Long solo drives often lead to extra sharp headspace to ponder on the most random topics. This critic comments “what makes you so special just because you are a girl” opened up a deep level of insights into overlanding and women’s role in it.
The portable smoothie blender used in this episode:
I was in the taxi from Edmonton airport to pick up Altar from 4 Wheel Auto when I saw this comment. At the time, I brushed it off by saying it’s for the sake of the algorithm. This “excuse” isn’t wrong. But it made me think, why does the algorithm favour the keyword “solo female traveller”?
My first thought went to an article I wrote on International Women’s Day on the topic of being a female in male-dominated fields. Much of the reasons are similar. Yet the rhetorical question made me think from a different perspective. The Social Media algorithm reads and learns from user behaviour. This means the majority of the viewers find content regarding solo females interesting or special, worth their time to watch.
Frankly speaking, when I tell people about the things I do, I almost always get reactions in shock. In response, I usually shrug “meh, it’s not big of a deal.”
To me, travelling solo isn’t big of a deal. It’s rather easy compared to having to put up with a group of people 24/7 – I’m talking about group trips.
So to see a challenging question like the comment above, I felt quite excited. First of all, I’m happy to see “Jerry F” questioning the notion of girls doing thing is deemed as special. If he ever has a daughter, I’m sure she’ll grow up very strong, independent, and free of gender stereotypes. He’s going to raise her with no limitation regarding what people generally tell girls they can’t or shouldn’t do.
Unfortunately, most of us grew up under the expectation of “being lady-like”. For instance, be reserved, be cautious, be submissive, be thin, be agreeable, don’t be too loud, too demanding, too adventurous, too strong, etc. You’ll scare men away. Yea, just be likable. Because in the end, all you are good for is to be picked by a man. Your value only exists in being able to serve a man so you can have your life taken care of.
Every culture has a version of these unspoken and spoken rules. Some are stricter than others.
My oriental heritage definitely includes a huge dent in this.
All the above probably explains why so rarely do you see women doing solo remote trips, especially rare for Asian women.
That’s not to deny the physical and biological differences. Here are just a few examples:
It’s way more, well, complicated for women to use the bathroom in the wild. For men, they can simply turn around, unzip their pants and let it go. For us, we sometimes need to take on an expedition on foot, through the muskeg, crossing rivers, behind the trees, and turn around to gland 360 degrees to make sure we’re basically invisible to other humans. Because we’re about to be extremely vulnerable, butt naked in the wild.
That’s why most of us don’t find the idea of camping appealing. The (sometimes heated) toilet seat at home or in a hotel is much more welcoming.
Then there’s the once-a-month good friend. How do we deal with the constant bleeding lower half while in the wild? Plus some gut-wrenching pain for the more unfortunate girls? Can we only schedule our adventure to be when we’re not on The Monthly? That doesn’t seem to be a lot of time. And what if the days we physically can go out are miserable?
Physical factors aside, there are also emotional or psychological factors.
We are universally recognized as more emotional creatures. Sure, that once-in-a-month thing probably intensifies it thousands fold. I can’t say I’m free from it. In fact, I’ve been bombarded by a sense of longing. Being on the road alone is tough. Doing everything by myself – sure it makes me feel strong and unstoppable at times. But there are always moments when I wish to just be in someone’s arms.
This is not to say men don’t have emotion. But society often tells men to toughen up, don’t show emotion or you’re seen as weak. Luckily, this toxic masculinity has been receiving more attention and criticism lately. But it is without a doubt going to take a long time for any visible change to appear. For now, we’re basically stuck with a bunch of tough guys with no fear – or at least they try to appear so.
However, I do want to praise some of the girl traditions that make us better campers.
Traditionally, we stay at home. As a homemaker, organizing things and cooking are probably the biggest tasks. Transfer that skill into life on the road, I pack my car neatly and try to arrange things as comfortably and conveniently as possible. Plus, I almost never eat dehydrated camp food.
I still remember the story about my lash tech’s daughter. The detail is written in the linked blog post so I won’t repeat again here.
But the answer remains the same, with one extra line:
Yes, humans do that. Girls do it too. And it’s not big of a deal. Honestly.
I’d like to bring up again, the notion of staying open to changes on the road. My original plan was to drive up along the coast through Cassiar Highway.
Consider I am now over a thousand kilometers away at the boundary of Alberta, why not alter my route to Dawson Creek, the kick-off point for a drive up the alaska highway.
This major highway was constructed through virtually unexplored wilderness during world war II. It opened a huge and facinating territory up north.
So, the ending of this episode marks the beginning of an epic journey north.
Sure I’ve been slowly venturing my way up, but nothing is more significant than the historic Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway.