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Solo travel (and dance) as a brown female

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

The famous Salsa dancer and empowerment coach, Magna Gopal, shares her experience traveling as a solo, brown female around the world - from the South of the U.S. to Kenya and Egypt!

For the most part, Magna and I agree that it's been an amazing experience. Traveling in some parts of the world, particularly in the Middle East, as a solo female can be dangerous, for sure.

Ask your questions or tell us about your experience in the comments in the video and we'll get back to you!

As someone who lived in Egypt for over six years, the prevalent street culture just doesn't leave a woman alone walking the streets. The constant stares and harassment that all women (not just foreigners) endure is normalized, even if it creates a profound social and psychological stress. In the interview, Magna describes an event where she felt she had to be on guard and ready to fight while in Petra, Jordan.

Three years ago, I returned to Miami after 11 years living abroad in Egypt, Spain and Panama. I arrived at these locations by myself but made contacts beforehand and then found the dance niche to be a great intro to the city and life. Spain and Egypt in particular were wonderful experiences as both societies are very social and embrace newcomers. They love a chance to meet someone from another country and dance with them!

Tips for traveling solo:

  1. Trust your gut If your gut says "no" then just don't do it. Women are brought up to be nice, sweet and docile, but no one is better at keeping you from manipulation, coersion or getting hurt except you. Learning to say "no" tells yourself and others that you value yourself, your time, how you are feeling and your safety. I've had people express their admiration, even if it has been uncomfortable for them to hear a "no" sometimes. They "get it," and in turn, it is easy to appreciate and love them even more as a human being who cares about the will and happiness of another human being. When in a pickle abroad, in 99.9% of situations you actually have options. Be creative and look for them. Choose to keep yourself safe and happy. You won't regret it.

  2. Say yes to an adventure But know when to say yes! Someone says: "Hey there's a cultural event, let's go" look it, make sure it's legit and... go! If there's a tour with legitimate people to town somewhere outside, then say yes! Don't hesitate to invite someone with positive vibes for a coffee (note: I said coffee, not a drink!). You'll learn so much, forge a profounder relationship and enjoy yourself.

  3. Learn a little about the culture beforehand, but don't completely capitulate to it Firstly, everyone knows you are a foreigner. You will be given some forgiveness when you do something that infringes on a cultural norm, but keep it small. Learn a bit about the major do's and don'ts. There is a line where you simply become offensive or it becomes dangerous for you. For instance, in Cairo it is dangerous as a woman to walk with cleavage exposed, so wearing a scarf or a high neckline is a must. End of discussion. However, veiling when traveling in Cairo is completely unnecessary (except in Mosques).

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