“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
“Go away!” Milea, a nineteen year old solo traveler from Oregon and I yelled rather angrily at the Nepali man who had just laid his hand on my knee. He awkwardly scooted away as half of the other passengers turned around and glared at him. After seven hours of constant attention we were more than ready to find a hotel, lock the door, and shut out the world around us.
We are both young solo females traveling through Asia, and we both love it. We love the invitations us as females receive from local women and we love the freedom we have to explore villages without relying on anyone else. And we both hate it as well. We hate the starring and inappropriate comments from men. We hate feeling stressed or worried constantly, because even though neither of us have had anything bad happen, the possibility is always there. And most of all, we hate the constant attention that follows us around wherever we are, finding us even at the back of the bus.
It was nighttime, and the small light up above us kept flickering in and out, creating an ominous ambiance in the back corner where we were confined. Throughout the ride we had many men try and sit next to us, a few “accidentally” touch our legs or arms, and more still who just stared, making us feel uncomfortable and irritated. And in itself, a bus ride like this isn’t so bad. There were always plenty of people, including women as passengers, and we never felt truly threatened, but after months of moments such as these we both felt tired and annoyed by the constant discomfort of being a western women in this part of the world.
Though I think solo travel is essential for everyone at some point, I am now more than ready to have my boy friend join me in March. For the next week I will continue to travel with Milea as we visit the temples in Lumbini before heading to Kathmandu to volunteer in an orphanage run by two of her teachers from back home in Oregon.