A woman who walks alone

“Go out in the woods, go out. If you don’t go out in the woods nothing will ever happen and your life will never begin.”

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

A woman walks alone by Torre DeRoche

About 25 years ago, Dutch adventurer and explorer Arita Baaijens quit her job, bought camels, wandered off into the desert alone and never looked back. When asked why she went alone, she said: “I wanted to disappear and experience the void.”

I’ve had a tiny taste of that delicious void. I walk alone a lot. I’ve walked alone through cities around the world: Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Paris, Italy, Barcelona, New York… When I arrive in a new place, I usually ditch public transport and opt to walk instead, to meander down streets, read in parks, turn down interesting alleyways on a whim. With a little bit of courage and a whole lot of curiosity, I explore the world by the power of my own two feet, and I’m happy and fit and free.

In Italy, I met up with another woman who loved to walk too, and together we hiked for weeks through the hills of Tuscany. We were two women alone in the big bad woods, improvising a place to sleep each night, to eat. On one occasion we were homeless at 10pm, walking from one fully booked hotel to another in the dark before we finally found a place to stay. We never felt we were in danger, never met a bad person. We trusted in our intellects and instincts. We explored Italy by the power of our own two feet, and we were happy and fit and free.

From there we travelled to India and walked 390 kilometres in the footsteps of Gandhi, carrying only a tiny can of pepper spray each in our pockets for protection. “You might get raped,” we were warned again and again, and while part of me questioned if this was a reckless idea, the larger, louder, more intuitive part of me repeated a mantra of Gandhi’s:

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate but it is fear.”

For three weeks we walked along the dusty shoulders of Indian highways, past slums and farmlands, chaotic cities and empty fields. Every day, strangers welcomed us with head bobbles and made us chai, cooked us food, and offered us their own beds to sleep in. The pepper spray remained unused and was removed from our pockets to make room for gifts offered by new friends: good luck trinkets and mounds of fruit. And because we trusted in the goodness of humanity, we got to explore India by the power of our own two feet, and we were happy and fit and free.

Last week a young girl was murdered in a Melbourne park while walking alone. It’s horrendous news, and my heart breaks for her family. On the day that this happened, homicide squad detective Mick Hughes issued some words of warning for women: “I suggest to people, particularly females, they shouldn’t be alone in parks.” Former premier of Australia Jeff Kennett agreed with this sentiment, stating that women should not walk alone in poorly lit areas.

In reaction to this, a lot of women have fought back vehemently, saying, “The problem is men! Men should stop raping and killing, and then we can be safe!” And while yes, there is indeed a man behind this specific atrocity and others, pointing accusing fingers at all men is hateful and fearful and does nothing whatsoever to empower anyone. It only breeds more fear and hate. If “men” are the baddies then 50% of our population is a threat to us, and that kind of delusional thinking will suck your joy.

Let’s be clear: “men” are not dangerous.

Highly infrequent rogue psychopathic murderers are dangerous.

Patriarchal values are dangerous, too. Assumptions that all women are weak and vulnerable and all men just can’t help themselves from mauling women: those are harmful, erroneous belief systems that disempower women and enable aggressors. It’s not just men who perpetuate these beliefs either, they’re often spoken by women themselves when they warn one another, “It’s not safe to walk alone,” or, “You might get raped,” as they pass on myths of danger like old wives tales, stoking the fire of fear.

Occasionally terribly awful thing happen. A family is killed by a drunk driver. An elderly man takes a fatal tumble off his bed. A cyclist is run down by a turning truck. A young woman is murdered while walking alone in a park. This doesn’t mean that driving is unsafe, or beds or bicycles or walking alone. It means that occasionally terribly awful things happen.

For the last ten years, I’ve made a lifestyle out of pushing the boundaries of my own fears. I sailed the Pacific despite a phobia of deep water. I climbed Mount Kinabalu despite a fear of heights. I learned to dive despite the sharks. I walked through Italy and India despite the fear of being mauled. I did all of this for the sake of experiential learning, to test out my own hunch that the world isn’t as dangerous and hostile as it’s touted to be. Over and over again, I’ve come to the same conclusion: One must always exercise caution, and not all countries and places are safe, but, for the most part, humans are overwhelmingly kind and the world is overwhelmingly hospitable. Almost always, you are safe.

The statements made by authorities and others like it are a blow to every woman’s sense of freedom. They’re potent bundles of psychologically damaging paranoia wrapped up in the packaging of a thoughtful gift. Every time you tell a woman “It’s not safe for you,” and “Be careful, you’re a woman,” you’re undermining her. Telling her that she’s fragile. Stupid. Weak. Incapable. Rape-able.

This fear limits her growth and deteriorates her quality of life. Fear is her greatest enemy.

These warnings rob a woman of her right to be bold by accusing her of being stupid or careless should she venture outside of the white picket fence. They shrink the space in which she can feel safe to thrive within, trapping her, limiting her. They weaken her ability to hear her own intuition, to make her own intelligent judgment.

Should women walk alone? Should they walk alone through Italy and India and with headphones on and in a park and in the dark and any other place they choose to use their own smart brains to decide to walk within? Yes, yes, and fuck yes. Because they deserve to be able to disappear and experience the void.

Unlike detective Mick Hughes, I’m a woman who has sailed and walked and explored and climbed and adventured all around the world, and have met many other women along the way who have done the same thing. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but after all of my experiential learning, this is my advice for all women:

We were each born with the gift of instinct. Hone in on it. Listen carefully to it. Trust implicitly in it. Always be ready to save yourself. If someone gives you a bad feeling, get away. Now. Don’t wait for the world to change or become more fair before you do what you want to do; all we have to work with is how things are now. Make peace with it. Be brave in the face of it. While feeling peaceful, fight fiercely for equality. Learn to kick ass. Listen to your own judgment and exercise your own common sense, because you are smart and capable and strong and powerful. Be courageous and curious. Trust openly but attentively. Don’t be afraid, be a fucking warrior. Explore the world by the power of your own two feet.

Be happy and fit and free.

* * *

Some further reading for fine-tuning the distinction between irrational fear and genuine risk:

The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn’t–and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger by Daniel Gardner

Fearless from NPR’s Invisibilia program

The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron

The Fear Project by Jaimal Yogis

Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World by Rita Golden Gelman

Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.

Leave a Comment

  • CGHill March 23, 2015, 3:19 am

    Oh, this is lovely. Fear, as the phrase goes, eats the soul, and what happens to you with a half-eaten soul? Nothing good, to be sure.

  • Roxanna Boley March 23, 2015, 4:26 am

    This is a lovely, well written bit of advice and I think you are a great ambassador for the gains to be had in not surrendering to fear… I especially like that you add the bits about not being stupid 🙂

  • Bron March 23, 2015, 5:15 am

    Well said Torre…there is nothing to be feared but fear itself…my nanna taught me that. She travelled from Nthn Ireland to Aussie land by herself about 1 century ago. I loved her, and especially her spirit unequivocally. xx

    • Lela March 28, 2015, 3:26 pm

      Did she do it by herself? That’s amazing!

  • Joanne Namerow March 23, 2015, 5:20 am

    Great post! I’m originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico where recently a young woman was run over while walking alone at night. The driver fled the scene. The officer in charge of the investigation questioned why would a young woman be walking alone at night, as if that somehow made it her fault. There was a huge outcry, and women all over the island started posting pictures of themselves walking alone. In the end the police captain had to publicly apologize and descredit his officer’s statements.

  • Stine March 23, 2015, 7:08 am

    Thank you so much for this. Being a mother of two budding, young teen girls this is gold. Just yesterday I talked with my girls about how to be free and feel safe in expressing oneself unrestricted irl and online. How fear should never be your guide and how to distinguish between fear, intuition and caution.
    On a deeply personal level this resonates with my entire being. Just what I needed to read this morning.

  • mia March 23, 2015, 7:34 am

    Security is trusting your gut instinct and never hesitating. Be a fucking warrior if it comes to that. A warrior will assess their terrain and threats before it ever comes to that. You make me smile. You are hardcore sweetheart. Respect.

  • Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon March 23, 2015, 1:12 pm

    This is a brilliant article. Thank you for writing. There is so much fear mongering bullshit. This is a breath of fresh air.

  • Ashley March 23, 2015, 2:34 pm

    This is such a powerful post! I completely agree with your sentiments- it’s better to be cautious and optimistic than fearful and paranoid.

  • magda March 23, 2015, 2:34 pm

    Exploring on our own two feet gives us another world to explore.

  • Val March 23, 2015, 2:51 pm

    Fabulous x

  • Cheryl MacDonald March 23, 2015, 3:04 pm

    Thanks for the reminder to keep fear in check and push past it to keep on exploring and living a passion.

  • Janice March 23, 2015, 3:04 pm

    This is awesome. I want to print the last paragraph and hang it on my wall by my mirror. Thank you!

  • Amy (Two Drifters) March 23, 2015, 3:50 pm

    Wow, this is so beautiful and powerful. Hello, new favorite travel blogger. Preparing to read everything you’ve written. 🙂

  • Donna Wanderlust March 23, 2015, 4:02 pm

    Fuck yes! well done, that was a awesome read! Thank you xx

  • Shirley March 23, 2015, 5:39 pm

    Another brilliant article Torre. Face your fears and you become a woman warrior. Use common sense but forge ahead. Well done!

  • Emma March 23, 2015, 9:06 pm

    Hi Torre,

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I too walk alone. Around the world I have walked alone. I push the boundaries of my own fear and have also been trapped in the crosshairs of those random-WTF-sexual assuaults that you read about in the paper. I’m rebuilding my courage to experience the void. You words are so true. I cannot stop thinking about how many people shunned me for walking alone, on my own street, at 7pm when I was sexually assaulted. The sun had just set. Why should anyone fear for their safety at that time of night?

    I am reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker is another one I think you would like to add to that list. It’s entire premise is your last paragraph. We all have an intuition that we need to listen to. It keeps us safe. It knows where the danger is. The problem is our perception of our intuition, our need to not seem bitchy (instead of saying NO when we feel threatened) and our immeasurable innate capabilities that we need to all tap into. I think you would like his writing, just based on this article alone.

    Keep walking alone.

    Love love love,

    • Sue March 24, 2015, 10:03 am

      Emma – thank you for the openness of your comment. I was sexually abused as a baby, and as much as I love this article, I was wondering if it was really relevant for someone like myself. Its inspiring to read someone who has been through something similar and is finding a way out of it. I will have a look for the book you recommended. Thank you 🙂

      • Emma July 19, 2015, 10:31 pm

        Hi Sue,
        This comment was lost in my spam folder! I can’t believe I am just seeing this now. I am thankful for your courage and I hope you are enjoying the book. Much love,

    • Torre DeRoche March 25, 2015, 10:50 am

      Emma—thanks for the suggestion. And thanks for sharing your story, too. Your courage is enviable. x

  • Belle March 23, 2015, 9:59 pm

    WOW! So beautiful and inspirational!
    Thank you!

  • Rae yorg March 24, 2015, 12:15 am

    Torre I totally agree with everything. Not only for women but for our children as well. There’s few children on the streets or in the parks. The fear is already there for them. But it is the parents fear. Xx

    • Torre DeRoche March 25, 2015, 10:53 am

      I used to draw on the road with chalk. I used to ride my bike all around the neighbourhood and walk along the stream alone and wander over to friends’ houses. There’s a big price to pay now for excessive cautiousness: freedom.

      • Alison March 22, 2016, 3:42 pm

        Daydreaming about my son’s future, I often sit lamenting the fact that my childhood and his will surely be worlds apart. Mine was spent playing outside until dusk with neighbourhood kids and his will most likely be spent at “play dates” between the hours of 2 and 4, organized by parents of classmates who have done no less than 2 background checks on me and who refuse to allow their child into my home unless I have distilled water and edamame on hand.

  • A Cook Not Mad (Nat) March 24, 2015, 1:29 am

    Well said and so true. I’ve walked alone many times. My favourite city to walk alone is New York, I walked that city up and down, day and night and never, ever felt scared or threatened.

  • Terri Morrow March 24, 2015, 2:52 am

    this is a brilliant piece! Inspiring & very wise!
    Thank you for sharing what you have learned – love your passion!!

  • Sharon Miro March 24, 2015, 4:05 am

    I am 68 years old. I have always traveled for business alone. Sometimes testing the boundaries of safety by visiting Alphabet City at 2am in the 80s, but it was always here, where of course I would be safe, right? I never traveled alone for pleasure until 11 years ago. Now I go at least 3 times a year and nearly always alone. I walk, like you my feet allow me to see more clearly, experience more fully, slow when I want and fast when I need. You last paragraph should be mandatory reading for any woman traveling, either alone OR in a group.

  • Samantha Jones March 24, 2015, 7:45 am

    Awesome!! We are all powerful warrior women!

  • Daksa March 24, 2015, 12:41 pm

    thank you for this article, I too have been warned and criticised for travelling on my own. But like you said listening to my instinct has kept me safe and free to enjoy what I love. More women get murdered by expartners than strangers. I like to think my grand daughters will feel free to explore their strength and resilience without fear.

  • Amrita Das March 24, 2015, 2:58 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I agree with every single word and exercise caution with care no matter where I travel. As a solo traveller based in India, I get a frequent ‘but you mustn’t tread out by yourself!’ It takes immense motivation to cut out all of that and yet set out on the journey I ought to. And over the years, I’ve only got better at it and encouraged more women to step out. Because we’re here to see, to live, to laugh and to share; just as much as any other living creature.

  • Kristin March 24, 2015, 3:57 pm

    Check out the poem “The Girl Who Goes Alone” by Elizabeth Austen. It says many of the same things perfectly. Text on my blog at http://www.wayfarer.me/2015/02/12/quote-9/

  • wei March 24, 2015, 5:52 pm

    I got chills just reading this! Thank you so much for posting this. It reminds me that it’s okay to be afraid….but whatever you do, don’t let it dictate your life and your decisions. Continuously push your boundaries. If you don’t… then tell me what the point of sitting comfortably in your bubble is.

  • kari March 25, 2015, 12:46 am

    I wholeheartedly agree. Most fear is not innate, it is bred into us by others. Don’t let the fear or judgment of others diminish our own experiences.

  • Elissa at Sometimes She Travels March 25, 2015, 12:59 am

    I love this. Amazing articulation on a topic I am passionate about, traveling solo. My first solo adventure was as an exchange student in Japan at the age of 12…my most recent, walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago. Ultreya!

    • Rebecca March 25, 2015, 1:06 am

      Thank you so much. =) Having just returned from my first 6-day solo backpacking trip, I related to it!!! Your post inspired me to start a travel blog: http://bit.ly/19NHMvb

  • barb stanley March 25, 2015, 10:00 am

    I am greatly saddened by the wave that is riding on the back of the single comment of detective Mick Hughes – this man had just seen, with his own eyes, the body of a young woman brutally and senselessly murdered, at that point, the person who did this awful thing was still ‘walking alone’ in the world – he was within the grief and horror of this young woman’s family – he was caught in the midst of the ever demanding and relentless press – and all I heard him say was – “there are terrible people in the world – and unfortunately, and with no sense – this kind of terror happens mostly to women (and children) – PLEASE _ TAKE GOOD CARE OF YOURSELVES – TOGETHER – LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER !! – This young woman’s death – and the honourable, difficult, heart wrenching and head breaking job that detective has….really doesn’t deserve to have insult placed within the same conversation. I too say….take good care of you…..whoever you are xxv

    • Torre DeRoche March 25, 2015, 10:40 am

      Barb, I appreciate your perspective on this and agree that it’s absolutely important to have empathy for Hughes and the stressors of his job. I wish him the best and hope he can bounce back and get his job done.

      Regardless, his comments triggered a conversation that we have been due to have. Perhaps if this kind of comment had been made 5 – 10 years ago, people would nod their heads with agreement and get on with their day, but we live in a time in which women are pushing for the gap of inequality to be closed and Hughes made a comment that stems from an outdated patriarchal viewpoint that women won’t tolerate anymore.

      One could compare it to a racial slur made in a moment of stress. The problem with letting something like this pass by without criticism is that it then gives permission for others to use the same kind of language. That person, as a public figure and person of respected authority, is a role model, and if we let role models use racial slurs or gender biases without correcting them, we as a society are condoning that as acceptable behaviour. Nothing changes.

      This outcry, even if it seems exceptionally critical of Hughes, is in fact a conversation about something much bigger than one person’s words. It’s about women taking their power back, their emotional freedom back, after being fear-mongered throughout their whole lives. These conversations are triggering social growth and therefore it’s a very important conversation to have at this time.

      It’s unfortunate for Hughes that he’s been so heavily criticised at a moment of crisis, but the potential to cause harm with a slip like his—to cause women everywhere to be unduly afraid—is immense, and the push back has to be equally immense. Criticism and scorn is just a risk you take when you speak to a large audience: a risk I’m taking right now.

      • Rizwana Akhter March 26, 2015, 4:39 am

        Very well said….can’t be said in any better arguments!!! Thank you for raising your voice on our behalf. Well worth risk taken!!!

  • Charlie March 25, 2015, 10:08 am

    Beautiful, wise and true. There’s so much fear mongering out there when they should be more wise words like this being shared. Every woman should start there day reading the last paragraph there!

  • Odette Nightsky March 25, 2015, 11:57 am

    Brilliant!! Spot on!

    Thank you for sharing your souls walk.


  • Rose March 25, 2015, 1:39 pm

    Great post! My hero, Dervla Murphy, had the same attitude and experience. She was never fearful of travelling alone and more often than not encountered kindness rather than danger. That’s not to say she didn’t have some close shaves, but she never let these stop her. And she’s still going at 84!

  • Mike P March 25, 2015, 2:24 pm

    The fearful state that we live in applies to all of us , regardless of gender. There are so many people missing out on what the world has to offer because they only read the negative news in the world.

  • Natasha March 25, 2015, 2:54 pm

    Thank you for this carefully-crafted and impassioned post!

    Question: how might this worldwide-walking differ for a woman of color?

    I ask because I, too, travel frequently and feel a great sense of ease and freedom with how I engage with the world; however, I am aware that being white, and presently as such, does provide me with certain privileges

    • Torre DeRoche March 27, 2015, 5:57 am

      Good question. I hope someone chimes in with insight.

  • Lynn (FreeRange) Zahreson March 25, 2015, 6:03 pm

    Torre, you are a warrior of the first rank. Thank you for taking on adventure as a single woman, and for your wonderful writing of it. Your words inspire many. Today, your writing helped me realize that adventure is following whatever passion my spirit longs for—be it travel, physical challenge, or an alternative lifestyle. The challenge right now is to succeed in making my living from my art. Even writing it down here is scary. Fear. It is a normal feeling telling me to be aware and awake to life. Excitement is often be mixed up with fear… not a bad thing on roller coasters or in life.

  • Faye Drope March 25, 2015, 6:35 pm

    Thank you for this article. For years I have worried about my daughter and her courage to travel the globe on her own. She went to SE Asia for 3 months at the age of 18 yes on her own. I was terribly afraid but realize now that that fear is mine and uncalled for. I raised a confident young lady who I taught early to listen to her gut on everything and never be afraid to say “no” I am so proud of her. She teaches me so much about life that sometimes I wonder who is the mother. Thanks again for this article.

  • Patricia Sands March 25, 2015, 7:26 pm

    Strong, empowering and important ~ I’m sharing all over the place. Thanks, Torre. You sound in a good place.

  • Claire 'Word by Word' March 25, 2015, 10:15 pm

    “What people see as fearlessness is really persistence.

    Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see danger. Because I don’t see danger, I don’t allow my mind to imagine what might happen to me, which is my definition of fear.
    I immediately was reminded of reading the autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who did so many great things that were often initiated thanks to her courageousness, which turns out to be, her determination to bring about a sensible solution to problems that affected ordinary Kenyan’s. I just love what she says in response to what others perceived as her fearlessness:

    “What people see as fearlessness is really persistence.
    Because I am focused on the solution, I don’t see danger. Because I don’t see danger, I don’t allow my mind to imagine what might happen to me, which is my definition of fear.
    If you don’t foresee the danger and see only the solution, then you can defy anyone and appear strong and fearless.”

    Wangari Maathai
    Unbowed, One Woman’s Story

  • Pollyanna Darling March 25, 2015, 10:37 pm

    Wonderful writing, wonderful sentiment, thank you, thank you, thank you. And yes, I agree, most of the world is overwhelmingly kind and hospitable.

  • Rizwana Akhter March 26, 2015, 4:09 am

    This is exactly how I feel about woman but lag behind to act as the fear still grip my ‘self’. After reading your article, I want to be brave to explore beyond the white picket fence.

  • Lenora March 26, 2015, 12:33 pm

    “Be happy and fit and free” is a wonderfully succinct group of words that resonates with me. I rarely meet women who travel by themselves. When I do, it’s when I am traveling by myself. It is comforting to read this…to know there are others out there who understand how essential being happy and and and free (and fearlessly curious) is to living. Beyond the white picket fence is where I thrive.

  • Cynde Grieve March 26, 2015, 1:04 pm

    Torre, thank you for this. As a young woman just barely 20 I traveled through India and Nepal often on foot. It was exhilarating and empowering. It shaped the woman I have become. I will confess that the day I discovered there were separate compartments on the Indian trains for woman and children was a cause of great joy! Oh, the conversations we had! You advice is right on. We are intelligent, curious creatures. We must, as you say, hone our instincts but we must not stop exploring who we are. This is how we will change our world. Thank you!

  • Icia Molloy March 27, 2015, 1:04 am

    Yes. Well said. Now in late sixties, I’ve walked alone wherever, whenever I please, for 50 years: trusting intuition to guide me.

  • Jodie March 27, 2015, 6:49 am

    Aaaaaaaahhhhh! I LOVE this. Yes, yes, YES!

  • Jane M March 28, 2015, 12:06 am

    Another beautiful piece of writing that makes me want to be you when I grow up!

    I have often struggled with fear – but it usually only occurs to me that I should be afraid after my Mom or my sister or some other woman says “aren’t you scared that…”. Suddenly I start to wonder, should I be afraid?

    And yet, after cycling around the world (not alone, but still) and camping alone and walking everywhere alone (downtown LA, Cairo, Jakarta, the forested trails near my home) I have as yet to find anything to fear.

    Right now, I am planning a solo trip and this is a great reminder to not let fear dictate the boundaries for me.

    Thank you! J

  • Jacqui March 28, 2015, 4:49 pm

    Thanks for speaking out. Been walking alone for years. Been frequently criticised for it. Still do it. Still safe and happy and fit.

  • Stella March 28, 2015, 5:18 pm

    Hi sister – and thank you for the beautiful article! Well written, full of heart and feistiness! I live in South Africa, we are wracked with fear here, but I live in the bush in the third largest canyon in the world – spectacular!! Sure we have security but shit can happen anywhere, and overcoming the fear is an excersise in sobriety and solidity. That I can live in the bush with the beloved creatures and all of nature is such a gift, its not a common thing to do here because farm/rural violence is legendary. That I work in an area that is drilled with criminal gangs and horrible happenings regularly, but I only encounter people, generally doing the best they can with what they’ve got, mostly friendly, funny, warm and inviting, engaging – its a blessing, fear be damned. It distorts our radar, our intuition, and its quite a learning to retrieve our senses. Anyhow – thanks sister and blessings to you x

    • Torre DeRoche April 2, 2015, 12:30 am

      If you can “live in the bush with the beloved creatures and all of nature” and still say all that, Stella, then anyone can! The reality is that there are indeed dangers around us, to varying degrees depending on our locations, but we have to thrive anyway. In order to try to preserve our safety, we often end up robbing ourselves of life. Which is letting baddies win, if you ask me.

      • Janet February 8, 2016, 11:27 pm

        I have exactly what info I want. Check, please. Wait, it’s free? Awemsoe!

  • Carolyn Hastie March 29, 2015, 3:20 am

    Thank you for this awesome article. I really like the way you have expressed the way ‘white picket fence’ thinking that undermines and shrinks us all. The parallels between walking alone and childbearing are immense. The rhetoric is the same and undermines and shrinks women’s spirits in exactly the same way.

    • Torre DeRoche April 2, 2015, 12:25 am

      I can see this, Carolyn. I don’t have kids myself but completely empathise with the social pressures that parents are under to get it 100% right, to keep their kids 100% safe, to conform to the paranoid safety standards set by fearful communities or else risk extremely harsh condemnation—all while somehow magically making their children street smart, well-adapted and independent. It’s an impossible paradox.

  • Kristen March 30, 2015, 2:07 am

    Yes! Thank you for writing this. When I told my Dad I was traveling through South America by myself for a month he immediately warned me of the danger of traveling alone as a female. He started sending me news articles of tragic deaths that had occurred involving women traveling from the US.

    And I reminded him that I could be injured or killed in my own neighborhood. Or, as you mentioned, by far less fear-inducing, everyday tasks. I couldn’t be afraid to explore and learn, because then I wouldn’t really be living.

    So, thank you! Thank you for this post.


  • Scott March 31, 2015, 12:23 am

    It’s the media, you know? They amplify every bad thing that happens because it sells papers/clicks/ratings. The simple fact is that if the media reported good things vs bad things in proportion to their actual occurrence, media would be filled overwhelmingly with good things.

    I mean, how many people do you personally know that have been assaulted? How many do you know that have been in a minor auto accident? None for the first, a fair number of the second, right?

    Fear mongering sells papers. People need to look at their own experience to understand the real risks they face, and dismiss the amplifications of the media as what they are, exaggerations.

    BTW, Torre, your intellect and writing skills are an inspiration. Go, girl.

    • Torre DeRoche April 2, 2015, 12:19 am

      Thanks, Scott. It is the media—you’re right. Unfortunately, though, a lot of people buy into it and then the fear becomes verbally contagious. It takes a lot of willpower to refuse to let that in and to exercise your own judgement, particularly if you hear the same warning passed around again and again. The fear of “I told you so” is also very strong.

  • Razz Berry Muffin March 31, 2015, 12:46 am

    So well said. I’m going to keep this for my girls to read when they are older & share it now with everyone!
    THANK YOU <3

  • Mars Drum March 31, 2015, 7:51 am

    Thanks so much for this. I have travelled by myself to Turkey, Greece, Czech, Holland… always feeling safe. I have camped on my own on the edge of a cliff in Tasmania for six weeks, I have lived under a bridge in Footscray for three months as part of an awareness campaign for an arts festival in 1998. I have travelled without money, and lived for a year in Amsterdam without touching money, living like a queen artist, painting, writing, playing piano. These are the times when my life was peaking on Quality, where community, courage, magic happened every moment and every day. These times showed me that life is a joy, the universe is provider when we are true to our own purpose. These times showed me just how amazing my memory really is, how far my eyes can see detail, how sharp my hearing really is, how huge my heart is, how obvious my boundaries are and why they are in place, I heard what needed to be heard, my intuition my guide…revelations unfolding before me, these times I had no fear of anything at all.

    • Torre DeRoche April 2, 2015, 12:15 am

      I’m so inspired by this. You sound like a truly fascinating person. I hope our paths cross one day.

  • Alex March 31, 2015, 11:03 pm

    I love this. I’ve been struggling through Central America with how often I feel exhausted after walking alone — exhausted from bracing myself against street harassment and the overwhelming anger it boils up inside me. Yet walk I do. And when I wrote about it, I ended my post on a similar note: there are so many things I accept I cannot do as a woman traveling alone in the world, but walking down the street is not one of them.

    Have you read The Gift of Fear? I’ve read it twice — brilliant.

    • Torre DeRoche April 2, 2015, 12:14 am

      I haven’t read it, but someone mentioned it in the comments above too. Will have to check it out.

  • Irene March 31, 2015, 11:29 pm

    Are we friends? Because I feel like I know you

  • Kasturi Shinde April 1, 2015, 6:23 am

    Beutiful, assuring and inspiring post
    //Fear is her greatest enemy : This is so deadly true
    I really loved the moral and Hats off to Clarissa for being fearless and being a testimony for audacity and fearless for us

  • SS April 2, 2015, 6:37 pm

    This is so beautifully written, I haven’t been able to close the tab in my browser for several days. I’ve never learned how to be afraid. I walk alone (with my dog, who is not even a little bit intimidating) just about every night. After dark, he can be off his leash and we are unlikely to be reported. I love the solitude and quiet in my neighborhood. I travel alone–pretty much everything, I do alone.

  • pooja April 3, 2015, 6:46 pm

    Good piece of advice. I am from India and dont want to say that every man is dangerous or every street is full of molester but you gotta watch for ur self. So true and i believe u need to trust ur instinct that keep guiding us through our way.

  • Susan April 6, 2015, 8:34 pm

    i am with you. I havé walked in the woods, in Europe, Alaska and everywhere I can! Great article. Be brave!

  • karen April 18, 2015, 10:21 pm

    very good . And quite right too.

  • Akankshya Adhikari April 19, 2015, 6:59 am

    thank you so much for this post it is so beautiful,powerful & inspiring too.

  • Hannah April 24, 2015, 4:04 pm

    Superbly put! Fire ignited in my belly as I read through your words. Wake up, be kind, kick ass, do it all over again.

  • Artsy Tyger May 9, 2015, 3:13 pm

    I travel the world alone and do alot of walking. I don’t consider it an exercise in empowerment or anything else. It is strange to me that everything has to be “kick ass” or something super amazing because a woman is doing it. I’m not sure how else you’re supposed to get around. I mean when you are a single woman, what else is supposed to happen..you walk alone. I don’t need to be praised or rewarded for this.

  • Risa May 17, 2015, 6:06 am

    Love this. I am planning a cross country trip by myself in my car. I don’t have a schedule, just a general idea. I have no idea how long it will take me to go everywhere I want to. My kids are grown and on their own, I will be single in a few months, and will be putting the stuff I want to keep in a storage locker while I travel the country. Looking forward to it. I believe in letting spirit lead me. After doing for others at home and work, I am now going to be having fun exploring on my own. People ask if I am worried and I say no. It won’t be the first time I have gone out on my own and had an adventure, and it won’t be my last. I am super excited and can’t imagine staying in the same place my whole life. Time to find a new place. Blessings and thanks for the great read.

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  • Naomi June 9, 2015, 6:54 pm

    Oh my gosh I loved this. You are one very strong and inspiring lady. I’ve never really been that scared, ever. Fear is something I like to ignore (let’s not talk about my fear of spiders though). Thank you for writing this.

    xx -n
    Naomi in Wonderland

  • Jaime June 18, 2015, 4:38 am

    Love this post. Before I got married I traveled alone. People would always ask me if I ever got scared or found myself in dangerous situations. Aside from as times feeling profoundly lonely, which only grew me as a person, I was never scared. Traveling alone was the best thing I ever did for myself and ultimately what led me to my soulmate.

  • Alan June 19, 2015, 9:51 am

    This. You. Are awesome! A voice of feminine reason amongst the women baying for the blood of men. I love it.

    It’s truly horrible that there are men and women who would murder others. Definitely so many more men than women engage in violent and criminal acts, and it makes sense to be cautious of it. All those women crying out in anger at a suggestion for them to stay safe is weird to see. It’s like they don’t want to have to be responsible for their own safety, men should be responsible for the safety of women.

    And yes, it would be wonderful if we lived in a world where there weren’t violent and cirminal men, and none of us needed to worry about our own personal safety. But we don’t live in such a paradise, and until we do, it’s absolutely reasonable for those in authority to tell the people to stay safe out there. It’s crazy to object to that, so your words are wonderful to read.

  • Christian June 23, 2015, 10:14 am

    Thank you Torre. Fear is also an advantage telling us to take caution in whatever decisions we make. Thanks for sharing!

  • Online Toy Store In Australia June 24, 2015, 10:47 am

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  • Kelly June 27, 2015, 5:22 pm

    I’m so glad I stumbled upon this. So inspiring and uplifting, as a student ready to stop waiting for opportunities to travel with others and start fulfilling my dreams now. It’s scary for me, growing up in a conservative family with a father who drilled in that rhetoric: the world is a dangerous place and you should never trust it. I tell people my aspirations for travel and they look at me like a child who has no idea what they’re doing. It can be demoralizing, and this is the kind if boost I need. Thank you!

  • Penelope June 28, 2015, 9:20 pm

    Those that succumb to the temptation of bubble wrapping everything in their life to protect themselves from potential harm suck the joy our of their lives … I prefer to live with the 0.00000001% chance that something terrible will happen to me on any given day!

  • Sushma June 29, 2015, 6:45 am

    Women walking alone is no more secure. Certain countries like India and Italy have become extremely vulnerable in this regard. That girl who got killed in Melbourne is really unlucky. Such stray incidents have become regular because of mere carelessness. How poor!

  • Sleeper Scarf July 27, 2015, 8:35 pm

    Hello Torre,

    I am so agree with you on that we should overcome our fear and try something new, which I think it’s the meaning of the life. I love new experience as well! Thanks for sharing!

  • N.W. August 7, 2015, 9:23 pm

    God I wish I could live your life!
    I mean sure, I would much rather be tempered with more than just my feet as transportation, but still! You make the whole idea of being alone in the big bad world sound so enchanting. Enlightening.
    I’m not going to lie, I’m young. Like really young, young enough to be your (don’t be offended) daughter young. Adventure is all I can think about lately. Getting up and leaving everything behind. I obviously can’t do that quite yet, until then though, I’ll just live through you, read this blog to keep my dream alive.

  • NickB August 19, 2015, 1:20 am

    I can’t wait for my kids to read this. I’m the only…ONLY person in their lives who talks to them like this. (Clearly something that need changing.)
    When “well-meaning” folks try to warn us away from living, I often respond as (it sounds like) you do. But I wish I had something quick to say that would really make them think about what they’re doing…both to us and to themselves…and to our culture. A quote from Gandhi doesn’t often have its due impact in a Southern U.S. Navy town.
    Too bad your post won’t fit on a tee-shirt. 🙂
    Thanks again Torre.

  • Holly September 21, 2015, 2:21 am

    Your blog is really interesting! I’ve nominated you for the Creative Blogger Award 🙂

  • Dagmar Leuenberger-Swift October 3, 2015, 4:23 pm

    When I read the last paragraph of the post, it struck such a cord. How wonderful it is that you write with such courage and conviction. I loved Rita Gelmans book. I will be buying yours and taking it along to Thailand with us in Dec. I found your name on Alex’s blog about the lantern festival in Chang Mai…how stunning that must of been.
    Always, always trust your instincts, that is a wonderful way to live. Thank you for this.

  • Maria Omar October 12, 2015, 8:26 am

    Hey Torre,
    This is one of the most beautiful and empowering article that I’ve ever read. Thanks for this advice!

  • Nadine October 18, 2015, 5:22 am

    Wow, thank you so much! This really touched my heart.

  • Marywig October 18, 2015, 7:30 pm

    Important message, Torre.

    Btw, home recuperating from surgery and someone gifted me your book. Enjoyed it immensely but I was a bit worried about you, having experienced a no-engine-sail-just-ripped-dinghy-crashing-into-boat-no-land-in-sight moment many years ago.

    I am wondering if you know how to reach the guy with the thong? just kidding!!

    You go girl – happy adventuring. Adventures are big and small. At 56 I am pursuing tap dancing. It is a start.

  • Roberta Cramer November 4, 2015, 2:18 pm

    I loved the Estes book from so many years ago. My body doesn’t permit me to wander as my mind would do!

  • The Aspiring Digital Nomad November 11, 2015, 2:53 pm

    Loved this post. I’m a walker too. Reckon I was the only person to get off the cruise ship at the port in Vanuatu and walk into town – but it was great meandering along and noticing the flora – always on the lookout for what’s growing locally in the places I go. I also totally agree with what you said about the danger of patriarchal values in terms of enabling aggressors – so sad that we still live under the shadow of so many misconceptions, even in this digital age.

  • Gabrielle November 22, 2015, 11:35 pm

    Your quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes is one of my favourites, as is her story about Vasalissa and the Baba yaga about feeding your intuition and listening carefully to it. I have told this story many times to my children, a girl and a boy, so that they might remember when I am gone that their intuitions are their internal guides.

    You are a great role model as a woman who faces her fears and continues to risk all for the opportunity to understand a little more of the void.

    Great inspiration! Thanks

  • Molly January 24, 2016, 2:24 pm

    I love this so much. I think I’m just going to send it as my response to the next person that, full of their own fear, questions the safety of my destination because of my gender.

  • Silvia February 3, 2016, 2:52 pm

    Hey Torre, Fantastic message and advice! Great to hear from a definitely strong role model. You definitely encourage us all to rise above ours and society’s constraints. Whilst reading your message, I was reminded of the great movement “Reclaim the Night” – every woman should be aware of. Anyway,Thankyou Dear Sister for sharing with us your strength and encouraging us to find and believe in our own…but why call yourself “Fearful” Adventurer?…why not “Fearless”?? 🙂 x

  • Grey World Nomads March 7, 2016, 8:08 am

    We just stumbled over your blog and love your writing. Thanks for the inspirational words.

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    We were two women alone in the big bad woods, improvising a place to sleep each night, to eat.

  • Casquette Bulls March 23, 2016, 2:22 am

    I especially like that you add the bits about not being stupid

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  • Jonh @ DaiViet May 16, 2016, 4:43 am

    This is the faith and determination of a woman. Of course she has a desire to explore the world around them is so strong.

  • Anna Fedorova June 2, 2016, 4:20 pm

    Brilliant article, and sums up perfectly how I feel about the issue! Why shouldn’t we do something just because we’re women? Such bullshit!

  • Buddhist Pilgrimage Tour                 June 20, 2016, 7:14 am

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  • Carolina Pontes June 24, 2016, 12:34 pm

    Wow! Loved, loved every word of it! For a world with more happy, fit and free women!

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  • Bridget August 4, 2016, 2:23 pm

    Wow. This is fantastic.

  • tajmahaltour September 9, 2016, 1:48 pm

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  • Mimazine September 19, 2016, 1:29 pm

    Such a well written post!! Walking alone is so rewarding but, yes, there are always risks. It is so important not to paint everyone with the same brush- you put it so clearly here! xx


  • Rojer Martin September 26, 2016, 10:35 am

    Such the inspiring words you wrote at the end of the blog post. This is true for everyone irrespective to gender whether you are a woman or a man you should pay attention to your instinct if it is trying to communicate to you. Always stand for yourself and for your self-respect.

  • Steven October 17, 2016, 4:01 am

    Its really well written by you and everything you explained is motivated us to convince ourselves not to be scared for traveling alone nor waling alone in the wood just like u say. maybe the thing that we should conquer on solo traveling is the frightening feeling itself.

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  • Julianna December 20, 2016, 10:39 pm

    Inspiring and courageous read. Very empowering and truthful.

  • Casquette Batman January 18, 2017, 2:47 am

    there are terrible people in the world – and unfortunately, and with no sense – this kind of terror happens mostly to women

  • Renuka February 1, 2017, 9:13 am

    Great post! I agree with every thought and feeling of yours. I love walking alone and exploring on impulse just like you mentioned. 🙂 I have traveled alone a lot in my own country, India, which is reputed to be bad for solo travel. But, I want to tell the world that it’s not so bad. There are lots of good people in India, too.

  • Ange February 3, 2017, 9:11 am

    Dear Torre,
    Fuck YES.
    Thank you a million time for this. I love you.

  • jeni March 31, 2017, 7:31 pm

    Read your first book, excellent!!!! Looking forward to reading your second. Are you and Ivan still together??

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