Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” is a standout text in teacher training courses. In it, Tatum argues that self-segregating with members of our own “groups” is not always so bad.
Sometimes self-segregation is positively essential in maintaining our sanity!
I realized last week that I’d started talking with my male travel buddies as if they were women. Really, this is just dumb. I needed to be yanked over to Girl Time World immediately, before I scarred any more boy brains!
The failed woman-speak conversations with male friends would go like this:
Me: “I just can’t believe that __ and __, and I felt SO __, you know? I wondered __, and GEEZ, I was so __! You see what I’m saying??”
I was REALLY craving some female friend love, and so when Kathy, who I met in August in Bangkok, emailed me saying that I should come to the capital four days earlier than planned in order to hang out with her, I bought my bus tickets with joy.
I’ve adored my time with Kathy! Especially our gossip-filled escapade to eat “Chicken Puffs,” documented in these photos. (“Experience a new kind of puffs like you’ve never tasted before!” purrs the sign seductively, “What a filling!”)
To continue the female travel love, yesterday I was introduced to Jodi of LegalNomads.blogspot.com, a brilliant and kind former corporate lawyer who, like Kathy, has now been traveling the world solo for a year and a half.
We ate a mysterious pink soup, traipsed all over Bangkok’s uber-glitzy Siam Paragon mall (check out these photos of it!), and squealed in unison when the saleswoman handed Jodi a free purple backpack for buying two books.
Thus, the Week of Women Travel Solidarity was born.. and boy did we all need it!
1. Some things going on with our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls can only be understood by fellow women. It’s just, well, different to talk with a boy about cramps, or a weird sexist comment, or a lovesick heart, or a revelation about the future.
Jodi understood how wonderful it was to be in the luxurious mall bathroom, pictured to the lower left, and she smiled in affirmation as I snapped the photo. For men, finding a place to pee in comfort while in Thailand is less of a heaven-sent rarity!
2. In a sweeping generalization: there’s something special about the way female friends are able to affirm what you say and ask the right questions.
Affirming example 2: “You must have felt so __!”
(Being affirmed feels warm and fuzzy and good.)
As for questioning, a lack of follow-up queries kills a conversation. So there is nothing like the perfectly placed: “But how did you feel?” or “So now what are you going to do?” to get that back and forth zing ricocheting towards truth and happiness. Good female friends know just how to ask!
3. With a female travel friend, you may cry. This is good, because sometimes conversations with lots of affirming and questioning lead to tears (of the positive, cathartic kind).
In a restaurant in Vietnam when I broke down in hysterical sobs, all the male friends I’d made fled in terror, while a woman I hardly knew came over and held me, stroking my hair. I deeply appreciated her kindness.
4. The more I am exploring the online travel blog world, the more I am seeing a marked difference between male and female travel sites and comments. Both are so necessary and important, and clearly this is a sweeping generalization, but… have any other people in the online scene noticed that male and female travel writers approach it all differently?
5. Fellow female travelers inspire you by showing what a solo woman traveler is capable of… and they can give you tips on how to do what they did.
Kathy has been up and down nearly every continent. Jodi revealed today that she has not only taken a month-long train across Russia and Mongolia and hiked mountains from South America to South Africa, but she has also been living in a tiny fishing village in the Philippines for the past few months! All this while maintaining heart and a thirst for learning.
All right, so we know we need female travel friends. But HOW does a lone lass abroad meet fellow solo women travelers?
1. Stay in hostels with all-female dorms. The close quarters force you to bond! This is how I met sweet Kathy: we both couldn’t sleep from the German girl’s coughing.
For similar bonding-with-women-through-shared-intensity, try taking a class or doing a volunteer job.
This is scary but it works shockingly well. Just say, “Are you another woman traveling solo like me? That would make me really happy! Can I sit down for a bit?”
3. Tap into the travel bloggess scene. There are tons of AWESOME, inspirational, super-friendly female travel bloggers now! Overarching sites like TravelBlogExchange.com can help provide a road map for navigating the sea of sites and contacting authors.
Thanks to the power of Twitter, I have recently been connected with two different wonderful solo female travelers by two different American men named Brian who I have never met. Usually it happens in a Tweet something like this:
Brianepeters of NoDebtWorldTravel.com: Hey @WorldLillie and @legalnomads , I think you’re both in Bangkok this week! You two should try to meet up!
I bow to the power of the internet to create more happy connections on earth.
5. Remember that female travel buddies take many forms… and some may be back at home!
Marleny is traveling through the world of health care in Philadelphia. Meg is traveling through science education of young California girls. Gareth is traveling to China from Boston through Skype, teaching ESL.
Zoe and Emma are traveling into the realm of marriage! Franny is traveling into the world of writing, and keeping me sane with her wit and logic. A former coworker who I cannot yet reveal will be traveling into the world of motherhood!
So hurrah and six cheers of joy for wonderful women travelers! May we continue to reach out and to meet up, and may we continue to support each other.
(Sidenote: Look at these photos and see if you agree that Siam Square in Bangkok and its accompanying Sky-train are glitzy beyond belief.)