Blog Call Out — Frugal Traveler

Black_berry623 calls out the implicit privileges described in Leon Logothetis’ 5-dollar-a-day travel plans.

Quotes from the post!

I’ve always had a fascination with people who take extended trips and travel cheaply, relying on ingenuity and ‘self-reliance’ to go from place to place. I read Red Dust which is about a Chinese man who kind of drops out of life and spends three years traveling around China and I’ve fantasized about recreating that experience ever since. But this 5 dollar a day guy doesn’t quite sit right with me.


As I re-read the article I couldn’t help wondering how he would be perceived by potential benefactors if he were a person of color, or a woman – or both. Would people just hand out house keys and hotel rooms to us like free condoms at the clinic? Would people just dismiss me as another Black panhandler? Could I cast off what little ‘privilege’ I have as an educated middle class person. Would my actions impact Black travelers who followed me?

What do you think of this guy? Has anyone ever attempted anything like this? How do people reacted to you? Have you ever encountered this type of traveler? If you did how might you handle it?

As I read BlackBerry’s post, I found myself thinking of all the “fun” quirky things my boyfriends would describe doing when they were abroad, like traveling all through the former USSR by train, or backpacking through the Tunisia, or whatever, and how they’d tell me I should try being more adventurous the way they were. At the time, I didn’t have the vocabulary to call them out on their judgment or their privilege, but now I kinda wish I could send them this. 😛 The body you’re in determines the reality in which you live, and folks? Being female and brown means having to be constantly on the look-out for danger. Gloria Anzaldua describes this necessity as a required sixth sense. In Borderlands/La Frontera she writes,

La facultad is the capacity to see in surface phenomena the meaning of deeper realities, to see the deep structure below the surface. It is an instant “sensing,” a quick perception arrived at without conscious reasoning. It is an acute awareness mediated by the part of the psyche that does not speak, that communicates in images and symbols which are the faces of feelings, that is, behind which feelings reside/hide. The one possessing this sensitivity is excruciatingly alive to the world.

Those who are pushed out of the tribe for being different are likely to become more sensitized (when not brutalized into insensitivity). Those who do not feel psychologically or physically safe in the world are more apt to develop this sense. Those who are pounced on the most have it the strongest-the females, the homosexuals of all races, the darkskinned, the outcast, the persecuted, the marginalized, the foreign.

When we’re up against the wall, when we have all sorts of oppressions coming at us, we are forced to develop this faculty  so that we’ll know when the next person is going to slap us or lock us away. We’ll sense the rapist when he’s five blocks down the street. Pain makes us acutely anxious to avoid more of it, so we hone that radar. It’s a kind of survival tactic that people, caught between the worlds, unknowingly cultivate. It is latent in all of us.

I walk into a house and I know whether it is empty or occupied. I feel the lingering charge in the air of a recent fight or love-making or depression. I sense the emotions someone near is emitting-whether friendly or threatening. Hate and fear-the more intense the emotion, the greater my reception of it. I feel a tingling on my skin when someone is staring at me or thinking about me. I can tell how others feel by the way they smell, where others are by the air pressure on my skin. I can spot the love or greed or generosity lodged in the tissues of another. Often I sense the direction of and my distance from people or objects-in the dark, or with my eyes closed, without looking. It must be a vestige of a proximity sense, a sixth sense that’s lain dormant from long-ago times. (61, 62)

La facultad is as much about being aware of the potential existance of a rapist as it is actually sensing that danger. It’s not a type of paranoia, or a mystic power — it’s an understanding of your own body as one that’s vulnerable, as one whose safety is only guaranteed conditionally. So, to answer Black_berry623’s question… I wouldn’t ever do anything like that. I’d twitch if someone tried to do it to me. 😛


  1. says

    I certainly know there are things I’ve wanted to do travel-wise that I have either been warned again (oh, the number of times I’ve been “warned” against traveling alone) or decided against because I’m too afraid. I really want to go on a sailing ship as a deckhand, but I feel, whether rightly or wrongly, that I’d be raped, killed, and dropped off the side of the boat.

    Men in my life do not fret about such things.

    I know for certain that I’ve been accepted as a renter in at least two places because I’m a Nice White Lady – I had no references, didn’t have a job, but gosh darn it, I was friendly and trustworthy!

    I suspect if I had been a Woman of Colour I wouldn’t have been nearly so successful. Certainly not under those circumstances.

  2. says

    I really want to go on a sailing ship as a deckhand, but I feel, whether rightly or wrongly, that I’d be raped, killed, and dropped off the side of the boat.
    I did that for week aboard the Lady Washington ( and none of the above happened or came close to happening. I was also far from the only woman on board.

    I definitely see the point of this post in general, I’m just saying that maybe you should see about facing that particular fear if it’s something you really want to do.

    I think sometimes that my parents raised me to be less fearful that a lot of girls. Since I have gone out into the world, it seems that everyone and their cousin is much more concerned about me putting myself in danger than my parents would ever be. They always taught me that a certain amount of risk is necessary in order to live the life you want to live. (It was actually my mom who pushed me to sign aboard the “Lady.”)

    On the other hand, when I see certain travel shows or read accounts about people (read “men”) having “real” or “non touristy” travel experiences, I also find myself wondering how the associated risks or available options would be different for a woman. Anthony Bourdain mentioned on one of his shows that the country he was in is not as much fun for female travelers, but otherwise it doesn’t get brought up much.

  3. Gategrrl says

    For some reason my original post didn’t download.

    I’m about the least out-going person you could meet. I don’t like going into new situations on my own. But a few years ago, in my late twenties, I decided to screw all the warnings, and visit another country while I was still single and *experience life* the way I wanted to. I read up on many books written by women travelers (don’ t have time to look them up right now) kept in mind all their warnings but ALSO read about how much fun it could be anyway.

    So I did. I traveled solo a few countries. I met a new people. I had some interesting experiences. I learned where I’d never visit again because of male attitudes (both native male and male travelers). I don’t regret any of my experiences in India, Nepal, Thailand, Korea or Japan. And if you look, you’ll discover there are hundreds of women of various ages who have traveled solo and have enormous amounts of experience and advice to rely upon.

    Will the experience be different from an Andy Bourdain’s or that male free-loader traveler? Of course the experience will be different. It will be very different for a woman of color than for a white Western woman, too. Does it suck that my experience was probably different from a comparable white male’s experience? Sure, but I don’t dwell on that because my experience is just as important-if not more.

    Don’t think solo is your style? No problem. There are groups of different types that you can travel with. You can find compatible traveling companions for rougher parts of journeys. You can stay in your comfort zone and dip your toes out of it when you feel like it. Fear should not control your actions, except when it’s rational. Constant fear kills initiative. It debilitates. It keeps you from any kind of new experiences than can help you grow.

    er..I’m off the soapbox.

  4. The OTHER Maria says

    Hey Gategrrl!!

    I think you’re very right — it makes me think of how rape works as sexual terrorism, because it’s the threat of it possibly happening to you that keeps you controlled. Not every woman needs to be assaulted for every woman to be AFRAID of being assaulted. It’s that fear, and the social control that goes along with it, that’s so draining.

    At the same time, I’m not sure it’s an irrational fear to be wary of traveling solo as a WoC. One of my good friends does all her research trips in South Africa while traveling solo, and while she’s had some amazing adventures, part of what’s gotten her out of some sticky situations is that she’s a fast talker and is good about pairing up with other women once she gets to wherever she’s going.

  5. Gategrrl says

    Yes. I absolutely cannot speak for a woman of color for what it’s like it for them to travel. It’s bad enough that Hollywood gives the impression that American women are ready to spread their legs at the drop of a hat for any man–and Western women aren’t exactly pristine about it, either, sometimes treating men of lesser economic means as temporary love’em and leave’em lovers (which, when you think about it, is what women have been conditioned to be treated as in the same economic situations)…but anyhow.

    It’s not an irrational fear of being sexually assaulted, or robbed, or figured for an easy mark. But that can happen here at home, too. If your friend has written about her experiences, I’d love to read what she says about it.

  6. Ellen Hay says

    The Other Maria and Gategrrl are absolutely right.

    “It’s that fear, and the social control that goes along with it, that’s so draining.”

    As a mixed race woman of colour who travels solo as much as possible, you often find yourself hemmed in and exasperately but other people projecting your fear onto you. So for what it’s worth, the behaviours I’ve developed are: 1) always ally yourself with other women.: smile at the female partner of a couple as you walk, make friends with other solo females, stay in the proximity of local women. 2) learn language basics before you go – it’s polite and will keep you moving without fuss 3) avoid groups of men – individuals are usually benign, it’s in groups where social and moral norms break down 4) act like you have every right to be wherever you are – stride ahead 5) do not be afraid to risk embarrassment – if you feel at risk, walk to a group of strangers, or make a fuss.

    Lastly, I’ve actually found being brown an advantage in most places, as the majority of the world’s population is brown, so I don’t stand out so much until I pen my mouth.

  7. veganrampage says

    Having lived in Rome, Italy for nearly three years I consider it a major life victory never to have been raped. All foreign women are considered rape-worthy as I was told many times in many ways. I was however a witness for a young woman who was raped by a Carbinari, a retired military policeman who was, no doubt a serial rapist. The details are convoluted but he acted as if nothing would happen to him and did not bother to hide his identity. I’m sure the rapist was dealt with mildly, I will never know as it was impossible to find out any details. There were attempts to force me into a car with 3 or 4 men more than once. “That’s what you get for walking down a street” was the message, loud and clear.

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