When I talk about Igloo with male friends I usually get one of three reactions:
The supportive but not that interested: “Oh, that’s cool (pause) … you know I … (change subject)”
The defensive / bewildered: “Why do you need to empower women to travel?”
The feeling left out: “So men can’t be part of it?”
In answer to the second, we wrote this blog post. If you’re not familiar with the idea that public spaces are ostensibly a man’s domain then this article is a handy overview. Practically speaking, it means that as a woman I tend to everything about travel a bit more – everything from making sure I have a guesthouse booked the first night I arrive somewhere, to getting my keys ready before I get out of the tuktuk/taxi so I can get inside safely without becoming a target. It even affects how friendly I am to other people – too many years of unwanted harassment means my RBF is sometimes my default if I’m feeling vulnerable in a new environment. That’s why on Igloo we have a specific “safety tips for women travelers” section for every country we feature.
But anyway, to answer the third response I usually get from my guy friends, and hopefully by doing so, the first response as well, I put together a list of things I love about interacting with male travelers on the road. I was going to call this list “things I wish male travelers would do” but then realized I had met loads of great male travelers who do these things already, and what’s lacking is celebrating that and encouraging more! We need allies in this!
Just a quick disclaimer before we begin – this is all from my own personal perspective and obviously, I don’t represent all women. Although I would guess that most people appreciate a bit of empathy…
10 things Awesome Male Travelers do for Solo Female Travelers
1) Don’t hit on me
They don’t hit on me. This is also known as “not being creepy”. As a girl, traveling on my own, I am always on the “don’t get raped” watch. Sad, but true. As such, I really enjoy meeting male travelers who go easy on the sexual overtones, and extend clear “friend” vibes.
2) Help me get home safe
This is the beats-everything, I-will-give-you-my-guidebook-as-a-thank-you gesture. So long as awesome thing number 1) is clear, then I am always super grateful for a guy who offers to ride with me in a tuk tuk, or walks me back to my guesthouse.
3) Give mindful travel tips
They give me tips from my perspective. Travelers love sharing tips of cool things they’ve done, but hearing “oh yeah, this bar is so great, the bar man gives free shots” is not always at the top of the list for a girl traveling on her own. However, some guys really really get it, and tips for cool places to hang out where it’s easy to meet people, numbers for trustworthy taxi drivers, or recommendations for clean safe places to stay are really appreciated.
4) Offer to help
I am not the most sophisticated traveler. I struggle with bags, get lost a lot, and sometimes forget which timezone I’m on. I was lugging a suitcase on the underground in London earlier this year and a man stopped and helped me carry it up the stairs and immediately became my hero of the year. Of course, it’s great when girls offer to help too, but guys have to pick through this confusing space of “will she be offended if I hold the door open for her”. So for the record, no, no I won’t. Especially if I have a backpack.
5) Let me borrow their razor
Ew, no, not really. I would never ask. Boundaries!
6) Ask me if I want to join the (insert name of sport here) game.
Because I do! I really do! It’s not as common for girls to randomly start games in the street (go back to the issue of moving around in public spaces) so I really appreciate being included and it’s a great way of meeting people.
7) They don’t stop talking to me
…if I tell them I have a boyfriend/girlfriend. They value friendships with women, just as much as other kinds of relationships.
8) Make an effort to learn the perspectives and situations of local women
This can be really difficult for men, as in some countries women are discouraged from talking to men they aren’t related or connected to. However, I feel like the world becomes a little bit more friendly whenever there are examples of respectful cross-gender, cross-cultural understandings.
9) Ask if they can write a post on Igloo.
Okay, so truth be told this hasn’t happened yet. But we would really love to have men writing their thoughts on issues that affect women when they travel.
10) They understand that being protective can also be disempowering.
This is a super tricky one – especially considering how important rule number 2 is. The thing is, I hate that rule number 2 is so important. Being reliant on other people for my own safety is chronically disempowering. And there are other circumstances when I do just feel safer if a man is around, and I will ask male friends to help me out. But my best male traveler friends really understand how humiliating that can be, and they’ll give me a hug, or try and make a joke of it, and cheer me up.