The reason I chose to aim my latest book, Driving in Cars Without Boys, towards women is simple. Throughout my early twenties, when I spent every chance I could on the road, and the questions always presented themselves, usually accompanied by with horrified expressions. “Weren’t you scared?” “You slept where?” “You drove how many miles?” “Did you bring a gun?” “Why don’t you take someone with you next time?” Followed inevitably by, “I could never do that.” “I get lost going to the grocery store, I’d never be able to make it across the country.” “I’d be so terrified.” Enough!
I’ve never once heard my traveling guy friends have to field these type of questions. I had one who repurposed a van and just drove around the country for a year. Everyone thought he was so cool and adventurous. I do it for six weeks, and all I get is likes on a Facebook photo album and concerned looks from family at the Christmas party. Enough.
Another one of my friends teaches kids in remote parts of Ecuador and Abu-Dabi, he is an amazing person. Do people worry about him? Sure. Does anyone but his mom request that he “maybe stick a little closer to home, and check in everyday,” no.
This patronizing of our girls has got to stop. Statistically women under 25 years old have a 1/5 chance of being sexually attacked in their lifetime. But did you know that about 65% of those reported attacks are committed by boyfriends, dates, and partners? (Bureau of Justice: Crime and Victim Statistics). And that those type of attacks are also the least likely to be reported in the first place, so that percentage is probably way higher. In any case, you’re more likely to be attacked at by your “friend” at that college mixer than at a rest stop outside of Boise.
Another thing about this statistic is that it includes attempted rape. It includes the times that we fought back, won, and hopefully kicked the guys ass. These numbers are about the problem, not the victims. They shine a light on the criminals and put rape culture in perspective. They do not speak for the strength of women.
Striking out on the road alone, is no less crazy than the many solo girls attempting to hike the Pacific Crest Trail or the AT, thanks to movies and books like Wild, and the much better in my opinion, Through Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn (Get the audiobook from Amazon!) Besides, they don’t have air conditioning and a place to lock themselves in at night… plus bears and bulls and stuff.
The road for me is place of freedom. I’d like to think that nothing could every take that away. But I’m also realistic. I don’t take risks I don’t have to.
For me living on the road is the same as living anywhere else. You know how they say it’s about the journey, not the destination? Well guess what, it’s actually true! When people ask me, “Why did you drive so long just to…” my response is generally the same. “Better than most ways to pass the time.” If I’m feeling snarky I’ll throw in a comment about how many hours their ass just spent on a couch watching Netflix. You could’ve been in Canada by now!
“What if your car breaks down, or you get a flat?” Um…I’ll deal with it. I love my mechanic. Take the time to find a good one who isn’t a condescending ass and it will make your life so much easier! How do you find him? Ask a stupid question, preferably one you know the answer to. If they take the time to explain it in an educational and not over simplified way (they don’t talk down to you) they’re a keeper. Car maintenance is a part of life, and so is AAA. I can change a tire, change my own oil, jump my battery, and clean my air filter… I can also dial the phone and a nice (usually not that nice actually, most I’ve gotten were grumpy or condescending, but who cares) person will come and do all that crap for me. That being said, I also have girl friends who can take apart their entire truck and put it back together. Make friends with these girls. They are awesome.
My sister gets this one a lot, “You’re always on the move, don’t you want to settle down anytime soon?” I get a slight pass from this one having a kid, but it doesn’t mean I don’t get it. What does traveling have to do with being in relationship? I don’t understand the question.
And my least favorite, “Wouldn’t you just feel safer if a man was with you?” Again, go back and read that fourth paragraph. I’m not going to bash on guys. Most of my best friends are guys (to quote Mindy, best friend isn’t a person, it’s a tier). I have had great boyfriends in the past who were excellent travel companions, but traveling is best for me as a solitary activity, like those people who like to go to the movies by themselves (also me). Some people might not get it, but try once before you bash it.
It’s normal for people to worry. But before you corner your niece at the next Christmas party and explain to her all the reasons she shouldn’t backpack through Europe or drive herself across the country to school, ask yourself 3 things: Would I be saying this to her brother? Is this my issue or hers? and lastly… you know what, no lastly, just don’t do that.
For tips on staying safe on the road, and making the most of a solo road trip, look out for Driving in Cars Without Boys: A girls guide to the road by Christen Yoakum coming to Amazon OCTOBER 13th!! Follow us on Intstagram and Facebook for the latest news and adventuring.
Also coming soon, Stories of Driving in Cars Without Boys: tales from the road