Is it safe to travel to Europe as a woman?
Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
We are Valentine, Claire, and Liora, French business school students, and we are creating a podcast project together. We traveled to different countries during our studies: Valentine went to Spain, Claire to Japan, and Liora to Morocco and Mexico. It was therefore essential for us to build on this momentum and include travels in our project. So we started at the beginning of January our three months trip around Europe in order to interview people and discover their vision of love and relationships according to their culture, their religion,… The idea is to meet people that are different from those we usually meet and to discover new cultures.
How did you meet?
We met in preparatory classes in Versailles, France. We attended the same boarding school, so we immediately formed very strong bonds since we lived together for two years. And once we were in Paris, we continued seeing each other.
What countries have you visited so far during your trip?
For the moment, we focused on the capital cities of each country, so we went to Copenhagen (Denmark), Stockholm (Sweden), Tallinn (Estonia), Vilnius (Lithuania), and now we are in Warsaw (Poland).
We are going to continue to go South and come back a little bit more to the West, so the capitals that we plan to visit next are Vienna (Austria), Bucharest (Romania), Budapest (Hungary), Istanbul (Turkey), and Athens (Greece).
And among all these capitals, which one did you prefer?
Copenhagen and Stockholm
Copenhagen is very colorful and there is water everywhere, it is truly beautiful. But we especially loved it thanks to the people we met there. Our host was great, we still speak almost daily with him, and we really got along well with him. Even if it is a big city, it looks like a village.
In Stockholm, we loved the fact that it is full of islands, and we really enjoyed its big city vibe. And in terms of architecture and museums, everything was open, so we had the full experience!
The only drawback for these two cities is that they are very expensive for people who want to travel on a budget. We had to restrict ourselves a lot when eating and buying sandwiches in the supermarket.
Did anything surprise you during your trip?
In terms of behavior, whether in Copenhagen or Stockholm, Scandinavian people are rather shy, and when we asked someone to take a picture of us, they looked a bit strangely at us. For them, it’s quite strange to talk to people in the street. So, for our interviews, many people refused to participate at first, but hopefully, we were still able to collect some very interesting content.
We also met people who made us question all our beliefs. As French people, we realized we were behind on many subjects because they are very evolved and ahead of us in terms of gender equality. We met a Swiss woman who lived in Denmark, and who told us that, for the first time in her life she felt more of a person than a gender. We felt like we were living in the future compared to France, which is already evolved compared to other countries. So we have a lot to learn from the Scandinavian countries because they are ahead of us in many societal issues.
Besides, we sometimes interviewed people with radically different opinions from ours. And as a result, we feel our conceptions and beliefs regarding several themes such as marriage or monogamy are evolving.
So it’s mostly the words of the people we interviewed that stay in our minds.
And what does traveling bring to your respective lives?
You feel like you get to know yourself differently. Being constantly faced with new people gives us confidence because we realize that we have things to say and that we are interested in what people have to say, which creates real connections.
Regarding the hosts who welcomed us, it renews our faith in humanity. They welcomed us with open arms in a very warm way, and it’s something we hadn’t necessarily experienced before. When we go back to France, we will try to give back by welcoming people and helping them discover Paris.
Traveling also opens your mind and gives you a kind of benevolence, the desire to know people without judging them. When we meet someone, we have no preconceived ideas about them because we don’t necessarily know the local social codes. We can’t put them in a box, so we are much more open to meeting people, and we create friendships with people we wouldn’t have talked to in France.
This also confirms our desire to live abroad after our studies precisely to continue to enrich ourselves culturally by meeting people from many different backgrounds.
Have you ever had a bad surprise, a problem?
We never really had any bad surprises but constantly moving from one place to another with our big bags without any place to settle down can be rather tiring. But we really don’t have much to complain about!
What is your best memory during this trip?
Hard to choose!
The moments we shared with our first host in Copenhagen. We were truly fascinated by their warm welcome. He and his partner were very interesting and knowledgeable people.
We also enjoyed riding bikes in Stockholm. Pedaling was hard and it was cold, but looking back at it, it was a bit of a dream to cycle through the islands.
Another good memory is our ferry crossing from Stockholm to Tallinn. We did this trip at night, and we had never done such a thing, it was incredible. The ferry looked like a cruise ship, it was huge! We were about 200 while the boat could welcome up to 2000 passengers, so we almost had the entire boat to ourselves. And we discovered that for the Finnish and the Swedish, it is a little a tradition to come on weekends on the ferry and to make the round trip to spend time in this moving city. It is crazy!
What do you think of your experience with couch-surfing as women?
It was our first time using couch-surfing and the app, so at first, we were sending requests like a message in a bottle, but it’s actually really simple. We send about 20 requests each time and about 3 or 4 people generally agree to host us, so we have many choices!
We are impressed by people’s hospitality, they show us around the city, host us and feed us. We try to make small gestures in return. People are so kind, they leave us their house keys without even knowing us.
But it is true that as a woman, it is more complicated, we have precautions to take. Even if we travel together, we really look at their previous comments before choosing a host. For a single woman, we would recommend staying at women’s places or with people with many comments.
What would you say to women who are afraid to travel alone?
We would like to tell them that this fear is legitimate because, as women, we are always a little more vulnerable. But if you take the right precautions, there is no reason to be. There is a very large community of women who travel alone, as you can see on NomadHer, and when you are in the right networks you are quickly reassured. You can get advice from someone on the spot and therefore be much less afraid.
And don’t forget that when you travel alone you are never really alone! It is much easier to meet people whether in a hostel or through social networks.
The advice we can give is to go step by step!
How do you think travel can empower women?
Through meeting and discovering new cultures. We interviewed an Indonesian woman who moved to Estonia, and she told us that coming to Estonia allowed her to see all these European countries where she could talk freely about her condition as a woman and the abuse she had suffered from in the past, whereas in Indonesia, it is rather shameful to talk about it. Traveling can therefore allow women to discover other possibilities, do new things, and assert themselves.
On the other hand, going to countries where women’s freedom is less obvious allows us to realize how lucky we are, for example in France.
Traveling is therefore a way to free yourself and become aware of your condition as a woman in different countries. There is also this side where you do everything by yourself, you don’t need anyone to take care of you. It builds up your self-confidence!
What is Relationtrip?
This project was born a little less than a year ago and the goal was to gather the three of us around a trip that would allow us to meet really different people. We wanted to end up with a product that we could “present to the world”, hence the podcast format.
It’s a documentary on matchmaking in India which made us aware of the stark differences between countries as far as relationships are concerned. The theme of couples is very interesting because we push people to really open up, which in turn allows us to strongly bond with them.
We plan on making six episodes. Each episode will explore a theme around relationships such as the dating phase, marriage, etc… In each episode, there will be crossed testimonies of people we interviewed in each country we visited. The goal is not only to portray cultural differences but rather to show the most striking testimonies, those that can be really eye-opening to people. We want our listeners to think to themselves “I never thought of it that way”.
Most people we interview are women, which gives a true feminist dimension to this podcast. We want to explore couples as being one of the main patriarchal shackles oppressing women in many countries and see how we can free ourselves from them.
We hope to broadcast our podcast on the mainstreaming platforms: Deezer, Spotify, Apple Podcast, etc. Our goal is to release it in French in September 2022, to have enough time to take a step back on the interviews, and to offer the best possible quality.
Do you have any final message you would like to share with the NomadHer community?
Setting a project, a goal can help you get started, and meet new people.
So, take the plunge, go for it, and for those of you who are a little afraid to do it, just do it once before it becomes almost an addiction. You’ll never regret doing it.