedoestheworld.com/about/">Candice Does The World</a>
Mariellen Ward, Travel Writer
<strong>On what she would change about female travel:</strong> "I think women are bred to be fearful, and unfortunately for good reason. There are bad people out there, and we do have to be careful. But we need to be able to separate reasonable fears -- like dark alleys at night -- from the kind of fears that keep us in a kind of self-imposed prison. Women the world over are not only afraid to travel, they are often afraid to move or speak out or create -- or just be themselves. This has to change." -- Mariellen Ward, <a href="http://breathedreamgo.com/">Breathe, Dream, Go</a>
Melissa Medeiros, Travel Blogger
<strong>One piece of advice she'd like to share with other travellers:</strong> "Trust yourself. We women have incredible intuition. Follow your instincts, listen to your heart and don't let the fear of the unknown or what other people say stop you from travelling. You are strong, independent and confident. Go exploring and you'll discover things about yourself you never knew you had." -- Melissa Medeiros, <a href="http://www.melissatoandfro.com/">Melissa To And Fro</a>
Tracy Zhang, Photographer
<strong>On what she would change about female travel:</strong> "I wish we could actually reduce women's own fears and misconceptions around traveling to foreign places. There's enough debate from people of all genders and ages around whether certain cultures are safe or not for women to visit — alone or otherwise — that I wish we could change females' own misperception of which places are safe to visit for women." --Tracy Zhang, <a href="http://www.justintimetravels.com/">Just-In-Time Travels</a>
Sara Graham, Travel Writer
<strong>One piece of advice she'd like to share with other travellers:</strong> "I have travelled a lot on my own — through Europe, Thailand, South America and Australia — over the last 10 years. It's a challenge that has allowed me to learn so much about myself, meet interesting people and move beyond my comfort zone. The biggest lesson is that I'm OK on my own. Every women should try going it alone at least once in her life. It's incredibly empowering." --Sara Graham, <a href="http://thetravelpresse.com/">The Travel Presse</a>
Jodi Ettenberg, Travel And Food Writer
<strong>On what she would change about female travel:</strong> "I don't think travel needs to change for women, I think we need to address the problem of violence against women worldwide. Crimes against women are not limited to travel abroad — whether a woman is alone or otherwise — but are in our backyards too. I hope that the more we see of the world, the more we can connect the disparate dialogues to address this extremely pressing issue." -- Jodi Ettenberg, <a href="http://www.legalnomads.com/">Legal Nomads</a>
Cailin O'Neil, Filmmaker
<strong>One piece of advice she'd like to share with other travellers:</strong> "The biggest and best form of advice that any traveller will give you is to 'be smart and trust your gut.' Research places before you visit, learn where you can and can't safely visit and what areas of town are good or bad to hang out in. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation get yourself out of it as quickly as possible and once again if it doesn't feel right it probably isn't. Trust your gut. Oh and have fun!" --Cailin O'Neil, <a href="http://www.travelyourself.ca/">Travel Yourself</a>
Leigh McAdam, Author
<strong>On what she would change about female travel:</strong> "I’d like women to be able to go everywhere a man goes without having to take any extraordinary precautions — just because they’re a woman." --Leigh McAdam, <a href="http://hikebiketravel.com/">HikeBikeTravel</a>
Ayngelina Brogan, Strategic Marketer
<strong>On one piece of advice she'd like to share with other travellers:</strong> "There is no need to be afraid. Yes you need to be aware of your surroundings but there is not a world of men out there waiting to assault you. There is potential for something to happen on the road but the same could happen in your hometown." --Ayngelina Brogan, <a href="http://www.baconismagic.ca/">Bacon Is Magic</a>
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