A week and a half ago, I was told by a friend of mine – under the influence of a whole bottle plus two glasses of wine – that because I’m not afraid of going out and going travelling on my own, I am “the ultimate feminist”.
Apart from the fact that there are so many people more qualified to hold that title than me that my automatic reaction is to shriek and run away, if I am in the running for it, it’s entirely by accident.
I never set out to push back against the boundaries society tries to put around people who own two X chromosomes. I went off on my own because no one would go with me.
I was studying in Switzerland when it really started. I had a year – an academic year at that, just October to July – and I wanted to see as much of my host country as I could in that time. My triplets, Jemma and Angela, were more interested in staying at home and studying (which is why they eventually passed their certificates and I didn’t…). I realised that if I didn’t want to spend the entire year staring at the mountains on the horizon from my window, I was just going to have to go on my own.
The same when I was older. My very first trip was to Helsinki in November 2008. Can you find a friend who wants to do that trip with three weeks’ notice? No, neither could I, so off I went on my own.
Neither did I mean to upset the applecart when I went to see films on my own – that’s something that’s apparently still bordering on taboo. Women don’t go to the cinema unaccompanied. It’s not done. Actually, it is. I’ve heard grown women lamenting that because their husband’s aren’t interested in something, that they’ll have to wait for the DVD and watch it while he’s out. I have friends afraid they cant go and see Star Wars without a boyfriend.
A lot of my friends are either tied to the house by kids or live a long way away. If I want to see a film, I either have to take my mother, miss out altogether or go on my own. As it happens, I’m not a big movie-goers but if something catches my interest enough for me to drive the fifteen miles to the nearest multiplex, I’m not going to sit around waiting for someone to come with me.
I go out walking on my own, I go on sailing courses on my own, I eat meals in pubs on my own, I go to comedy shows on my own and so on. If you can’t go out on your own, you’re going to spend a lot of time at home and you’ll miss out on a lot of good and fun stuff. My eighty-six-year-old widowed grandmother has learnt the art of independence and if she can do it, you definitely can.
It’s not about setting out to be a feminist, that’s just a by-product of women and girls taking control of their own lives.
In 2017, I want to try to get you talking to me and me talking to you, so we’re going to have a subject for discussion at the end of every post. So today: If you’ve travelled alone, tell me about your first solo travel experience. If you haven’t, maybe you’d tell me where you’d like to go or what you’d like to do if you went on your own.
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