As a woman who has traveled widely, and very happily, alone — long after getting married, and after having kids — I’m used to people finding it odd that I take off by myself as often as I do. Even now, nearly 15 years into a career in which travel is my literal job, I’m frequently asked if I’m afraid to be on the road in Central America or Morocco or downtown Los Angeles by myself.
The question can be grating. It feels like a throwback to another time and there’s a way that, to my ear, it sounds like an accusation. One that echoes along matrilineal lines. I hear it and think of my grandmothers — women who left small, poor, rural towns (in southern Italy and northwestern Montana, respectively) — and the indignities they endured as they navigated the world away from home. So while the question feels like an old, badly healed wound, it’s also a reminder that I’m only two generations removed from a time when women traveling alone were not only a bit odd, eccentric or selfish but scandalous, dysfunctional, maybe even dangerous.