I’ve always been fairly lucky as a a female traveller. I’ve rarely encountered hostility or harassment as a result of being a woman with the audacity to travel without a male chaperone, and while women shouldn’t have to feel grateful for being left alone to go about their business…that’s not the world we live in. So I have always appreciated my good fortune.
But in Cuba, things were a little different. For a start, there was the catcalling. This happened to varying degrees depending on which city we were in, but at its worst it seemed that every corner we turned there was a new shout, and we hated feeling forced to look at the ground, to pull our jackets across our chests and make ourselves smaller. But there were also the more subtle things – the men in bars who would not take a hint, the unsolicited advice, the slightly incredulous “So it’s just the two of you?” comments. It wasn’t the majority by a long shot, but more so than anywhere else I’ve been I encountered men (‘not all men!’) who just didn’t seem to want to believe that two adult women could travel around without any help. For the first time in my life, I felt like travelling was a feminist act.
If you’re still not convinced, let me tell you a few little stories about my experience as a woman backpacking in Cuba. Cringes guaranteed. Continue reading