Sarai Sierra, a 33-year-old photographer and mother from New York City, was killed by a blunt trauma wound to the head while traveling alone in Turkey last month. Her family hadn't heard from her since the day before she was supposed to fly home from the two-week vacation, her first ever overseas trip. Sierra hadn't planned to go to Turkey alone, but, according to NBC, she flew solo because a friend dropped out of the trip and she wanted to pursue her photography hobby.
The details surrounding her death are still unclear, but police detained a man last week who exchanged messages with Sierra online about meeting with her on a bridge in Istanbul that she wanted to photograph — a bridge that's also a short distance from where Sierra's body was found.
It's a sad story, but the comments are disheartening, too; hundreds of people wondering why a woman would ever dare travel by herself.
"A single woman traveling alone is risky. In a foreign country, it is downright foolish."
"A woman has no business traveling alone."
"No way I would even let my beautiful wife out the door to travel to any country alone."
NBC interviewed a few women about how that's bullshit, including Evelyn Hannon, publisher and editor of JourneyWoman.com, who estimates she's traveled to 70 countries in the last 30 years, all by herself.
"I don't pay too much attention to the people who say, 'Ah, women should never go (alone)'," said Hannon. "I can go where and when I want to. I don't have to worry about what someone else is interested in. My experiences are never diluted so it's a perfect situation for someone who thrives on potent travel adventures."
Hannon gave some specific tips on staying safe: she never discusses the fact that she's traveling by herself, carries a picture of a "very big man" in her wallet, wears a wedding band, and often says she's on her way to meet her husband. Beth Whitman, founder and editor of Wanderlust and Lipstick, had some too: she said she "dresses to observe rather than to be observed" in neutral clothing and wears sunglasses in places where eye contact might send the wrong signals.
I've been to Turkey and don't think I'd want to return there by myself — I admittedly felt unsafe in the areas I traveled to as a young woman, since there weren't many of us walking around, even covered up — but I love traveling alone in general and don't like the concept that women's solo travel is "under scrutiny" because of one woman's tragic circumstances. Sierra's death isn't the norm, and it shouldn't be construed as such.
Image via beltsazar /Shutterstock.