One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Check back often for the latest updates and stories from Meredith and Apollo as they journey 10,000 miles on a four year ride around the USA.

On bravery

There is this myth that if you're a woman traveling alone people will instantly want to kill you.  This is an example of where you shouldn't listen to anybody.  So much of the way we live and decisions we make in this world are based on fear.  It's amazing. 

Sure bad things happen.  They always have.

And check it out - I highly doubt you'd find a traveler pumping you full of psycho-killer fear.  No.  Only people who stay at home and watch too much TV will pump you full of that shit.  How the fuck do they know?  Look at their doors: they probably have fifteen deadbolts and an alarm system to protect their rhinestone-horse sweatshirts.

--From "Flaming Iguanas" by Erika Lopez

I am getting awfully tired of being called brave for my decision to travel as a single woman.  Nearly everyone who asks about my upcoming travels, when they find out that I will be travelling alone, use that word.  Even my Frommer’s travel guide says that only “brave” women should consider traveling alone!

Now, I don’t consider myself cowardly, but I don’t think I am particularly braver than the average person either.    

I think bravery is all in the perspective: bravery is only present when there is fear.  Bravery is what happens when someone acts in spite of fear.   What is an act of bravery for one person is not for another: if one person fears something and sees another person doing that thing, they think it brave.  But if that person doing the “brave” action was never afraid of it in the first place, they themselves don’t think they are behaving bravely. 

How often do you hear reports of people acting heroically who don’t think themselves heroes, or who are called brave but disagree in being called so? If you are terribly afraid of spiders, then holding one would be an act of bravery, where as it is not brave for someone who never experienced such phobia.  If you are afraid of heights, then zip-lining or high-diving would be brave activities indeed, but not to someone who does not mind heights.

And this then is why my planned travels are thought of as brave by many women.   And indeed, the only people who are not calling me brave are the women who have also travelled alone.  The ones who have travelled unaccompanied are, like myself, aware that “bad things happen” but have not let that frighten them or prevent them from travelling.  One traveler called it “determination” – not bravery – to travel alone.  For myself, I would use the word “resolve,” because while I could just give up and stay home until I find someone to travel with (and that could be a very, very long time coming), I am resolved to travel, and if that means travelling alone, well then I am resolved to do just that!

That is not to say that I am shirking the facts of the danger of travel. For that matter, it is dangerous to live (or travel) alone in America, it is dangerous to drive a car, it is dangerous to ride a horse, it is dangerous to live outside a safe room.  When I drive my car, I am on the alert for bad drivers and other road hazards.  When I ride a horse, I use my intuition of whether the horse is going to be a good fit for my skill level, and I wear the correct shoes and helmet. In travelling, the same principles apply: be aware, dress appropriately, trust your intuition when dealing with people.  And for good measure, I also have taken women’s self-defense classes.

So maybe I am braver than I had thought, but I wasn't really afraid of travelling alone in the first place.  I have done it before, albeit to more mellow places than India.  Heck, my ex is more frightening to me than the many strangers I'll be meeting along the way.  So call me brave if you want to, but I will call myself prepared, determined, resolved, and ready to carpe diem!

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