If you travel alone as a slim-wristed young woman, you will hear people say, “Alone? You are so brave.” You can cuckold yourself in the embrace of those kindly, patronising tones, but traveling from hostel to hostel is not brave, just as the 19th-century colonials’ wives who danced the foxtrot and sipped tea in Darjeeling were not brave.
Isabelle Eberhardt wrote in dismay of “bourgeois women used up prematurely by a petty and narrow-minded life, with no range to their minds, dwarfed and all looking oddly alike.”
A young Isabelle Eberhardt left Geneva in 1897 to roam Algeria penniless, to live life sincerely outside her own culture, have sex and smoke kief, become Muslim and join a Sufi sect, dress as the male Arab she saw herself as. That was brave.