One of my clients asked me this year: “How come your trips are so full of women?” (Women make up 65-70% of my clients).
“Because they’re more adventurous than men” I replied.
This caused the men’s feathers to flutter. Rubbish rubbish rubbish … women were more likely to book on a guided trip because of security – they were using me as their great protector! (mocking tones all round) – men are all travelling on their own.
But they are not! I don’t see the evidence for that. When I started backpacking all those years ago (20 years!) that was the case. One only saw men travelling alone, women travelled in pairs or with a partner. But now (I actually think there is less backpacking) I think one sees more single women but certainly, in the places i go to, there is not a preponderance of men travelling on their own. Why, at a time when the world has gone security and safety mad to the point of irrationality, are women supposedly taking more of the risk than men?
I feel that it comes down to a simple truth: women, and especially single women, are more adventurous.
Perhaps it is that women are more used to putting risk into context. They deal with the threat to their person on a much higher level than men every day of their lives, so perhaps they are more likely to get on and live their lives. Or perhaps men are naturally more conservative.
If you read my travel writing you’ll know that risk is a pet issue of mine – how our perceptions of risk in the west have become very distorted – we are warned away strongly from the tiniest of risk but large risks in our daily routine go unchecked. In terms of travel advice this comes to the fore with the whole notion of Al Qaeda (I am talking mainly of the Sahara, which i know most about) – we are obviously much more at risk of Al Q at home because that is where they want to get us, but African countries with no history of terrorism are being written off by our travel advisory bodies just because they are Muslim.
And when I talk to people about what I do I have noticed that women are more likely to be enthralled and excited by the idea of travel and men are more likely to ask about safety. I have had one person pull out of a trip for security reasons – a man.
I don’t think women come on my trips because they want me to protect them. We are all safer in Africa than we are at home. In Mali or Senegal, Algeria or Mauritania or Morrocco there is very very little crime. A woman is safer walking the streets alone in Mali or Cameroon or any of the countries I go to than in the cities and towns of the west because society is bound together by community and respect. I have never heard of anyone being physically aggressed. I’m sure it happens, but it is not widespread.
So here’s to women – “daring to go where there is no path…”