Women Travel Latin America interviewed Alone Together contributing author Susan Walsh about her travels through the region and what inspires her to share her stories.
What inspired you to write your story for Alone Together?
During my year long stay in Chile I kept a diary of my adventures and was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience of writing. As I didn’t meet many other women my age travelling alone I felt inspired to share something of my personal perspective to make sure that a different voice was heard. Before setting off from the UK many friends had expressed real concern about my safety telling me to “take very good care” in a tone which suggested that I would need to. However, as I felt safer in South America than in many countries in Europe that I have visited the theme of the book also very strongly resonated with my own experience.
Why do you think women should travel Latin America?
I found it very easy as a woman in my late fifties to travel in Latin America. While taking some common-sense precautions not only did I feel safe everywhere but I was surprised by the excellent network of buses, trains and planes which are comfortable (often even luxurious) and cheap. I really think that for women, Latin America offers a richness and variety of landscapes, cultures and political histories to discover and enjoy. There really is something for everyone and as a solo traveller it is easy to organise and participate in all kinds of personal challenges and adventures. I also found people to be incredibly warm and hospitable and it is easy to socialise and meet like-minded people.
I also feel that women travellers (especially older women) need to be more visible in this part of the world. Some negative representations of women still persist and one way to shift these is to take on roles which challenge such stereotypes.
What is your best memory of your Latin America adventure, and why?
Too many to mention, but I think the varied landscapes of the region will forever stay in my memory. Travelling by bus through the early morning mists covering the Amazonian jungle surrounding Machu Pichu, drinking Pisco sour as the sun set over the snow-capped volcanoes of the Atacama desert, walking across the endless Uyuni salt flats, watching an avalanche in Torres del Paine national park in Patagonia, sitting on the edge of the Rano Kau crater in Rapa Nui marvelling at the vegetation growing inside. These images will feed my soul for many years to come.
Describe the region in three words.
Colourful, spiritual, diverse
What advice would you give to a woman considering a trip to Latin America?
Don’t listen to the advice and cautious tales of those back home – be prepared to take risks and see as much as you can. Of course you need to do your research and have your wits about you but the more you participate in local life the richer the experience will be.
On a practical note, there are lots of ways of connecting with other solo travellers – I found Facebook particularly useful for connecting with other English-speaking people.