By: Sedra R. Rajaonarivelo
“When I was asked to write this, my first thought was that I did not have the right story yet. I was not quite there, and to be honest, I had no idea what to write about. However a few weeks ago, I was sitting in an airport early morning waiting for the flight of my first solo travel.
This came as a surprise to myself and to my family. That’s because I didn’t plan to have this trip, I just woke up one day and decided I needed it. But that’s another story.
In my country, sadly, fear is taught to women from a very young age. I was born in a society where I couldn’t really be too observable, too expressive, and too present for fear of being aggressed. I grew up being taught of the right amount of invisible I needed to put over myself in order to be safe.
I am a very strong believer of education, but really, the environment where I lived made me rush through everything because there is a “certain age” for a woman to start being too late for education and needing to be in a family. People don’t say it that way though, they call it “settling”. I do understand that want for safety for many women in the world but I knew that way wasn’t enough for me.
But back to the story: As you might know, my parents were understandably skeptical about the trip. “Are you going to be alone?” “How are you going to survive there?” “Is it safe?” “What if you get lost?”… This made my fear stronger. After all, I was the one sitting at the airport waiting for my flight terrified. It took me a while to get that feeling of fear away to be replaced by excitement.
I remember when I landed at the airport of destination around 8:30PM and I didn’t know how the conditions were at night. I only knew that I had to take the bus to my hostel because that’s how I planned my budget.
On the bus, there were two girls travelling together, a couple, also traveling together, a homeless man (I think), the bus driver and me. My stop was the last one and everyone already left when I suddenly felt a bit insecure: I mean it is dark outside, the streets are rather small and even if the lights are on outside, the roads are not busy at all. So I asked the driver to tell me when we get there. He said okay.
In my country, I would’ve called people and let them know exactly where I was. Instead, I texted my friends because, well, like I said earlier, that fear is all I knew before. But the bus stopped at the right station and the driver told me to enjoy my stay.
Believe it or not, I was grateful towards that driver, towards the whole country altogether and towards the world to have such people and such places.
During this trip, I often got asked:
“You travel alone?”
I answer “yes”.
The reactions I got ranged from: “You are so courageous” to “How are you doing it?”
And I have met so many women doing the same as well.
I guess my message is not that people are viewing the fact that a woman is travelling alone as something courageous and fierce. Because I think in certain ways, everyone is courageous and fierce if they decide to cross the barrier of their comfort zone towards a land they hardly know about.
My message is simpler one. It is more of a thank you letter for the world. A world where there are places I can feel safe, as a young foreign woman.“
Sedra is from Madagascar and is currently doing her Masters in International Relations at ZhejiangUniversity, China. Sedra is also an artist and a poetess. (Watch this space for more of Sedra’s work!) Connect to her at https://www.facebook.com/sedrarajao.