A few days ago, I was round at a friend’s house before a night out. I was ready to go and, as I waited for her to go through the motions of her beauty routine, I decided to kill some time flicking through the book on her bedside table. It contained a test to determine how feminine/masculine people are.
I’ve never considered myself to be a typical girl. I don’t cry at romantic comedies, I’ve never spared a thought to getting married in a castle and I’d avoid ‘that talk’ about where the relationship’s going at all costs. Nevertheless, I was a bit taken aback to find that I’m apparently well and truly male in terms of my ideals and thought processes.
I started to question what makes me think and act the way I do and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s mainly travelling that has made me discard my more feminine characteristics. Here are just some gender stereotypes that I feel travel has helped me not to conform to:
1) Women talk/gossip more
As a solo traveller you learn to keep yourself entertained without relying on the company of other people. It can actually be quite therapeutic not to talk for a few days and to just reflect on things. If I have some time to myself these days I appreciate it, and I certainly don’t feel the need to call up my friends for a long gossip about the trivialities of someone else’s love life!
2) Women rely on close friendships
Travel has made me much more independent than I used to be. Gone is that girly notion that I need to constantly surround myself with a reliable group of ‘best’ friends. Don’t get me wrong – I love my close friends to bits and would never take them for granted, but I also enjoy mingling with new people, especially other travellers who inspire me with their stories. When it comes down to it, I know that important friendships will survive any distance or duration of separation.
3) Women value material possessions
Designer clothes have no value to me. When I’m living out of a rucksack, I find it’s best to take cheap items that are easily replaceable if lost or damaged. Most of my travelling clothes are plain because it increases the chances that every item will match everything else. Besides, there are plenty of places where you don’t want to portray yourself as a rich tourist. For the same reason, why would you weigh down your backpack with chunky and expensive-looking jewellery. It screams ‘Rob me now!’
When I travel, I take the bare minimum in terms of makeup and – do you know what? – no one treats me any differently when I’m not wearing eyeliner! Travelling has taught me that the most enriching life experiences are those once-in-a-lifetime, spur-of-the-moment opportunities to do something unusual. It saddens me that some girls would pass up an opportunity to hike in Patagonia or quad bike in Costa Rica because they can’t wear their heels, might break a nail or don’t want to smudge their mascara.
4) Women are always looking for ‘the one’
We’ve all heard this one. Women are looking for long-term relationships and men just want random flings. The thing is, at this point in my life, however nice it would be to have a steady relationship, it’s just not feasible when I’m about to travel for seven months. Getting out there and seeing the world while I don’t have that kind of commitment is a priority for me and searching for Mr Perfect will just have to wait. Having said that, travel opens many doors to meeting new people. Perhaps I’ll come home engaged to an Ecuadorian tour guide…
5) Women self-evaluate
I can’t count the number of friends who’ve confided in me about their insecurities. All of these friends were female. Men seem to just be able to get on with it and accept that people have different views and if a few people don’t appreciate you for who you are, it really isn’t the end of the world. I used to be painfully shy, but travelling solo has pushed me out of my comfort zone and given me more confidence in myself. It’s exposed me to a variety of people who are totally accepting of one another. The travel community encompasses such a broad range of personalities, but everyone bonds over their shared passion. It’s taught me that my insecurities are usually only visible to me and that they will only cause me problems if I let them.
6) Men can handle their alcohol
Is it just me or are travellers big drinkers? Maybe it’s because socialising with strangers often goes hand in hand with alcohol. Whatever the reason, since I started hanging out with other travel bloggers, I’m sure my weekly number of units has tripled. One benefit, which I’m sure I’ll be thankful for when I’m travelling solo and therefore more vulnerable, is that I’ve learnt to handle it.
7) Men have lower levels of hygiene
I think this one is selling a lot of well-groomed men short, but it’s still a stereotype I’ve come across many times. I’m not saying that a consequence of travel has been that I no longer take care of myself. I’ve just learnt to deal with being a bit mucky from time to time. If you’re on a bus with no air con for 20 hours, you probably won’t feel too fresh by the time you reach your destination, but no other backpacker would bat an eyelid. There’s an understanding that in some situations, you just can’t keep up with your usual cleansing routines. As long as you take advantage of the opportunities to freshen up and it doesn’t become a habit when you’re back to civilisation, what’s the harm?!
8) Men have better spatial awareness
Ok, so my spatial awareness is still not fantastic, but I’ve certainly got a lot better at reading maps since my days of Duke of Edinburgh. If you get lost enough times alone in the dark backstreets of foreign cities, you soon learn.
9) Men are better at pub quizzes
I’ve never understood how men retain so much general knowledge. They have a reputation for not listening and yet, somehow they’re great with random facts. An advantage of travel is that you learn loads about geography, history, arts, music and culture. I’m still no Egghead, but I’ll take anyone on at the Capital Cities game! Once, I was talking to a man in a Jazz bar and he said his band was about to go to Bogota. He followed this up with a sympathetic look and explained that Bogota is the capital of Colombia. When I said I knew this, he clearly didn’t take my word for it and started testing me on other capitals. Big mistake! He walked away 20 minutes later with his tail between his legs.
10) Men love gadgets
Some of my most useful birthday presents in recent years include a travel towel, a penknife, portable mini-speakers and a waterproof camera case. My next trip is seven months in South America and I’ll be blogging as I go. Among the gadgets I’ll be taking are two cameras, a USB stick, a portable hard drive, a kindle, a netbook, an MP3 player and a phone! Nuff said!