Multiple times a week, I encounter someone who comments on or questions my abilities. I’m currently traveling throughout the U.S. in a RV (recreational vehicle – mine is a 30 ft motorhome/home and office on wheels), by myself. It’s not rocket science, nor is it revolutionary. At least I don’t think it is.
I travel around the world on my own, but I never experience the conversations I do when I jump out of a RV. Here are some examples from the past couple months…
Woman at Gas Station: You drive that by yourself?! I’ve driven our RV a couple times but couldn’t possibly back it up like you did.
Me: Really…you can’t put it in reverse and look in your mirrors? [Okay, that’s not what I said out loud. But I wanted to at the time.]
Salesman at RV Store: Can I help you?
Me: I need to purchase a hose and while I’m here I want to walk through that brand of RV over there.
Salesman: [Hesitates.] Do you want to wait for your husband to get here?
Me: I’m by myself. [Bought the hose and left.]
Male and Female Staff at RV Parks: How many people will be on the site?
Staff: Just one?
Staff: Any kids?
Me: No, just a dog.
And last but not least…
Multiple Women (after hearing that I’m traveling by myself in a RV): You’re SO BRAVE!!
Me: [A brief, polite smile.]
A look of shock and/or admiration is usually the preluding facial expressions of the woman saying, “You’re SO BRAVE!!”. I receive this comment at least three times a week. And I’m resistant to give the person the satisfaction of a response she might be looking for. The word, brave, strikes a nerve with me.
I do believe I am brave, but it’s the way women tell me I am that leaves me in angst. Lisa, a friend who is also RVing solo, has the same types of interactions. We discuss it often and she helps me take a deeper look into what is really going on.
I wish I came to the conclusion that I’m just so humble that I shy away from someone labeling me as brave. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Instead, what disturbs me is when women don’t believe they can do what I’m doing. This not only unnerves me, but it also saddens me to think that our society has left women thinking they can’t do something like travel on their own.
My male friends who travel solo don’t have the conversations I do. I don’t hear men being told they’re brave when driving an RV, nor do men tell me I’m brave. There’s an unconscious bias at play here – when we see marketing for RVs, the visual is often a man in the driver’s seat. It’s a large vehicle and the perception is that it takes someone with strength to drive it. We all have unconscious biases, but becoming aware of them can shift perceptions and create more opportunities. And on this particular topic, combating our bias (both men and women) of women’s abilities to travel solo (and drive RVs!) can help empower female travelers.
If you’re a woman and don’t want to drive an RV or travel solo, that’s perfectly acceptable. Or perhaps your circumstances don’t allow you to travel. But at least believe you’re brave enough to do the things you can and want to do. Even if you have some fears or anxiety, acknowledge your capabilities.
Part of our mission at Creative Travel Connections is to help women experience the world through travel. Women, I’m here to tell you that you can get out there and travel!
If you have questions about traveling solo or with others, contact us and we’ll help you experience our vast world. If you’re not ready to physically travel, follow our Instagram feed and travel the world with us through images and stories.
by Julie Slagter
** If you’re interested in following Julie’s RV adventures, click here to follow her on Instagram.