The venerable financial publication Forbes recently published an article that gave women everywhere some really, really bad advice. A less charitable person might even say that Forbes is keen on getting women killed.
The article in question is titled “This Popular Solo Female Travel Blogger Thinks Pakistan Could Be The World’s No. 1 Tourist Destination.” Written by travel journalist Breanna Wilson, the article is an interview with female travel blogger Eva zu Beck.
During the interview, Beck discusses her time living in Pakistan for 10 months, and talks about a few of her experiences in the country commonly associated with barren deserts and terrorists. Beck point blank encourages women to travel by themselves all over the world, but specifically encourages them to travel to Pakistan. She uses her experiences as a way of illustrating the safety of solo travel for a woman in a third world country.
In fact, Beck takes time out of the interview to specifically address any misgivings Western women might have about being in Pakistan by themselves:
There is this idea that traveling solo as a woman in Pakistan is dangerous – but see, on the contrary, I’ve found that whenever I traveled alone, people really went out of their way to help me, make me feel secure and comfortable, without me ever asking for help. I think there is a cultural force at play here: not many women travel solo in Pakistan, so one that does immediately becomes a kind of “sister,” and people are very conscious about making you feel welcome. There is definitely a sense of protectiveness towards women in general here – and while this isn’t necessarily always a good thing, in the specific context of travel it has meant that I’ve always felt safe.
Beck also calls Westerners out for their perception of the dangers of Pakistan:
I feel that over the years, Western media has contributed to building a very one-sided, and one-sidedly negative picture of Pakistan. From news stories on TV, to shows like “Homeland,” much of what we hear about the country internationally can lead us to believe that it’s an empty and violent land filled with dangerous people; a no-go zone.
But, see, my personal experience of Pakistan could not be further from this image. And while the landscapes, culture and food are wonderful, the best thing about Pakistan is the warmth of the people there. Those very people we are told to fear – those same people have been the kindest and most approachable I’ve encountered on all my travels.
And this is what pains me: in the West, we are told to fear Pakistan and Pakistanis. The reality is totally different.
I’ll admit that I’m not as well-traveled as Ms. Beck. Truthfully, the only other country I’ve been to was the Bahamas years ago on a cruise (I wasn’t impressed). It seems to me, however, that encouraging women to travel to a foreign country where few people are likely to speak their language is misguided to say the least. Encouraging women to travel to a foreign country where few people are likely to speak their language alone seems downright dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that Ms. Beck had many positive experiences while in Pakistan. I’ll also grant that Western media has largely shied away from examining Pakistan beyond a hot bed for terrorist activity. I don’t think, however, that encouraging women to visit Pakistan by themselves is a good idea.
Lest we forget, the news is filled with stories of well-intentioned individuals like Ms. Beck who meet grisly ends while traveling in third world countries. Last year four Western cyclists-including 2 Americans-were brutally murdered by ISIS terrorists in Tajikstan. Two Scandinavian women were beheaded by militants in Morocco in December 2018. The video of their gruesome murders ended up going viral on the dark web.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling people not to travel. I’m not even telling women not to travel solo. I’m simply saying that all travelers would be wise to practice some measure of caution when choosing a destination. Beck spends the interview gushing about the people and countryside of Pakistan, but fails to give any sort of meaningful advice on how to travel safely through a potentially dangerous country.
Clearly, however, the interview and article were written with a specific narrative in mind: Pakistan is a magical place filled with wonderful people, and shame on Westerners for thinking otherwise.
I suppose next week we should expect an article on how white panel vans with blacked out windows and a crudely drawn sign that says “free puppies and candy inside” should be on every first grader’s bucket list.