notes to travelling self (she)

I feel like I should say something about the poem below. I’ve been getting very worried messages from people since I posted it online, so I feel like it needed a bit more background information.

I wrote this poem after I had been reading an edition of National Graphic about gender. The magazine not only focused on the plethora of possibilities of gender (and how the biological physical differences don’t say it all), but also on the difficulties that both sexes face in different places all over the world. There was a written piece about boys going through initiation rites in Kenya in which they have to proof their manliness for example, and a different article on the horrors many girls in Sierra Leone go through because of their sex. The pages about genital mutilation, rape, exclusion of education, violence and abuse filled me with rage while I was flipping through the magazine.

I happened to read this in a pretty isolated place in the middle of a canyon in Peru, where I had felt slightly unsafe and vulnerable being amidst only male hosts and far from the world. During dinner, the vibe had gotten even more diffuse, which made me decide that to prevent was better than to cure, and so to lock the door of my room even though it seemed to have some trouble opening and closing. When, in the middle of the night I woke up and wanted to go to the bathroom, I just wouldn’t get the damn door to open anymore. After having given it a solid try, I gave up and as I sat on my bed, these words came to me.

Eventually I got out of the room and everything turned out to be fine, so I don’t look back at it at being a traumatic experience nor exceptionally unsettling episode during my trip. The poem is more a translation of the series of events together – the unjust situation of many girls and women around the world and my own feeling that eversince I left home three months ago, many a guy I meet has been making unwanted advances which have led me to be on my guard fulltime in order not to get involved in unsafe situations. What I’m trying to say is this – I am fine, the words below are about things a lot bigger than me.

 

notes to self (she)

 

Be careful who you talk to

(Don’t trust anybody)

How you’re standing

(Keep your distance)

What you’re saying

(Don’t be inviting)

And if your eyes don’t shimmer too much

(Look away)

(But don’t be a victim)

 

Be careful where you are, in which moment and with whom

(Keep away from drunks)

Pay extra attention when it’s dark

(Note the sounds)

 

At all times: bring your knife

(And always be ready)

8 Comments

    1. I wrote this in the middle of the night as I was locked in my room. I had locked the door as I found myself in a really isolated place with only male hosts, and the vibe had gotten a bit weird. But then the door wouldn’t open again! Decided to turn this imprisonment into something productive 😉 I’m pretty relaxed about travelling solo, but then every once in a while I am reminded that you always need to be on your guard (and that being a woman makes you extra vulnerable). Thanks for sharing! Take care & be safe!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. hahah what a story! I’m glad you found a way to get out again (at least I hope and assume so 😄). How much longer are you going to be abroad and where are you from? The Netherlands?

    I’ve just (re-)read your about page and can totally identify with what you wrote, especially this phrase: ‘My goal was not so much to travel, as to just be in a different place in the world for a while.’ When I travel, I’m also more interested in experiencing life of the locals and not in seeing whatever I HAVE to see of that place.

    Anyways, I’m glad I’ve found your blog and am looking forward to reading more of you! 🙂 take care xx

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    1. So lovely to hear you think my blog is added value, Monika! Sometimes we need a bit of encouragement 😉 To answer your question – I’ve been on the road this time for 3 months, and will be for 5 in total. Originally from the Netherlands indeed, but hardly ever there 😉 (I think I might work in Switzerland after summer, who knows we can meet in person!) Anyway, thank you for your encouragement! I must that I sometimes forget that I believe in ‘slow travel’, and then I feel rushed and like I’m missing out on things… until I realise that I’m not 😉 Looking forward to your next posts! All the best, xox

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      1. haha I totally agree, we all need and like some encouragement at times – I’m glad you liked my comment! 🙂 oh, enjoy the last two months!! do you already have concrete plans or just going with the flow? I still admire you for only bringing your analog camera!! and awesome, what are you planning to work as in Switzerland? I’ve also thought that it would be lovely to meet up! haha sometimes life gets crazy and we need little reminders so we don’t forget what’s important to us. I’m also looking forward to your next posts, all the best to you too! xox

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you! Just arrived to Mex and now the plan is going with the flow (and a 10-day silence retreat). We’ll keep each other on the loop! 🙂

        Like

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