It’s funny how people project their own fears, anxieties and discomforts about travel when you planning and taking your trips, especially if you are a solo woman traveling without a male friend, partner, brother or father. We’ve noticed how often this has happened to us on our trip thus far.
“People go missing here all of the time, be careful!” Said by the woman next to us at the restaurant.
Okay, really? Thank you? This warning felt very empty. She didn’t give us any indication as to why people go missing here. So, I spent the next days looking up crime and missing persons statistics. I found nothing of significance. I’m not saying that she’s wrong, but I think that she gave a warning intended on instilling fear of something that we may never experience and haven’t experienced. Maybe she felt her own fear and cultural bias for two women traveling alone?
Another we heard was “People come here to be outlaws, a lot of weird stuff has happened here in the woods. Be careful.” Again, is this based on fact? Our real conversations and observations point to people coming here because they are interested in off-the-grid & ecologically sound living or they have been connected to this land for generations. I found I could interpret this particular warning as the local general desire for independence and a vibe of “if you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone too.”
These were a few of the warnings we heard when we arrived, but what about before we even left? How many sleepless nights did my mom have before my trip? Countless, I promise :) She is a creature of habit and likes when I check in regularly. Almost everything I post on facebook about the trip has some warning comment from my family left underneath. “What are you doing out in the desert, there are no other people around! Get out of there!” My mom calls and she doesn’t want to hear about me being in the desert hiking but will proceed to tell me all of the stories making headlines, like the couple who passed away at White Sands, another girl who got lost and never made it out of the forest alive, anything negative and scary she finds.
Our families skew in two opposite directions - Michele’s mom is light on the check-in’s as a gesture of extreme trust in her independence (and also her pre-occupation with her new grandson), so we cracked up when the one thing she texted in the many weeks we’ve been gone was a link to the news story about the couple at White Sands and a reminder to stay safe out there. There’s nothing like a warning text of death from your mom to make you feel warm and fuzzy.
Do the warnings serve us or do they make us fearful even though we are responsible and prepared? I felt unnecessarily skiddish on each hike in the high desert for at least a week. I just kept thinking that we would get lost and not have enough water. Thankfully, I got over it and could enjoy the breathtaking mountains again.
We begin to wonder whether these warnings convey a sentiment that women should reconsider leaving the house alone because the dangers are too great. It gives us peace of mind and confidence to be prepared and informed for each destination. We’ve enjoyed focusing on important things like creating an actual desert survival kit, because the truth is that you need one out here if you’re gonna go on long day hikes or even when in the car. But we think we can certainly do without fear-based warnings.
We leave you with our most recent warning from a young Brooklynite we met traveling through Taos:
He says: “It’s really rough out there, think of it like visiting East New York, you definitely shouldn’t go"
Michele says: “Oh really? So, did you go?”
He says "Yes! Of course I went, I want to see everything out here” as though he earned badge of honor.
Needless to say… we went :) and we live to tell.
Gals, send us your travel warnings! We know you’ve got them on your journeys!