During my travels around Mexico and Guatemala I’ve seen a surprisingly large amount of female travellers either in small groups or alone, which is something I’m proud and grateful to see as a solo female traveller myself.
One thing I’ve come to notice on my travels is that people tend to have a very stereotypical image of the ‘female traveller’. Think young hippy with dreads, tattoos, piercings, and no make-up, probably smoking a joint. Having just written that, I’m clearly guilty of paying too much attention to the stereotypes. However, it’s made me realise that this image of the traveller doesn’t quite exist anymore. (Whether it fully existed in the first place.) Any version of the female traveller stereotype shouldn’t exist any longer, as it only fuels the general stereotype of how a woman should appear to society.
There is this concept that as a traveller, whether male or female, you completely lose all sense of cleanliness and hygiene, not showering for a few days, wearing the same dirty clothes all week, and using the excuse that you’re on your gap year. The idea is stressed more within women who are supposed to look neat and prim and make more of an effort with their appearance, so gender norms tell us.
As I was sat outside my homestay this morning painting my nails with a strengthening polish – my nails are so brittle due to the chlorine in the tap water here – I received some pretty judgemental comments with the energy being that as I’m staying in San José, a small, rural fishing village, and as a traveller wanting to learn more about the community, I’m not supposed to take a little pride in my appearance. (Honestly, you should see my nails, they are nothing to be proud of anyway.)
I’m guilty of looking at some obvious travellers and judging them slightly in that they’re so well dressed, their makeup is perfect, and they generally look like they’ve got their shit together. I just assume that they’re in their first few days of their trip. Maybe they look at me and assume correctly, that I’m near the end of my travels, or judge me as the stereotypical female traveller, or don’t judge at all.
I do live up to some of the female traveller stereotypes in that I have tattoos and piercings, can’t remember the last time I wore makeup (not that I wear much anyway), and only this morning realised that I hadn’t shaved my legs for about four days.
But what does that matter? Whether I’m here travelling or back home at uni, I’m pretty much the same. I decide whether or not I want to go through the slight pain of threading my face, or whether I would rather spend an extra five minutes in bed than put makeup on. I shouldn’t be made to feel bad for doing these things, or not, either when I’m travelling or when I’m back home. It’s my time, my body, and my image. No one else’s.